Jordan faces a double war in southern Syria

Enab Baladi – Diya Assi

Growing Iranian influence in southern Syria, following reports that Russia was reducing its forces in Syria to bolster its fighting front in Ukraine, has raised concerns in Jordan that Iran fills this vacuum, which Amman saw as an explicit threat to its security and the countries of the region.

In a tone of unprecedented force, Jordan pointed the finger at the Syrian regime for its support for smuggling groups and said it was facing a “drug war” on the northern border.

According to an article by the Jusoor Center for Studies, titled “The chances of success of normalization with the Syrian regime by Arab countries decline”, published on May 20, in which it is considered that Jordan, for the first time, holds the Syrian regime responsible for violations and security problems at the Jordanian borders since the opening of the Nasib crossing point between the two sides in September 2021.

Dissatisfaction

Amid questions about the possibility of a change in Jordan’s stance towards the Syrian regime, given recent Jordanian statements, including Jordanian King Abdullah II’s May 18 warning that Iran and its “proxies would fill the vacuum left by Russia in southern Syria, and which could lead to an escalation of potential problems at the borders of his country, Jusoor Center indicated that the Jordanian speech reflects a clear dissatisfaction with the behavior of the regime in southern Syria.

This is due to the inability or willingness of the Syrian regime to prevent the activity of Iranian militias, whose number of sites located in the governorates of Daraa and As-Suwayda increased during the period from February May, with the facilitation and cooperation of the regime’s Fourth Division, which shares drug trafficking operations with these militias across the Jordanian border.

In an interview with Enab BaladiJordanian strategic expert Dr. Amer al-Sabaileh said Jordanian policy has been consistent in its relations with Syria during the crisis and stressed that there has been a positive rapprochement in past periods .

Signs of rapprochement are still present, although relations at the political level have neither developed nor relapsed at the same time, which can be seen as a constant and unchanging matter, regardless of all the transformations the region is experiencing, according to the Jordanian expert.

Al-Sabaileh considered that the Russian presence in the southern areas of Syria is a guarantee of calm and that the security imbalance has led to the presence of Iranian militias in these areas.

Jordan sees Iranian influence as a real threat to it, and dealing with it requires cooperation, whether regionally or even with the Syrian regime, al-Sabaileh said, stressing the need for the Syrian regime to have “goodwill” in the way it cooperates with Jordan.

drug war by proxy

Speaking about the situation on the Syrian-Jordanian border, the Jordanian army said that the Jordanian armed forces are confronted with Iranian organizations which have foreign objectives and target the national security of Jordan.

Mustafa al-Hiyari, head of Jordan’s Military Information Directorate, told state-run al-Mamlaka TV on May 23 that Jordanian forces were facing a “war on drugs” on the northeastern borders. of Jordan, noting that the last three years have seen a double increase in smuggling and undercover operations.

“Smuggling groups sometimes receive support from unruly groups of Syrian border guards and other groups,” considering them “systematic operations,” al-Hiyari said.

He also pointed out that the armed forces are facing this threat on behalf of the Jordanian people, Jordan, the countries in the region which are also targeted and the world, as there have been numerous reports recently that drugs manufactured in Syria have reaches EU countries, especially Italy. .

Hidden role of the United States

Retired Syrian Brigadier General Asaad al-Zoubi said Enab Baladi that Arab and Western support for Jordan to deal with the Iranian threat depends on the degree of rivalry, especially after US pessimism about the possibility of reigniting the Iran nuclear deal and US-Russian tension in their indirect confrontation in Ukraine .

Al-Zoubi believes that the policies of many countries operate according to a special administration and interests or countries affiliated with them, pointing out that the deteriorating global reality has cast a shadow over the Syrian regime.

The military expert believes that there is a plan issued by the United States, and the affiliated parties translate what interests them, considering the situation with the Russian presence or without it in the same way, and what changes is is the US decision or direction.

Talking about what Jordan’s statements are about other aspects, Jusoor Studies Center researcher Abdulwahab Assi believes that Jordan can count on a lot of diplomatic and security measures to curb the growing environment of instability in southern Syria.

This lot includes the intervention of the United States to put pressure on Russia in the first instance to use its influence and to communicate with the Syrian regime directly or via one of the Arab countries to persuade it to reduce the size of its military deployment in the region and to end destabilizing activities, including the production, export and promotion of drugs. In addition to conducting security operations along the border strip against drug traffickers.

Eighth Brigade: Russia’s Amputated Arm

Talks have intensified since last April over Russia reducing the number of its military forces in Syria in order to strengthen its fighting front in Ukraine, as the Moscow Times website reported that Russia had reduced the number of its military forces in Syria. number of its forces in Syria due to military operations in Ukraine, and the handing over of military points to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

On May 24, Russian forces evacuated new positions in the countryside of Daraa governorate in southern Syria, with no information on the replacement of local forces backed by the Syrian regime or Iran in the area.

The Russian withdrawal was preceded by the Russian military police abandoning their support for the Eighth Brigade at the end of 2021, and they also agreed to join the Military Intelligence Division, which caused Russia to lose a strong arm. equipped with equipment and fighters.

According to Brigadier General Asaad al-Zoubi, the brigade operated under Russian command in theory, and in reality it operated and still operates under regime orders.

In case Iran takes the helm, so will the orders because the orders will go through the Syrian regime, and it doesn’t matter who issued them because the implementing tool is one, which is the Eighth Brigade.

Al-Zoubi pointed out that there are many honorable members of the brigade, who will not agree to work with Iran, and they will not be able to work with Jordan to confront Iran unless protection not be provided to them, and in the event of battles, al-Zoubi expected there to be defections from the brigade.

Abdulwahab Assi believes that Jordan’s fears may not be directly linked to the increase in Iranian influence, as the Russian military presence in southern Syria has not changed significantly, at the moment. exception of a redeployment in certain places.

Concerns, according to Assi, include Russia withdrawing from its commitments to the joint agreements reached in July 2018, which aim to prevent Iran’s expansion, but it was able to increase the size of its spread directly or indirectly via the fourth division and the security branches.

Jordan’s fears are also linked to the fight against drugs, after southern Syria became a manufacturing, export and promotion center for the kingdom’s lands and to the Gulf States via Jordan, which poses a threat to its national security, according to Assi.

On the possibility of Iranian support for the 8th Brigade, Assi deemed it impossible, and everything circulating on this subject is inaccurate. On the contrary, the researcher believes that Jordan can rely on the Eighth Brigade to counter Iran’s influence in the region.

Diplomatic approach under military cover

In response to the Jordanian monarch’s response to Iran’s role in destabilizing the Middle East, during a television interview on the Hoover Institute program, he referred to the efforts of some Arab and Gulf countries to communicate with Tehran and said, “Of course, we each want to be part of a new beginning for the Middle East and moving forward, but we have security challenges.

The escalation at the Syrian-Jordanian borders and the activities of Iranian militias in the region are separated from political and diplomatic work. For the Iranians, the channels of communication have always been open, with a desire to use the situation and developments for political purposes, according to al-Sabaileh.

He stressed that Jordan cannot be considered in a state of enmity with Iran, as the region has become accustomed to the idea of ​​a proxy confrontation, which is “ongoing and will continue”, but without an explicit and direct statement of the evenings.

Al-Sabaileh stressed that Jordan receives and will receive additional support in the face of potential threats, as it cannot be isolated from its allies, since the United States has a significant military presence in Jordan and NATO considers Jordan as an ally and a strategic partner. partner.

Drug trafficking and its presence are a reality for Jordan, and the fear, according to al-Sabaileh, is that the clashes include “terrorist organizations” and not just “drug gangs”, which could turn into an export weapons and “terrorists” to Jordan, underscoring the need for Jordan to gain political and economic support from allies for such confrontations.

For the western axis, Jordan represents the only stable place in the region, and therefore work must be carried out preemptively to mitigate any danger that is reflected in the Jordanian interior, al-Sabaileh said.

Hezbollah factory

On December 5, 2021, The New York Times reported that the fourth division headed by Maher al-Assad is responsible for the manufacture and export of Captagon narcotics tickets, in addition to the fact that businessmen closely linked to the regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in run the trade.

At the end of April 2021, a study published by the Center for Operational Analysis and Research (COAR) revealed the scale of the disaster, as it indicated that Syria had become a world center for the production of the narcotic Ceptagon with cutting-edge technologies. and that the value of its exports exceeded 3 billion and 46 million US dollars.

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