Here’s the introduction to the piece
Captagon, a drug that is relatively unknown outside the Middle East, helped Syria turn into a narco-state after much of the international community cut off its economy due to its brutal crackdown on an uprising in 2011.
It is a synthetic amphetamine-type stimulant, fenethylline, which goes by the trade name captagon, and has become the center of an increasing number of drug busts across the Middle East. Experts say the vast majority of global captagon production occurs in Syria, with the Gulf region being its primary destination.
The growth of the industry has raised alarms in the international community. Last year, the US introduced the 2022 US Captagon Act, which linked the trade to the Syrian regime and called it a “transnational security threat.”
After more than a decade of boycotting him, Syria’s Arab neighbors are now in talks to bring President Bashar al-Assad in from the cold. The Syrian leader has been received in some Arab capitals, but he is yet to be awarded the ultimate normalization with Saudi Arabia, one of Syria’s staunchest foes – and the biggest market for its drugs.
Following the deadly February 6 earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, Saudi relief planes landed for the first time in a decade at regime-controlled airports. And last month, Saudi state media reported Riyadh was in talks with Damascus to resume providing consular services between the two countries.
Analysts say captagon is likely to be high on the agenda in attempts at normalization.