top of page

Mar 28, 2023

On Sanctions: Off-Target

Today the US and UK Treasuries sanctioned twelve Syrian and Lebanese nationals over their roles in the production and smuggling of narcotics.

The network photo presented here plots the sanctionees alongside their old and existing connections. This raw data come from our proprietary database at OPEN-Syria, informed mainly by earlier exceptional work from New Lines Institute, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and Der Spiegel. Other parts come from our primary sources.

Tune in for more reports from OPEN-Syria, Caroline Rose, and myself from New Lines Institute.

Here are my views on the significance of the announcement:

• The coordinated announcement meant that the listings took longer to be announced but sent a stronger message to existing and future narco actors.

• Even though, in my opinion, over 95% of captagon production comes from the Assad regime and Hezbollah, sanctioning two former members of the opposition, Mustafa al-Kasem al-Masalmeh, and Imad Abu Zuraik by Her Majesty’s Treasury (UK), makes it clear that the issue is drug production, not former or current political affiliation.

• The sanctions might deter others from joining the sector and are essential from a comms perspective, especially with respect to countering normalization, but won't have a tangible impact on the current prevalence of drugs. For that, Assad and Hezbollah quite simply need to switch the supply tap off or be forced to. Less can be done about limiting demand in Gulf States due to addiction.

• The sanctioning of business tycoon Khalid Qaddour under the Caesar Act, instead of executive sanctions orders by the US, is very important. He’s a member of the inner circle of Bashar al-Assad’s informal economic committee and Maher al-Assad’s key business front.

I know I nag about the efficacy of sanctions all the time, but today is a good day.

bottom of page