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Cablegate: Lebanon: 2009-2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLB #1205/01 3101204
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061204Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6008

UNCLAS BEIRUT 001205

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR INL/AAE JOHN LYLE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR NAS LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: 2009-2010 INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL STRATEGY
REPORT PART I

REF: STATE 097309

I. Summary
----------

1. (SBU) Lebanon is not a major illicit drug producing or
drug-transit country. The Lebanese government reported ongoing
cannabis cultivation in 2009, and increased drug use particularly
among the young, due to greater availability and reduced price of
most drugs sold in Lebanon. During 2009, Lebanon undertook
eradication efforts in the Bekaa Valley and claimed to have
destroyed nearly all cannabis and opium production. This is
significant since between 2005 and 2007, the Drug Enforcement Bureau
(DEB) of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) of Lebanon undertook
almost no crop destruction operations due to ongoing political
crises and overstretched security commitments on the part of the
Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which provide security for the police
involved in crop destruction. However, illicit crop cultivation
remains an attractive option for some farmers due to a lack of
economically viable alternate crops. There is practically no illicit
drug refining in Lebanon. The majority of drug refining labs are
very small in scale and incapable of producing large amounts of
illicit narcotics. There is minimal production, trading or transit
of precursor chemicals. Drug trafficking across the Lebanese-Syrian
border continued in 2009, in large part due to the absence of
effective border controls along the two countries' long common
border. The UN peacekeeping force on the Lebanese-Israeli border,
UNIFIL (the UN Interim Force in Lebanon), also reported continued
drug smuggling across the Lebanese-Israeli border in 2009. Lebanon
is a transit country for cocaine and heroin, with Lebanese nationals
operating in concert with drug traffickers from Colombia and South
America. The government of Lebanon continued its ongoing drug
demand reduction efforts through public service messages and
awareness campaigns. Lebanon is a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention.

II. Status of Country
---------------------

2. (SBU) At least five types of drugs are available in Lebanon:
hashish, heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, and other synthetics such as
MDMA (Ecstasy). The use of hashish and heroin continues to rise.
Although eradication efforts have diminished the supply of marijuana
and hashish, the drugs are still relatively easy to obtain and
readily available to the growing number of young users. Over the
last few years, only small quantities of cocaine and heroin arrived
in Lebanon to meet local demand. Through September 2009, Lebanese
officials seized 6.6 kilograms of cocaine, compared to 61 kg in 2008
and 3.5 kg in 2007. However, there was a significant increase in
the seizure of heroin, with over 68 kilograms seized though
September 2009 compared to 14.5 kg in 2008 and 2.7 kg in 2007.
Given the variance in seizures from year to year, it is too early to
tell if the increase in heroin seizures constitutes a trend.
According to local officials, heroin use is limited but increasing.
They also reported an increase in heroin smuggling from Lebanon to
Africa. It is believed the heroin is smuggled into Lebanon from
Afghanistan via Turkey and Syria and transported by individuals via
commercial airlines to Africa. The government also reported
increased abuse of synthetic drugs. Lebanon is not considered a
major transit country for illicit drugs. There is growing evidence
that drug trafficking in Lebanon is in part controlled or
facilitated by large scale criminal groups. Lebanese citizens with
links to these organizations are a major presence among
international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations in
South America, and are tied into the highest levels of Colombian
traffickers moving cocaine throughout the world. Cannabis and opium
derivatives are trafficked to a modest extent in the region, but
there is no evidence that the illicit narcotics that transit Lebanon
reach the U.S. in significant amounts. South American cocaine,
primarily from Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, is smuggled into Lebanon
via air and sea routes from Europe, Jordan, and Syria, or directly
to Lebanon. Lebanese nationals living in South America, in concert
with resident Lebanese traffickers, often finance these operations.
Synthetic drugs are visible in the market, and Lebanese officials
report that they are smuggled into Lebanon primarily from Eastern
Europe for sale to high-income recreational users both within
Lebanon and for transit to the Gulf States.

3. (SBU) The stagnant economic situation in rural Lebanon makes
illicit crop cultivation appealing to farmers in the Bekaa Valley of
eastern Lebanon. Lebanese officials hope that renewed eradication
efforts during 2009 will help deter further cultivation. There is
no significant illicit drug refining in Lebanon. However, small
amounts of precursor chemicals, being shipped from Lebanon to Turkey
via Syria, were thought to be diverted for illicit use in Lebanon.
Lebanese officials reported an increase in misuse/overuse of
prescribed medications. The ISF is working with the Ministry of
Health to tighten regulations on the sale of drugs without
prescription to lessen the increased consumption and overuse of pain
killers such as Tramadol and a codeine-based cough medicine referred
to as "Simo." Legislation passed in 1998 authorized seizure of

assets if a drug trafficking nexus is established in court
proceedings.

III. Country Actions against Drugs in 2009
------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Policy Initiatives. The Ministry of Interior considers
counter-narcotics a priority. The government has continued a
vigorous campaign to discourage drug use by expanding public
awareness programs on high school and university campuses, through
media campaigns and in advertisements.

5. (SBU) Law Enforcement Efforts. Between 2005 and 2007 there were
almost no eradication efforts in Lebanon. In both 2006 and 2007,
the LAF was unable to provide the requisite security for the ISF
because of its commitments in internal conflicts (the Israel/Lebanon
war in 2006 and battle against Islamic militants in a northern
Palestinian camp in summer 2007). In early 2008 internal sectarian
conflicts and political tensions precluded a decision approving
eradication. After political tensions eased, the ISF mounted a
large policing operation in October 2008, supported by the LAF, in
the cannabis growing region of the Bekaa. In a one-week period in
October 2008, the ISF arrested over 350 drug dealers and traffickers
and seized 83 tons of cannabis plants, 7.5 kilograms of processed
hashish, and 1,700 kilograms of cannabis seeds. These aggressive
efforts continued into 2009, when the ISF claims to have eradicated
51 acres of opium and 3,237 acres of cannabis. The ISF continues
to face the possibility of armed and violent resistance by local
farmers when attempting to eradicate crops or when attempting to
undertake drug enforcement operations. Lebanese officials report
increased trafficking of Captagon into the domestic market, with 1.3
million tablets seized through September 2009. The vast majority of
Captagon seized in Lebanon is destined for the Gulf States,
primarily Saudi Arabia. In October 2008, DEA and Colombian
authorities arrested three Lebanese nationals suspected of being
part of a large-scale international drug trafficking and
money-laundering ring that operates globally, from Colombia to the
U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

6. (SBU) Lebanese law enforcement officers cooperated with foreign
officials bilaterally and through Interpol in 2009. Several
European and Arabian Gulf countries have drug enforcement liaison
offices in Beirut with which local law enforcement authorities
cooperate. The ISF stated that from January to October 2009 they
arrested a total of 2,059 people for drug use, dealing,
distribution, and smuggling.

7. (SBU) Corruption. Corruption remains endemic in Lebanon in all
levels of government, but the U.S. has no information that
government corruption is systematically connected to drug production
or trafficking or the protection of persons who deal in illicit
drugs. The government of Lebanon does not encourage or facilitate
illicit production or distribution of controlled substances. While
low-level corruption in the counter narcotics forces is possible,
there is no evidence of wide-scale corruption within the Judiciary
Police or the ISF, who appear to be genuinely dedicated to combating
drugs. On October 8, 2008, parliament ratified the UN Convention
against Corruption.

8. (SBU) Agreements and Treaties. Lebanon is a party to the 1988 UN
Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances,
and the 1961 UN Single Convention, as amended by the 1972 Protocol.
Lebanon is also a party to the UN Convention against Transnational
Organized Crime and its protocols against migrant smuggling and
trafficking in persons.

9. (SBU) Cultivation and Production. Lebanon is no longer a
significant drug producing country, though there had been an
increase in cannabis cultivation for hashish production since 2005,
when many farmers appeared to be resuming planting illicit crops
because they believed the crops would not be destroyed. In remote
areas in the north of the country where few other viable economic
options exist, illicit crop production remains an attractive option.
Lebanese police claim that they destroyed nearly all of the
cannabis and opium cultivation in Lebanon during 2009.

10. (SBU) Drug Flow/Transit. Coordinated through Interpol, joint
Syrian-Lebanese anti-trafficking operations have continued since the
Syrian withdrawal from Lebanese territory in 2005. The eastern
border between Lebanon and Syria remains porous, and border policing
efforts remain ineffective due to political constraints and lack of
resources and manpower. UNIFIL and press reports indicate increased
drug smuggling incidents on the Blue Line (Lebanese/Israeli border)
since the passage of resolution 1701 (2006) and particularly since
2008. The primary route for smuggling hashish from Lebanon during
2009 was overland through Syria to Arab countries such as Saudi
Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and via sea routes
to Europe. According to the ISF, large exports of hashish from
Lebanon to Europe are more and more difficult for smugglers due to

increased seashore patrols and airport control.

11. (U) Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. The Lebanese government
and NGOs are actively involved in programs and campaigns to address
the problems of illicit drug use in Lebanon. The current (but
unimplemented) law on drugs dictates that a National Council on
Drugs (NCD) be established to provide substance abuse treatment,
prevention, and awareness, and to formulate a national action plan.
The NCD has not yet been established. Since 2002 the government has
sponsored public awareness campaigns to discourage drug use.
Textbooks approved for public schools contain a chapter on narcotics
awareness. The ISF undertakes demand reduction programs in the
schools and community. DEB officers personally speak to youth at
high schools and universities on a regular basis.

12. (U) There are several detoxification and rehabilitation
programs, the most comprehensive of which is run by Oum al-Nour
(ON), a Beirut-based NGO funded in part by the Ministries of Social
Affairs and Public Health. ON operates two drug treatment centers
with a maximum capacity of 120 patients and offers a year-long
residential program, in addition to its wide range of prevention
programs, parents' and family guidance programs, outpatient
follow-up programs, media campaigns, and training and conferences.

13. (U) Several other organizations also provide prevention and
treatment services. A drug rehabilitation center in Zahleh is run
by the Saint Charles Hospital and the Ministry of Health. The
center holds drug prevention conferences, assemblies and talks
throughout the municipality every two weeks, and runs weekly
anti-drug use campaigns in the schools. Skoun, an outpatient
facility, has broadened its drug treatment, prevention, awareness,
and counseling to drug users and their families throughout Lebanon,
including in Sidon, Tripoli and the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Skoun is the first treatment center in the Middle East to prescribe
buprenorphine maintenance for opiate addicts and continues to lobby
with the Ministry of Health for buprenorphine's legalization. With
the aim of better implementing the 1998 law decriminalizing
addiction and educating the criminal justice system on the benefits
of treatment centers over imprisonment of drug addicts, Skoun has
been working since August 2007 to ensure the legal rights of drug
addicts through a series of roundtable discussions and workshops
designed to sensitize judges, police investigators, heads of police,
police recruits, and other public officials on the condition of drug
addicts and the laws that govern them. This project is sponsored by
the European Union and administered by the office of the Minister of
State for Administrative Reform. Jeunesse Anti-Drogue (JAD) offers
rehabilitation centers, educational programs, medical treatment, and
outpatient counseling. Jeunesse Contre la Drogue raises awareness
of substance abuse and AIDS. The Association Justice et Misericorde
was established to assist incarcerated drug abusers.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
----------------------------------------

14. (SBU) Policy Initiatives. In meetings with Lebanese officials,
U.S. officials continued to stress the U.S. commitment to support
law enforcement sector development by strengthening the capacity of
the ISF to enforce the rule of law in Lebanon, and to punish
violators by increasing the capacity of the ISF to combat criminal
activities in all forms, including drug trafficking, production and
use. The USG also stressed the importance of anticorruption
efforts. High-level ISF officials state drug trafficking is the
second highest priority of the ISF, second only to anti-terrorism
efforts.

15. (SBU) Bilateral Cooperation. Bilateral law enforcement
cooperation has continued to increase during FY 2009. The INL
Office at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has been the major force in
furthering these cooperative efforts. The INL Director manages the
U.S. Lebanon Police Reform Program with a goal to strengthen the
capacity of the ISF to enforce the rule of law in Lebanon through
provision of police training and equipment. The excellent working
relations between the DEA Country Office in Nicosia, Cyprus, and the
DEB were strengthened when 35 DEB officers participated in DEA's
Basic Counter-Narcotics course in December 2008. During 2009, INL
funded donations of computers and investigative equipment to the
DEB. USAID continued its programs to empower Lebanese municipal
governments and civil society to promote transparency,
accountability and good governance. The U.S. Coast Guard provided
diesel engine maintenance training enabling maritime patrolling.

16. (SBU) The Road Ahead. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut and DEA
Country Office in Nicosia will continue to enhance cooperation and
coordination with the Lebanese government and the ISF. Benefiting
from increased USG funding in support of the security forces of
Lebanon, the Embassy and DEA intend to increase in-country training
and investigative cooperation and provide necessary equipment for
the underfunded ISF counter-narcotics unit. To ensure that all
Lebanese security agencies with a counter-narcotics role are capable
E

of carrying out their mandate, the Embassy and DEA will explore
extending U.S. training in counter-narcotics strategies to Lebanese
customs officers.

SISON

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