DAY 740 - March 18, 2013
As the war in Syria thaws out of winter, countries in the surrounding region, as well as across the globe, feel a compulsion to get involved. Israel bombs a Syrian weapons convoy destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Russia and Iran both say they will continue to supply arms to Assad's soldiers and the United States commits to supplying "nonlethal aid" to moderate rebel forces. However, with the threat of arming radical Islamists looming, the European Union rejects a bid to give weapons to the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, Assad's air force is unrelenting, bombing rebel bastions in Deir Ez Zor, Al Raqqa, Aleppo, and even over the western border and into Lebanon.
You talk to a source in Idlib who tells you the Captagon epidemic is most apparent in the western cities. More specifically he says Damascus and Homs, on account of their proximity to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, will paint the best portrait of the rampant amphetamine problem developing amongst Syrian rebels. You already know that Captagon is the narcotic of choice in places like Saudi Arabia and Dubai, but with little law enforcement occurring at street level in Syria, it's no wonder Lebanese pill smugglers have been using Syria's open highways to move their product to places like Iraq and beyond. The Captagon story, however, presents you with a difficult problem. Forget Damascus, just getting to Homs will be a journey wrought with insecurity. It's not the rebels you are worried about, you can probably find a brigade to hitch a ride with. It's the barrel bombs from Assad's planes that make you feel powerless. You wonder if the rebels have anti-aircraft weapons to make the trip easier. You research the subject and find that someone going by the pseudonym Brown Moses has tracked Chinese man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), probably via Sudan, to certain rebel brigades. This makes you feel better, at least knowing they exist out there. You don't want to have the same fate as Michael in the embattled city. You call Abu Aarif, your best fixer, who says he can get you close to Hama, but that you'll probably have to swap trucks for the final leg of the trip. Jeremy tells you that, if you do decide to go to Homs, he will not be joining you.