On December 23, 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law the national defense spending bill for 2023, which includes a provision for combating narcotics production and trafficking by the Syrian regime. This provision, which is known as the Captagon Act and was approved by Congress on September 21, 2022, requires the Secretary of State to provide within 180 days "a written strategy for disrupting and dismantling narcotics production and trafficking and affiliated networks linked to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria," which are described as "a transnational security threat."
The Syrian state and pro-regime press, and the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is also close to the Syrian regime, described this as a U.S. move that complements the Caesar Act and is aimed at imposing even more sanctions on the Syrian regime. Its ultimate goal, they said, is to destroy the Syrian economy under the pretext of the war on drugs. They also expressed concern that the Captagon Act would serve as a pretext to ban the import of raw materials for the Syrian industry, especially the pharmaceutical industries.
Against this backdrop, Dr. Bassam Abu 'Abdullah, head of the Damascus Center for Strategic Studies and a political science lecturer at Damascus University, who writes for the pro-regime daily Al-Watan, published two columns in which he called to increase the resistance against the U.S. forces in eastern Syria. In the first column he called the Captagon Act "a new knife" that America wants to drive into Syria's body in order to bring about its final collapse. He therefore urged the Syrians to devote all their efforts to fighting the U.S. forces in Syria so as to cause them to withdraw, stressing that "the American knife will be removed from our throats only after American dead bodies are strewn over Syria's sand dunes." In the second column, he repeated his call to increase the operations against the U.S., which he described as "the head of the snake" that must be chopped off, and assessed that the Syrian state and its institutions will indirectly support this effort. Fighting the U.S., he added, is justified even at the cost of Syrian lives, because "the homeland is more important than parties and individuals." He called to establish a national body to promote the option of popular resistance, and again stressed the importance of causing fatalities among the U.S. forces, in order to clarify that only a U.S. withdrawal will save the lives of American soldiers.
Bassam Abu 'Abdullah (image: almayadeen.net)
The following are excerpts from his columns:
The Captagon Act Is A Knife The U.S. Wants To Drive Into Our Body In Order To Eliminate Us; We Must Devote All Our Efforts To Fighting The U.S.
"The most difficult task for me these days is writing and addressing the Syrian public, which is contending with the most severe and dark circumstances. Poverty and shortages are spreading through every home, and life has almost [completely] shut down and halted, except for its most basic aspects…
"I believe that the chief criminal in the U.S. [i.e., President Biden] has reached the conclusion that an economic blockade is the most successful and efficient way to affect the lives of the Syrians, after he exhausted them by sending [to Syria] packs of terrorists and murderers of every nationality and from every corner of the globe. Their partners in crime were some ignorant Syrians and mercenaries who were misled to believe [that they would be placed in] positions of power and government, so that they could be used as tools to destroy their own country. All this happened with the help of hundreds of billions of dollars provided by the Gulf…
"Our enemies, headed by the U.S., continue to sharpen their knives so as to wipe us out completely. Now, with the arrival of 2023, the Captagon law has appeared, to become a new knife they want to drive into our body in order to eliminate us for good… They are employing the same tactic they used in Iraq dozens of years ago, namely a military campaign followed by an economic blockade [until] they exhaust us and finally cause us to collapse – or so they delude themselves.
"This new American move, which has been approved by both houses of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate – will soon be placed on the desk of U.S. President Joe Biden. It involves the application of exceptionally cruel procedures [against Syria] under the heading of 'War on Drugs,' although the entire world clearly realizes that Washington is the largest center for money laundering and specifically for drug trafficking… Their next objective will be to destroy [Syria's] pharmaceutical industries and impede all of [Syria's] imports and exports under this general heading, while also pressuring all of Syria's neighbors – Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and the Gulf states – to quickly implement this new measure…
"If there are those, like me, who still believe that where there is life there is hope, then the most important [goal] is to act on the national level to rekindle the torch of hope and strengthen it. For the fighting and the war [against Syria have now] assumed a much bloodier and more criminal aspect, of starving the Syrians and oppressing them by means of cold, shortages and poverty, out of a belief that this will break their willpower and lead them to surrender to the blade of the knife. Therefore, we must take action to strengthen the option of popular resistance in the eastern parts [of Syria] as one of the solutions. For the American occupation [has never] withdrawn from an area where no resistance took place, and if anyone is refraining from such resistance on the assumption it is difficult and complicated, I believe that the conditions are [nevertheless] ripe for [realizing] it…
"We are now fighting under the blade of the knife, and our enemy will not stop until it has slaughtered us indiscriminately and without batting an eyelid as it besieges, steals and loots. Our enemy's address is known, so let us direct all the Syrians' energy to fighting this enemy and expelling it, otherwise we will continue to suffer poverty, starvation, cold and diseases, and no one will pay any attention to us. The American knife will be removed from our throats only after American dead bodies are strewn over Syria's sand dunes."
Conditions Are Ripe For Clarifying That Only A U.S. Withdrawal From Syria Will Save The Lives Of American Soldiers
In another column on this topic from December 29, titled "Will the New Year Be the Year of Syrian Popular Resistance?", Abu 'Abdullah wrote, "My last column, from last week, titled "Fighting under the Blade of the Knife," elicited numerous positive responses… In the present column I address the topic of Syrian popular resistance, and the need to adopt it and to ensure [the existence of] a national environment that rallies around it as one of the strategic ways to overcome the tragedy we are experiencing…
"In my previous column I noted that the solution lies in activating the Syrian popular forces in Syria's Jazira [region, i.e., the region between the Euphrates and the Tigris on the Syria-Iraq-Turkey border], and in kindling the national motivation of all Syrians to confront the equation that the U.S. is presenting us with – because the U.S. is the head of the snake, which must be chopped off in order to be rid of it. In this context I will [probably] be asked some direct questions, such as: Is the Syrian people, in its current shameful situation, prepared to support the option of popular national resistance? Are the conditions ripe for such resistance, despite the presence of mercenary pro-American] collaborators in the Syrian Jazira [region]? Will we pay with additional human lives so that corrupt people can recover at the expense of our lives, as has been the case over the past ten years?
"I will try to answer these questions concisely, although they are difficult and important. My responses will reflect my personal opinion and no one is obliged to accept them, but this is my modest attempt to respond to the tremendous challenges that I previously defined as 'fighting under the blade of the knife' while [arguing that] we have no option other than popular resistance:
"1. Our extremely difficult situation must serve as an incentive not to surrender, as some are suggesting, but rather increase the resistance, which has been one of the distinguishing features of the Syrians throughout history… The shameful situation will not change if we do not take action and resist, since for every action there is a reaction, as we have learned from the history… of many nations around the world, including the history of the Syrian people.
"2. As for the state and its institutions, they have no choice but to embrace every [display of] popular resistance… Naturally our army and our other institutions will indirectly support this trend.
"3. As for whether circumstances are ripe [for increasing the resistance], it is now as clear as day that they are, and I will list some of these circumstances. [One is that] the head of the serpent, the U.S., has now clearly come up with the equation of 'oil for surrender.' Another is that [America's] servants, including the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] and the other collaborators, have revealed their true faces. The SDF is an American-Zionist separatist program aimed at severing part of Syria [from the rest of the homeland] and establishing a second Israel [there]…
"4. As for the victims [who will be killed fighting against the U.S.], they will not [die] for the sake of the corrupt people, who actually profit from the [current] anomalous situation and from the ongoing occupation. Naturally, whenever the state institutions gain strength and the law is once again [enforced], the real face of [these corrupt people] is exposed and they fall. Gentlemen, the homeland is more important than parties and individuals, and the blood of the martyrs must not be seen as blood spilled in vain. On the contrary, it is pure blood and we will forever revere and sanctify it, whereas the corrupt will meet their end when all the occupations come to an end.
"I believe we must call for [the establishment] of a popular national body that will support the option of resistance [against the U.S. forces] in Syria's Jazira [region], and I feel that conditions are ripe for this. I say once again: Unless bodies of the Americans and their helpers are strewn over Syria's sand dunes, nobody will pity us and nobody will help us. Without strong bargaining chips, negotiations will be difficult. This is the best bargaining chip, which will ensure that the equation will not be 'oil for surrender,' but rather '[U.S.] withdrawal for the lives of the U.S. soldiers.' Let us make this the equation of the coming year ."
 Captagon is one of several brand names for the drug compound fenethylline hydrochloride.
 Defense.gov, December 23, 2022; congress.gov, September 21, 2022, December 23, 2022; orient-news.net, December 24, 2022; reuters.com, December 30, 2022.
 See e.g., Al-Ba'th (Syria), December 22, 2022; Al-Thawra (Syria), December 29, 2022; Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 15, 2022, December 23, 2022.
 Alwatanonline.com, December 22, 2022.
 Al-Watan (Syria), December 29, 2022