US 'captagon bill' targeting Syria's Assad regime passes
A bill targeting the Syrian regime's alleged production and export of the amphetamine captagon was approved by Congress on Thursday.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 - which includes the bill - by 350-88 votes, providing the US military with billions of dollars in funding.
The H.R. 6265 Captagon Act, as the bill is officially known, includes a requirement for the US government to formulate a strategy to target the Assad regime's use of the illicit captagon trade, which analysts say has provided it with millions of dollars in funding.
It was proposed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July and approved by the House of Representatives in September. The Senate will vote on the bill next week before it becomes law.
"This is a first step for the US to establish an interagency approach that monitors the captagon trade and its nexus with the Syrian government, particularly in how it relates to regime officials pursuing production and smuggling to bypass existing sanctions," Caroline Rose, head of the Power Vacuums Program at the Newslines Institute and a leading researcher on the captagon trade, told The New Arab.
"It also is an effort to elevate this issue in the Syria portfolio, indicating just how influential the captagon trade has become, affecting cross-border violence, corruption and rule of law, bilateral relations in the region, and normalisation efforts with the Syrian regime."
Representative French Hill, one of three members of Congress to introduce the Captagon Act, welcomed the progress of the bill to its final stages.
"My bill to disrupt and dismantle the Assad regime’s production and trafficking of the lethal narcotic Captagon was included," he said in a statement emailed to The New Arab.
"I am proud of this accomplishment and will continue to work tirelessly to prevent the Assad regime from furthering their influence and the international prevalence of Captagon."
The captagon trade is believed to be a key source of revenue for the Syrian regime, which has been stifled by US sanctions targeting key regime figures, including President Bashar Al-Assad.
Syrians living in regime areas have suffered terribly from an ongoing economic crisis, worsened by war, rampant corruption, and a massively depreciated lira.
Parts of Syria are said to be awash with captagon production facilities and border areas such as Daraa and Qalamoun are major export hubs for the drug.
Customs officials in the region have uncovered huge captagon hauls worth tens millions of dollars - often hidden in fruit and other cargo - while millions of the pills have found their way to the Gulf and other markets.