A Bitter Pill To Swallow: Connections Between Captagon, Syria, And The Gulf

Indiscriminate killing, chemical warfare, the rise of extremists, and the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II make it easy to overlook important details of the Syrian conflict. The destabilization of Syria has created an environment uniquely suited for cultivating illicit economies, particularly the production and transportation of illegal drugs such as Captagon.  Little known outside of the Middle East until 2014, Captagon production in Syria adds a new dimension to a conflict that already has numerous competing forces. Hezbollah, a known supporter of the Assad regime and ally of Iran, is most likely the major producer of Captagon within Syria. Meanwhile, the most prolific consumers of Captagon are in the Gulf nations of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. While the Gulf states’ governments are supporting the Syrian opposition against the Assad regime, their populations are financially supporting the Hezbollah and Assad. This article defines Captagon, uncovers its journey to Syria, and unpacks the evidence indicating Hezbollah’s involvement in the Captagon trade.  Nations of the Gulf need to bolster their partnerships with Western allies to put an end to illegal drug financing through acknowledgement, education, and increased enforcement.

Max Kravitz
Will Nichols
May 18, 2016

Areas of conflict are a boon to the illicit economy, from human trafficking to drug smuggling. Globalization has brought about a fundamental change in the international system, including the erosion of territorial borders and the continued internationalization of non-state actors. Along with this, intrastate warfare dramatically undermines state capacity to regulate criminal activity, empowering transnational organized crime. The ongoing crisis in Syria is no different. Amid a death toll of more than 250,000, a widespread humanitarian crisis, and the increasing power of extremist ideologies, illicit trade networks play a significant role in fueling the conflict—a fact receiving greater attention from the international media. While the focus has been on the smuggling of oil, antiquities, and people, the narcotics trade is often left out of the equation. This trade centers around one of the most favored drugs in the Middle East, albeit one relatively unknown outside the region: Captagon, an illegal amphetamine stimulant sometimes referred to in Arabic as Abu Hilalain. It is in high demand in the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, where its inexpensive yet powerful high overshadows its highly addictive quality, for which it has been banned in most of the world. Historically, hubs of Captagon production have been centered in Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Lebanon. As of now, Captagon is produced almost exclusively in Syria.

2013 was a significant year in the Captagon trade, as patterns of confiscations led many to conclude that Syria was the new Captagon capital of the world. Because of this, many have associated the drug’s boom with the conflict. Indeed, there has been a substantial decrease in Captagon confiscations in former centers of production, such as Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. International counterdrug agencies have noticed these trends, identifying Syria as the major production point for this substance. The beneficiaries of this shift in production remain unknown. Although a recent documentary by Radwan Mortada connected secular Syrian rebels to Captagon’s spread, his research uncovers only a small part of this large and growing illicit trade.1 Evidence strongly indicates that Hezbollah and their associated Syrian military connections are responsible for the increase in Syria’s Captagon production and distribution. This evidence includes: (1) primary sourced information, (2) the timing of Captagon seizures, (3) the geographic history of the drug’s production, and (4) the various actors in
Syria’s conflict.


Captagon was the popular brand name for an amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) called fenethylline. West German pharmaceutical company Degussa AG introduced fenethylline in 1961, with the brand name of “Captagon,” as a treatment for children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Thereafter, medical prescription usage became prevalent across the world. In 1981, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with many other countries, banned the drug because of studies suggesting fenethylline’s high potential for addiction, abuse, and adverse health effects.2 Although the ban on fenethylline ended the official Captagon brand, the name stuck as a slang in black market drug circles. Captagon’s popularity as a recreational drug remains limited to the Middle East, where it is known as al-Kabtagon and Abu Hilalain, Arabic for “father of the two crescent moons.” The latter Arabic slang derives from the two letter C’s resembling crescent moons found on each round, off-white Captagon pill.3

Like most ATS substances, Captagon is inexpensive and easy to produce using mostly common ingredients such as pseudo-ephedrine. Like other amphetamines, its use increases energy and euphoria while decreasing the need for sleep and lowering inhibitions. In cases of overdose, it causes psychosis, paranoia, violent aggression, and possibly death.4 Rumors persist across the international media that many Syrian fighters are using the drug to fight for longer periods of time with increased energy and a decreased fear of death.5

It is important to note that Captagon today refers to the drug’s appearance, not its true chemical composition. Pills marketed as Captagon can contain almost any chemical compound. According to Turkish anti-drug officials, seizure records in many Middle Eastern countries count all ATS in powder or liquid form as “amphetamines,” regardless of whether it proves to be fenethylline. Alternatively, all drugs found in round, off-white pills with two letter C’s on them are counted as Captagon (even if later shown to be methamphetamines or other non-fenethylline substances). A Jordanian study in 2004 analyzed 124 samples of seized Captagon and determined that there was no fenethylline present in any of the samples.6 One Turkish National Police official insisted that black market Captagon is just as often counterfeit as it is real fenethylline, but it is always produced to resemble the original pharmaceutical drug to meet black market demand.

In addition, many black market Captagon pills are drug cocktails marketed for different effects, sometimes containing mixtures of Viagra or heroin in addition to their amphetamine stimulant.7 The formula can affect the street price. For instance, a new, cheaper brand of black market Captagon called farawla (Arabic for “strawberry,” and exclusively from Syria) is about $7 per pill, whereas a more typical Captagon pill might fetch $10 to $25 per pill.8


Captagon, as an illicit substance, has always had relatively definite geographic boundaries; the centralization of its production in Syria is only the most recent development in its production history. Prior to 2006, production of Captagon was concentrated in southeastern European countries near the Middle East, particularly Bulgaria.9 From here, transit conduits extended south through nations such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria, eventually reaching the Arabian Peninsula, which has remained the main destination for Captagon for over a decade.10 In addition to its main destination, the drug is consumed around its points of production, and in smaller quantities along the route.11 This consumption is attributed to supply lines “leaking” their products into local and transit communities, an issue common when transporting illicit goods given the lack of official accountability mechanisms.12 As a result, reports of increased abuse of Captagon can indicate the routes used in trafficking as well as the extent to which a nation is involved (i.e. purely a transit nation vs. a production point). Thus, the International Narcotics Control Board report of increasing Captagon abuse in Lebanon in 2010 indicates that production has substantially increased in the country, suggesting a shift from transit to production.13

Lebanon has long been a key waypoint in the Captagon trade, with the country home to significant trafficking routes for years. Lebanon serves as a connection between southeastern Europe and Syria, and from there to Jordan and the Gulf via overland routes, and provides access to the sea for illicit shipments. Equally important is the chronic instability that has plagued Lebanon during the civil conflicts of the past 40 years. The sectarian, chaotic nature of the country has empowered non-state actors to exert state-like authority and act with relative impunity within their “spheres of influence.”14 In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, Hezbollah is such an actor, dominating the area militarily and economically.15 While there are conflicting reports about the level of Hezbollah’s institutional involvement in the actual production of Captagon pills, the organization is at the very least complicit in the activity.

The conclusion of the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah War marked the beginning of increased Captagon seizures throughout the Middle East.16 The conflict left Hezbollah with a need to refill its coffers. The introduction of Hezbollah-controlled Captagon production facilities in the Bekaa Valley was a way to recoup lost funds.17 Produced cheaply and simply using ingredients that Iran (a known supporter of Hezbollah) was able to supply, the production of Captagon was an ideal solution for Hezbollah’s financial predicament.18 As this was occurring, 15 Captagon production labs had been shut down by anti-drug authorities in Bulgaria and Turkey, creating an opening in the Captagon market.19 This opening was filled by the facilities in Lebanon, which were ideally located near the border with Syria, and had the protection and consent of Hezbollah. So much Captagon was produced here that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime saw a 32 percent decline in Europe’s share of global Captagon seizures.20

Lebanon’s crowning as the most prolific producer of Captagon in the region makes sense on a practical level, and helps to explain the overall drop in global Captagon seizures. 21 Shifting the center of production of Captagon from eastern Europe and Turkey to Lebanon not only decreased the distance over which the illicit drugs needed to travel, but it removed inspection points where the drugs could be interdicted, lowering the probability of seizure. Additionally, the added scrutiny from Turkey’s crackdowns on drug smuggling would have resulted in increased losses.

In 2012, Lebanese anti-drug enforcement operations led to closures of several major production centers in the Bekaa Valley, including several facilities connected to Hezbollah.22 As such, producers relocated their drug operations across the border into Syria, whose ongoing conflict provided an ideal environment. Hezbollah has been actively involved in the conflict, with reports indicating that fighters have engaged in actions sympathetic to the Assad regime before 2013.23 This connection, combined with the closures in Lebanon, suggest that the increase in seizures of drugs moving outward from Syria was due to many of the Captagon producers relocating from Lebanon to Syria. Syria was no longer only a transit country; it had become the hub of production.


Syria provides an optimal logistical environment for transnational organized drug production. Syria is a weakened state that has long-standing smuggling routes for illicit goods, in addition to the multitude of other products being shipped into and out of the nation on a daily basis. The armed forces of the state are largely occupied with fighting the insurgency and have abandoned their posts along the border, placing all of the responsibility for enforcing anti-smuggling measures on neighboring border forces.24 Additionally, Syria is a relatively industrialized nation with numerous pharmaceutical production facilities that, before the conflict, had the ability to produce counterfeit drugs.25 Furthermore, Syria has the infrastructure to support illicit activity, such as electricity, running water, and functioning roads.26 These factors have created an environment in which Captagon can be produced and transported via a multitude of overland or seaboard routes with little to no government interference. All that is needed is for protection to be provided by an armed faction, ensuring these logistics run smoothly. It is clear that armed groups within Syria are connected, on some level, to the Captagon production and trafficking.


While Syria has been central to the Captagon trade for a number of years, the routes out of Syria appear to fluctuate in reaction to various enforcement efforts along its borders. Captagon does not appear to be targeted, but overall scrutiny is increasing on cross-border traffic as a result of the ISIS advances and reports of transnational smuggling being used to supply both fighters and terrorists.27 From 2013 to 2014, the Turkish-Syrian border was the most favored departure point for Captagon.28 This area, specifically the Hatay, Gaziantep, Reyhanli, and Idris provinces, is well-suited for smuggling goods like drugs due to the presence of “smuggling families” located on the border who facilitate the activity. One kilogram of Captagon is made up of approximately 5,000 pills and takes up about the size of a shoebox.29 Thus, a significant number of pills can be moved in a few trips. Once on the Turkish side of the border, drugs are repackaged into larger quantities for shipment by sea at the port of Mersin. Operations like these are sometimes interdicted. In one instance, 4.2 million Captagon pills were found onboard a vessel headed for Saudi Arabia.30 The largest seizure in 2014 was sea-based as well, with 17.8 million pills found hidden inside machines used to compress wood on a ship entering the UAE’s ports.31

Turkish authorities have been under pressure to secure their borders, as it has become a known conduit for foreign fighters and material for ISIS. This has resulted in a drop of roughly 90 percent in Captagon seizures between 2014 and 2015. Alternate overland routes to the Gulf market via Jordan and Lebanon have seen increases in the amount of drugs seized at these points, roughly double in 2015 what was interdicted in 2014.32 These routes are not new, but overland transportation restricts the size of shipments at one time.  Shipping the same number of pills requires more vehicles and increases the probability that the drugs will be discovered during a vehicle search.  Turkish border forces have shown that they can crack down on illicit activities if properly motivated by pressure from international actors or concerns of threats to their national security.33 In contrast, ISIS is notorious for its severe penalties for involvement in anything approaching the drug trade.34 The increased activity of ISIS near the Turkish border, in conjunction with the decreased flow of Captagon through the area, indicates that other routes are being used to avoid dealing with ISIS’s anti-drug policies in addition to the Turkish border patrols.35

The ability to quickly shift smuggling routes in reaction to increased enforcement suggests several important smuggling traits. First, either there is one organization responsible for the majority of the Captagon smuggling, or the organizations that are involved are coordinated. It is unlikely that numerous individual organizations producing the same product with access to the same slate of transit points shifted their preferred routing without any coordination.36 Second, if it is one organization that is producing the majority of the Captagon being smuggled out of Syria, it would need to be able to have relatively free reign throughout the country. Transit from production centers to the border requires security, and that security needs to be guaranteed regardless of the port of exportation. If the traffickers are able to shift their most heavily utilized smuggling routes in under a year, they must have the resources in place to secure the new routing. This suggests that the organization(s) are aligned with the Assad regime, as they are a relatively unified organization holding significant territory throughout the country in a time of intense conflict.


The international consensus of anti-drug professionals is that the vast majority of Captagon consumption takes place in the wealthy Arab Gulf states. According to documented evidence, Saudi Arabia is the number one consumer of Captagon. It is the drug of choice among young Saudi partygoers, more so than hashish, cocaine, heroin, or ecstasy.37 United Nations World Drug Reports have named Saudi Arabia as the leading country for amphetamine seizures since 2011. The report has attributed 56 percent of 2012’s worldwide amphetamine seizures to the Middle East, and this increased to 64 percent in 2013.38 According to Google Trends, more people in Saudi Arabia search for “Captagon” online than in any other country in the world.39 Emirati and Saudi police routinely intercept Captagon shipments, one as large as 17.7 million pills in 2014, worth between $177 and $442.5 million.40 Most recently, a shipment of approximately two tons of Captagon was found aboard a Saudi Prince’s private plane in Beirut.41 An additional two tons of Captagon were seized traveling south at the Jordanian border.42 Outside of the Middle East, Captagon is virtually unheard of.

While Saudi authorities are committed to eradicating the drug problem and have accepted U.S. training to do so, they also take steps to obscure the full extent of the problem to avoid embarrassment over failing to uphold their conservative Islamic ideals. “To the Saudis, Captagon is a national shame,” one U.S. DEA agent remarked. Demographically, the average Captagon user in Saudi Arabia is a male in his twenties or thirties. Speculation on why the Gulf consumes so much Captagon ranges from the socially conservative society failing to provide adequate legal outlets to the ban on alcohol, to the relatively high amount of disposable income in the region.43 A single Captagon pill sells in the Gulf for between $10 to $25.44 Additionally, the pill form may be more palatable to religiously minded Saudis, as it can be associated with medicine, which is permissible under Islamic law (unlike liquor or other drugs which are strictly haram).45

In terms of fighters in the Syrian conflict, usage spans the spectrum. In numerous anecdotes and videos, fighters of all affiliations, from the Free Syrian Army to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, appear to be under the influence of an amphetamine-like substance.  It is unlikely these organizations are permitting or encouraging the use of Captagon on an institutional level, but it is undeniable that individual fighters in Syria have used Captagon as a battle enhancement. In interviews and discussions, there is no mention of Hezbollah fighters using Captagon. In fact, as part of its institutional acceptance of the Captagon trade, Hezbollah’s spiritual authorities explicitly prohibited providing the drug to other Shia Muslims.46


While no direct connection between Hezbollah and Captagon within Syria has been uncovered, there is enough correlated evidence to say there is a high probability that Hezbollah is one of the major Captagon producers and traffickers. Although Hezbollah likely is the major producer and distributor in the area, there is significant evidence suggesting that other actors in the region are producing smaller quantities.

Hezbollah has a long history of actively participating in the production and sale of illicit drugs. Hezbollah’s home state, Lebanon, has been both a transit point for drugs moving from the eastern to western markets, as well as a source location for hashish and opium.47 While some drug lords are only tangentially affiliated with Hezbollah (i.e., paying taxes to avoid disruption), Hezbollah is known for trafficking illicit items internationally.48 Sources connected to the closure of the production sites found in Hezbollah-affiliated schools in the Bekaa Valley indicate that the equipment for these operations was not totally destroyed, but may have been moved across the border and restarted in Syria.49 This, combined with their prolific involvement in the country’s civil war, suggests a correlation between this past activity and the current production out of Syria. Additionally, Hezbollah has an established global network and experience in managing the logistics necessary to maintain not only its fighting forces, but its fundraising and humanitarian efforts. Hezbollah’s experience and resources make it the ideal organization to set up and manage the operations necessary for a Captagon enterprise to be successful.

In conjunction with Hezbollah, the Assad regime is undoubtedly benefiting from these operations. Since the conflict began, the Syrian pound has plummeted in global currency markets, and the economy of Syria is in turmoil.50 This leaves the Assad regime in need of cash to continue its operations. While several nations have extended aid to Assad, namely Iran and Russia, producing and trafficking in Captagon is a much more self-sustaining solution than hard-currency transfers. The Assad regime’s history of informal involvement in smuggling throughout Syria would benefit this enterprise.51

Earlier evidence suggested that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was the only other major actor that would attempt to produce Captagon pills for profit and/or consumption. Their lack of serious ideological objections, combined with their need for funds and control of significant territory, suggested that they had the potential to participate in the Captagon trade. Radwan Mortada’s documentary provides concrete evidence connecting secular fighting groups like the FSA in the Syrian conflict to the Captagon trade. Prior to this documentary, connections were only rumor and conjecture. Individual soldiers of all persuasions were known to use Captagon, but there was no proof of institutional funding. While a breakthrough, the amount of money one FSA affiliate interviewed claimed to be taking in from Captagon only accounts for a minor portion of the market.52

The Salafist organizations Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS are not likely to be producing or trafficking in Captagon, as they have demonstrated a pattern of intolerance and combativeness towards other illicit industries like hashish.53 ISIS’s policies on drug use are much more severe than those of their contemporaries. For instance, cigarette trafficking is one of the most well-known underground economies in the world and has been a major staple of Syria’s smuggling economy for decades.54 However, ISIS is reported to punish those found in possession of cigarettes severely, including reports of cutting off hands.55 ISIS does not appear to need to engage in this kind of activity for funding as it had numerous other known streams of income, from oil smuggling to kidnapping for ransom to direct donations from supporters.56 The impacts of recent strikes on cash stores and the cutting of wages in half may force even an organization as fanatical as ISIS to change its stance on drugs such as Captagon, potentially choosing to tax it in transit. 57


The source of funding for the majority of the Captagon trade originates in the Gulf States of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These are the same nations that are supporting those combatting the Assad regime and its Hezbollah supporters. Yet, there is overwhelming evidence that Hezbollah and the Assad regime are significantly involved and are profiting from the Captagon trade. If Saudi Arabia understands its Captagon problem as a “national shame,” one can only imagine the impact of knowing that money from partying Gulf citizens is likely flowing into the coffers of Hezbollah and the Syrian government.

The United States and other western nations are aligned with the Gulf States in their policy against illicit drugs, as well as their interest in cutting funding for Hezbollah and the Assad regime. Expanding partnerships between the Gulf and the United States for programs countering drug use, addiction, and rehabilitation, in addition to enhanced interdiction efforts, should magnify broader efforts against smuggling. The first step is the most difficult: publicly acknowledging the problem.  Although efforts at increased drug awareness and rehabilitation are underway in parts of the Gulf, these efforts are slow moving and far from widespread.58 Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states pride themselves on their image of piety and righteousness; problems with illicit drugs run directly counter to that image. However, without acknowledgement, there is no way to assess the extent of the problem or gain popular support in combatting it. Making public the connection between Hezbollah and Captagon within Saudi Arabia would likely decrease its use.59

In addition to acknowledgement of the problem, education on drug use and rehabilitation for those that are addicted is needed. Governments in the Gulf will gain greater cooperation from the population through increased awareness of the dangers of Captagon than they will by issuing edicts and harsh punishments against its possession and use. In an illicit economy not regulated by the government, the population being targeted is a government’s best partner to combat demand for the illicit good.

At the same time, countries of the Gulf must expand their relationships with the U.S. and Europe for increased training on anti-drug investigations and enforcement.  The Bureaus of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement and Diplomatic Security at the U.S. State Department are experienced in working with foreign nations’ law enforcement to increase their efficacy and abilities. Additionally, organizations like INTERPOL and EUROPOL can share expertise in creating effective information sharing forums, a powerful tool to combat illicit trade.

The conflict in Syria has been felt throughout the world, and Captagon is but one element fueling this conflict. The drug plays an important role to ending the conflict, and at the speed to which that end is reached.

Max Kravitz is a Master’s candidate in the Middle East Studies program at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. His graduate research focuses on the Levant and low intensity conflict. Past graduate work has explored transnational criminal organizations and their role in interstate and intrastate conflict. He earned his bachelor’s in Middle Eastern Studies from the Elliott School. Following undergraduate study, he spent time exploring Syria and studying Arabic at the University of Damascus.

Will Nichols is a private investigator and recent graduate of the Master of Arts in Middle East Studies program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. His graduate research focused on international security, particularly in the Levant and Gulf regions of the Middle East. His research interests include U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, counterinsurgency, terrorism, and the nexus between international organized crime, war, and security. He earned his bachelor of arts in international studies from Emory University, and studied abroad for a semester in Egypt at the American University in Cairo.


1 Radwan Mortada, Syria’s War Drug, Film, BBC Arabic, September 12, 2015.

2 Kristen Gerfried, Annelies Schaefer, and Ansgar von Schlictegroll, “Fenetylline: Therapeutic Use, Misuse, and/or Abuse,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 17 (1986), 259-60.

3 Alastair Sloan, “Is Saudi Arabia Losing the Battle to Combat Substance Abuse?” Middle East Monitor, March 28, 2014.

4 Mortada (2015).

5 Jon Henley, “Captagon: The Amphetamine Fueling Syria’s Civil War.” The Guardian, January 13, 2014.

6 Mahmoud A. Alabdalla, “Chemical Characterization of Counterfeit Captagon Tablets Seized in Jordan,” Forensic Science International 152, vol. 2-3 (2005), 185-88.

7 Turkish National Police KOM Unit Officer, in discussion with the author, March 2015.

8 Rami Aysha, journalist, in discussion with the author, March 2015.

9  This statement, consistently referenced in INCB reports and echoed in both UNODC World Reports and interviews with the Turkish National Police, is based on seizure information. See INCB Annual Report, 2005; and UNODC World Drug Report, 2006.

10 Stephen Kalin, “Insight: War Turns Syria into Major Amphetamines Producer, Consumer,” Reuters, January 12, 2014.

11 Turkish National Police KOM Unit Officer, in discussion with the author, March 2015. Also corroborated by 2003 and 2010 INCB Annual Reports.

12 Paul Kan, Cartels at War: Mexico’s Drug-fueled Violence and the Threat to U.S. National Security (Washington: Potomac, 2012).

13 The lag time between establishment of production facilities and international reporting of increased abuse also makes sense, as it takes some time for abuse to increase and for that trend to be noticed as significant and worth reporting.

14 Lara Deeb, An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi’i Lebanon (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 88-89.

15 Boaz Ganor and Wernli Miri Halperin, “The Infiltration of Terrorist Organizations into the Pharmaceuticals Industry: Hezbollah as a Case Study,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 36, vol. 9 (2013), 702.

16 “World Drug Report,” UNODC, 2010, 98.

17 Ganor and Halperin, 703-4.

18 “World Drug Report,” UNODC, 2010, 140.

19 Ibid, 144.

20 “World Drug Report,” UNODC, 2008, 143.

21 Beckie Strum, “Syrian Captagon being trafficked through Lebanon,” The Daily Star, September 11, 2013.

22 “World Drug Report,” UNODC, 2013, 50.

23 Marissa Sullivan, “Hezbollah in Syria,” The Middle East Security Report 19, Institute for the Study of War, April 2014.

24 Matt Herbert, “Partisans, Profiteers, and Criminals: Syria’s Illicit Economy,” Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 38 (2014), 74. Also corroborated by Stephen Kalin, “Insight – War turns Syria into major amphetamines producer, consumer,” Reuters, January 12, 2014. This was also stated by the Turkish National Police and U.S. officials interviewed by the authors.

25 Lysandra Ohrstrom, “Syria War Wreaks Havoc on Drug Industry,” The Daily Star, July 1, 2013.

26 Kimberley L. Thachuk, Transnational Threats: Smuggling and Trafficking in Arms, Drugs, and Human Life (Connecticut: Praeger Security International, 2007).

27 U.S. State Department official, in discussion with author.

28 Turkish National Police KOM Officer, in discussion with author.

29 U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) official, in discussion with author.

30 Awad Mustafa, “Four Million Pills Seized in Dh210m Drug Bust,” The National, March 31, 2010.

31 Ali Shouk, “Three Arrested after One of the Biggest Drug Smuggling Operations in Dubai,” 7DAYS Dubai, November 17, 2014.

32 U.S. DEA official, in discussion with author.

33 Associated Press reporter, in discussion with author.

34 Rami Aysha, in discussion with author.

35 Rebecca Collard, “Lebanon’s Drug Lords Say They’re Ready to Join the Fight Against ISIS,” PRI, January 6, 2015.

36 Radwan Mortada (2015).

37 U.S. DEA official, in discussion with author.

38 “World Drug Report,” UNODC, 2014, 49. It should be noted that UNODC’s 2014 and 2015 reports have completely removed all references to Captagon by name, and the 2015 report fails to mention any major ATS trafficking or abuse in the Middle East, despite both increased attention and larger seizures than ever before in Lebanon and the UAE (15 million pills in Lebanon; more than 17 million pills in UAE); “Lebanon charges Saudi prince with drug smuggling,” BBC News, November 2, 2015.

39 Google Trends search for “ كبتاجون,” 2015, https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=%D9%83%D8%A8%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%AC%D9%88%D9%86.

40 Justin Thomas, “The Gulf Seems Captivated by Captagon, but Why?” The National, December 14, 2014.

41 “Lebanon charges Saudi prince with drug smuggling,” BBC News, November 2, 2015.

42 “TSG IntelBrief: The Drug of War,” The Soufan Group, January 25, 2016, http://soufangroup.com/tsg-intelbrief-the-drug-of-war/.

43 Radwan Mortada (2015).

44 U.S. DEA official posted in the Middle East, in discussion with author.

45 Activities or substances that are haram are prohibited by Islamic law.

46 Ali Haidar, “IRGC-Hezbollah Captagon Ring Compromised by War Over Profits,” The Middle East Transparent, April 27, 2012.

47 Elizabeth Picard,“The Political Economy of Civil War in Lebanon,” War, Institutions, and Social Change in the Middle East, ed. Steven Heydemann (University of California Press, 2000).

48 Ganor and Wernli (2013), 36.

49 Ibid., 705.

50 Ibrahim Miro,”US Dollar Slowly Replacing Syrian Pound,” Al-Monitor, February 17, 2015.

51  Matt Herbert (2014), 72.

52 Ibid.

53 “Lebanon: Syrian Marijuana Farmers Fear the Wrath of ISIS,” Reuters, December 22, 2015.

54 Matt Herbert (2015); in addition to personal experience with cigarette smuggling.

55 Seyyed Hoseini Nasr, The Heart of Islam, (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), 121. This disapproval stems from a debated interpretation of the permissibility of smoking tobacco that dates back centuries, and the non-haram nature of the activity is accepted by the majority of the global Islamic community.

56 Charles Lister,”Cutting off ISIS’ Cash Flow,” The Brookings Institution, October 24, 2014.

57 Jose Pagilery, “ISIS cuts its fighters’ salaries by 50%,” CNN, January 19, 2016.

58 Philip Robins,”Narcotic Drugs in Dubai: Lurking in the Shadows,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (2014), 159-64.

59 Two Saudi nationals, in discussion with author, April 12, 2015.