Syrian president’s cousin posts photo with notorious Lebanese drug lord

Syrian president’s cousin posts photo with notorious Lebanese drug lord
The cousin of Bashar al-Assad posted a picture with himself, a drug lord, a member of a militia and a member of the 4th Division.
2 min read
17 January, 2023
Wasim al-Assad, Nooh Zeitar and others pose together in an apparent hotel lobby. [Facebook]

Wasim al-Assad, the cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, posted a photo on Tuesday to his personal Facebook page with a notorious Lebanese drug trafficker, Nouh Zeitar.

The photo showed al-Assad, Zeitar, a member of the Fourth Division and a member of al-Assad's militia sitting in a hotel, with the caption "Best brothers."

Al-Assad says that he is a businessman involved in transportation, as well as the export and import of products.

Zeitar is wanted in Lebanon and by INTERPOL for drug trafficking and is known for working between the two countries. Zeitar has admitted to peddling hashish but denies that he is involved in captagon – saying he wouldn't send it to "his worst enemy" in an interview with the New York Times.

The Fourth Division, led by Maher al-Assad, the president's brother, is said to be behind much of Syria's captagon trade.

Analysts have said that Syria is the biggest source of the Middle East's captagon, with the drug trade estimated to net the country up over US$5 billion per year.

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The Assad regime is suspected to be the biggest sponsor and beneficiary of the captagon trade, though it adamantly denies these accusations.

The Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iranian militias in Syria are all alleged to be involved in the production, trade and smuggling of the drug to neighbouring countries.

Jordan, in particular, has suffered from drug smuggling originating in Syria, with a recent uptick of smuggling attempts over the last year leaving several border guards wounded. Jordan is a transit point between Syria and the Arab Gulf – the largest market for drugs in the Middle East.

The United States recently passed a law to target the Assad regime's alleged production and export of captagon – as well as to develop a strategy to counter it.

Lebanon has also been involved in the export of captagon, with the Lebanese state unable to stem the smuggling of the drug through its borders and ports.

The export of millions of pills disguised as fresh produce to Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia prompted several states to ban the import of Lebanese goods in 2021.