Syria Today – Saudi Arabia Prepares Embassy Reopening; U.S. Steps Up Fight Against Captagon; Israel Declassifies Documents

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.

A technical team from Saudi Arabia has arrived in Syria to make arrangements for the reopening of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Damascus. Simultaneously, the Biden administration is developing a comprehensive plan to tackle the increasing trade of Captagon drugs in Syria. Additionally, Israel has declassified documents related to the Yom Kippur War, revealing that the Mossad spy agency had received advanced information about Egypt’s intention to launch a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, a week before it occurred.

Memo of understanding to establish a joint Syrian-Iranian insurance company
Oqaila Takaful Insurance Company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bimeh Alborz Insurance Company in Iran on establishing a joint Syrian-Iranian insurance company, SANA reported.
The MoU was signed by the General Manager of Oqaila Company, Eng. Samer al-Ash, and the Executive Director of (Bimeh Alborz) in Tehran.
The MoU aims to enhance strategic cooperation in the field of providing insurance services to the insured of the two companies in Syria and Iran, in addition to reinsurance services for the accepted risks of both parties and coverage of various risks for projects and investments in both countries.
In a statement to a SANA reporter, Al-Ash affirmed that Bimeh Alborz Company is a leading insurance company in the Iranian insurance market, noting that Oqaila Company is working to make a significant change in the mechanism of providing services to its insurers at all levels and enhance the absorptive capacity of reinsurance agreements against all risks.

‘Egypt, Syria coordinating’: IDF estimates on eve of Yom Kippur War declassified
A new Defense Ministry website with over 20,000 files includes previously unseen intelligence assessments, diaries of a SIGINT commander, and eyewitness accounts of the fall of the Hermon outpost, the Times of Israel reported.
The article discusses the launch of a new Defense Ministry website in Israel that contains declassified documents, images, videos, and other files related to the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The website aims to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war and serve as an official platform for passing down the war’s legacy to future generations.
Some of the documents published for the first time include Military Intelligence assessments from the month prior to the war, diaries of Brig. Gen. Yoel Ben-Porat, head of the Israel Defense Forces’ signals intelligence unit, and eyewitness accounts of the fall of the Hermon outpost on the first day of the conflict.
The article highlights excerpts from the final IDF Military Intelligence assessment on October 6, 1973, just hours before the war broke out. The assessment indicates that Israel was still uncertain about Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack, but it acknowledged that the two countries were coordinating their steps and had amassed strong forces near the borders. The assessment also mentions the lack of chance for success in the war but notes the broad military preparations and news indicating the imminent start of hostilities.
The declassified diary of Brig. Gen. Yoel Ben-Porat reveals that the Mossad spy agency had received information a week in advance about Egypt’s plans to launch a surprise attack on Yom Kippur but failed to pass on the information in an explicit and timely manner to Prime Minister Golda Meir’s office and other officials.
The article also includes the eyewitness accounts of Lieutenant Gadi Zidover, commander of the Hermon outpost, and Sergeant David Nahliel, a Golani soldier, who managed to escape the post during the Syrian invasion. Their accounts describe the outpost’s lack of readiness for war and the ensuing battle, where many soldiers were killed or captured. The soldiers express their surprise at the outbreak of war and the inadequate ammunition and training of the outpost’s troops.

US readies strategy to target Syria’s Captagon trade
The Biden administration is preparing a comprehensive strategy to address Syria’s booming Captagon drug trade, which has become a significant source of revenue for the Assad regime and is a topic of debate in terms of engaging with the regime, Al-Monitor reported. The strategy aims to disrupt and dismantle Assad-linked narcotics production and trafficking networks, with the support of diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement measures. As Arab countries consider reintegrating Assad into the regional fold, the US administration continues to express its disapproval of his rehabilitation and encourages partners to seek reciprocal concessions.
The article discusses the forthcoming strategy of the Biden administration to target Syria’s Captagon drug trade, which has become a major source of revenue for the Assad regime. It highlights that Syria has emerged as the global hub for Captagon production, with an estimated 80% of the world’s supply originating from the country. The drug is smuggled from government-controlled areas of Syria to Jordan and then to the Gulf, where it is widely used recreationally.
The strategy, mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act, requires the administration to submit a written plan to Congress to disrupt and dismantle Assad-linked narcotics production and trafficking networks. It includes diplomatic and intelligence support, as well as training for law enforcement in affected countries. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Syria and the Levant, Ethan Goldrich, confirmed that the strategy will be delivered in the coming weeks.
The article mentions the involvement of various actors in the Captagon trade, including Assad’s relatives, Hezbollah, and Iran-backed militias. It also highlights the potential risks of the drug reaching transnational drug networks and spreading to the Western Hemisphere. The Biden administration’s aim is to isolate the Assad regime through diplomatic measures and sanctions, as demonstrated by the recent blacklisting of key figures involved in the Captagon trade.
The engagement of Arab countries with the Syrian regime, including their decision to reinstate Syria in the Arab League, has created friction with the United States. While the Biden administration disapproves of Assad’s rehabilitation, it encourages states seeking closer ties with the regime to pursue similar objectives. The article suggests that there may be ongoing negotiations to potentially compensate the Assad regime in exchange for reducing Captagon production and exports.

Saudi team arrive in Damascus ahead of Syria embassy reopening
A Saudi technical team has arrived in Syria to prepare for the reopening of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Damascus, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The delegation, led by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, Ghazi bin Rafea Al-Anzi, met with Syria’s Assistant Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Ayman Sousan at the headquarters of the foreign affairs ministry in the Syrian capital, the report added.
Yesterday, a tweet by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “The Saudi technical team responsible for the reopening of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Syrian Arab Republic arrived in the capital Damascus, in implementation of the decision of the Kingdom to resume the work of its diplomatic mission in Syria.”
The move comes after Riyadh and Damascus agreed to resume diplomatic relations earlier this month, amid Syria’s return to the Arab League after over a decade of its suspension and isolation in the region with notable exceptions.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad also attended the 32nd Arab League summit in Jeddah last week and hailed the “historic opportunity” for Arab states to rearrange the region “with the least amount of foreign interference.”
Ahead of the diplomatic development, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with President Assad in Damascus on 18 April, days after his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad visited Riyadh.
The Kingdom’s normalization with Syria also follows its decision to re-establish ties with arch-rival and key ally of Syria, Iran in a Chinese-brokered deal.
Assad normalization leaves Syrians in Rukban camp fearing future
Al-Jazeera published a report on the dire situation in Rukban camp, a besieged settlement near the Jordanian, Iraqi, and Syrian borders, where over 8,000 Syrians reside. The camp has been surrounded by the Syrian government and Russian forces, leading to a blockade of aid since 2019.
The report focuses on the deteriorating conditions in Rukban camp, a makeshift settlement in a remote area between the Jordanian, Iraqi, and Syrian borders. The camp, home to over 8,000 Syrians, has been surrounded by Syrian government and Russian forces who accuse the residents of being “terrorists.” Since 2019, the camp has been under siege, with aid blocked from entering, forcing the residents to rely on smuggled goods for survival.
The recent normalization of relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has further endangered the camp’s inhabitants. The reinstatement of the Syrian government in the Arab League has raised concerns about stability in the area. Attacks near the camp have increased, including a drone attack on a health clinic critical for the residents. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by a front group with connections to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
The humanitarian situation within the camp has worsened, with shortages of food, medical supplies, and suitable housing. Education is also lacking, leaving children without proper schooling for years. The camp faces extreme difficulties, including the lack of proper medical care, leading to the loss of children’s lives. Meanwhile, the lucrative drug trade, particularly the production and trafficking of Captagon, has thrived in Syria, with multiple smuggling routes passing through the area. Militia groups backed by Iran have played a role in this trade.
Despite the presence of the US military base nearby, organized aid has not reached the camp, and the border with Jordan has been closed since 2016. The US relies on the UN office in Damascus for aid delivery, but the Syrian government and Russia have repeatedly blocked shipments to Rukban. The residents of the camp continue to suffer, with little assistance or attention from the international community.

The demarcation of Syria’s maritime borders complex but necessary
Raghida Dergham wrote an op-ed for The National on the demarcation of Syria’s maritime borders being a complex but necessary step for the Assad regime to reintegrate into the Arab world. It holds strategic advantages within a broader vision, including the opportunity for Saudi Arabia to establish a presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and for Arab countries to play a proactive role in shaping regional aspirations.
The article discusses the importance of resolving Syria’s border issues, particularly in relation to maritime demarcation, and the strategic advantages it holds within a broader vision for the Arab world.
Dergham highlights the significance of ensuring security in the Mediterranean Sea, given its oil and gas-rich nature and its future importance to various countries. The involvement of key Arab countries, such as Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, and the Gulf states, is seen as crucial for economic, diplomatic, and strategic reasons.
She suggests that resolving Syria’s border issues could allow Saudi Arabia to establish a presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, benefiting from the region’s resources and diversifying its economy. The task of demarcation would involve coordination with both Russia and the US, reflecting a new Arab paradigm in addressing regional problems and shifting from passive players to key actors shaping the region’s aspirations.
The article emphasizes the collective vision of the Arab world to promote sustainable development, effective governance, and a prosperous future for future generations. It highlights the need for Syria to peacefully integrate with the global environment, normalize relations with neighbouring countries, and avoid opposing sovereign decisions of individual Arab states. This approach involves using dialogue, persuasion, and political, economic, and developmental support to resolve conflicts and foster reconciliation.
The author praises the Saudi leadership for maintaining relationships with both the West and the East and helping build an Arab system based on pragmatism. The article suggests that the Arab region is organizing itself and solving its problems independently, away from external interventions. Examples are given, such as the Saudi-Iran deal and the invitation extended to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, as evidence of Arab decision-making independent of major powers.
The article concludes by noting that Syria is in a transitional phase, and the burden of proving its leadership’s good intentions rests on President Al Assad. Steps such as internal reforms, facilitating the return of refugees and displaced persons, lifting sanctions, reconstruction, and demarcation of maritime borders are seen as important for Syria’s future. The author warns that failure to seize this opportunity could trap President al-Assad in a cycle of failure.

Overall, the article presents a vision for resolving Syria’s border issues and highlights the potential strategic advantages and broader implications for the Arab world. It emphasizes the role of key Arab countries, the importance of regional cooperation, and the need for a pragmatic approach to address regional challenges and build a better future.


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