Jordan and the headache of the Syrian border
It was remarkable the amount of rage and anger among popular circles after the news that a Jordanian officer was martyred and three others were wounded, nearly a week ago, on the Jordanian-Syrian border, as a result of their clash with groups of drug smugglers, after that, important statements were issued by the Jordanian Chief of Staff, Major General Yousef Al-Hunaiti, about changing the rules of engagement in the border areas, to ensure stability. A senior official explained this statement (in a private session with him) with the possibility of carrying out preemptive operations, monitoring targets before reaching the borders, and taking the necessary procedures, as long as the official security and military contacts did not lead to a result!
The issue goes beyond the martyrdom of an officer and the injury of others, the reports received from the northern borders and supported by international statements that Syria, in which the security and military situation represented a security and military threat to Jordan, since 2011, especially the southern areas bordering Jordan’s northern borders, it has become today a threat of a different and dangerous kind, represented by the drug trade, according to international reports, Syria’s income from this trade is three billion dollars annually, and it has become a global competitor to Afghanistan.
The dilemma, as the Jordanian official told me, is that the Syrian situation is complicated, mostly, such trade is supported by forces within the Syrian regime and Iranian militias in the south, which are similar to mafias, inside and outside the frameworks of the Syrian state, it is official and unofficial at the same time, and it is difficult to reach the official party concerned with it, which means that we are facing a real headache in this region.
Although the Syrian army managed to control most of the southern regions, the situation in some of them is still unstable, especially in Daraa al-Balad, and there is a negotiation heading, in some directions, to a worrying fate represented in the voluntary mass deportation of a large proportion of Daraa’s residents, who were described as rejecting the settlement there, especially in Daraa al-Balad, with other reports confirming that there are voluntary and forced displacements in the governorate, which means that a possible demographic change may occur in those southern areas and reshape the Jordanian border equation, after Jordan relied basically during the Syrian crisis on its relationship with clans in the southern and eastern regions (which was called the strategy of pillows; that is, containing the danger before it reached the Jordanian borders through partners supported by Jordan), such transformations warn that we are facing a worrying circumstance that will continue (if not stabilize) in the coming years, and the drug issue is a major part of its expected entitlements!
It is known that Jordan took a pragmatic approach towards the southern regions, as it did not get involved militarily and did not open the borders during the period of the Syrian crisis, and contented itself with establishing strategic relations and partnerships with military forces formed by local tribes, to confront the Islamic State “ISIS” or any threat approaching the northern border, but then, with the change in the balance of power, Jordanian system decided to modify the strategy, that is abandoned the support for civil-military militias and held an agreement with the Russians to guarantee the security of the northern borders, which was also linked to the upheaval of the global and regional approach towards Syria, and the gradual US withdrawal from Syria. And the closure of the operations room that was in Jordan, and concerned with what is happening on Syrian land.
Jordan is now facing a new danger and disturbing transformations without any pillars, as was the case previously, and after Jordan tried to rapprochement with the Syrian regime and re-normalize political and economic relations, However, it is clear that the Syrian situation is more complex, with regional considerations and multiple roles involved. The issue is more difficult within the Syrian regime than limiting it to official relations of a friendly nature!
It became necessary, therefore, to rethink, in a different and strategic approach, and to plan future scenarios for expected and potential options, in light of the developments and transformations taking place on the northern borders, an issue that affects Jordan’s national security and vital and security interests at its core.