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Amman – Damascus… the bumpy road

The differences were evident in the two speeches used by the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, and the Syrian, Faisal al-Miqdad, in their press conference on Safadi’s visit to Damascus at the beginning of this July. Safadi sought to emphasize key points that represent the Jordanian agenda towards Syria, while al-Miqdad avoided Commenting on it, while making sure to emphasize the Syrian narrative, especially towards the Syrian refugees in Jordan, and with regard to the Syrian issue.

Jordan’s agenda towards Syria, as presented by Safadi, is clear: adhering to the step-by-step strategy in dealing with the Syrian regime, pushing for internal consensual political solutions that lead to the improvement of the political situation, allowing the return of a large proportion of refugees, mitigating the international position towards Damascus, and emphasizing on The Jordanian position is that the drug trade across the Jordanian-Syrian border must be stopped, otherwise Jordan will use the right of self-defense, in various ways, including military ones, as happened when it launched military air strikes inside the Syrian borders against a drug-trafficking factory (Amman did not claim responsibility for the incident).

The Syrians see that Safadi wants to turn back the clock, as if President Assad was not invited to the Arab summit in Jeddah and the Saudi-Emirati relations with Syria were not normalized. Therefore, they want to bypass the strategy (which Safadi adheres to) by linking the political solution to the normalization of relations, and they see that things are after an agreement. Tehran – Riyadh has changed. Consequently, the Jordanian demands impede the process of their desired normalization with the Arab countries, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, while Egypt has not taken, since the beginning of the era of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, any sharp negative stance towards the Syrian regime.

In contrast to the Arab positions that tend to normalize with the Syrian regime, the international positions still refuse to deal with it, and the Captagon Law entered into force to integrate with the Caesar Act in tightening penalties on the Syrian regime, and clamping down on the drug trade, which has become, according to UN and international reports. It is one of the largest drug trafficking areas in the world, behind it is a regional network, and it enjoys the support of actors from the Syrian regime, and provides the latter with hundreds of millions of hard currency annually.

For Jordan, the two most pressing issues today are refugees and drugs. On the first level, there are approximately 200,000 Syrian children born in Jordan to Syrian refugees since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis. This means that the problem is rooted in Jordan with limited financial and natural resources and the international community’s abdication of its responsibilities towards them, which means that the number is likely to increase, as well as the service requirements, and they will (if this has not already happened) turn into a new demographic reality that Jordan must deal with.

Al-Safadi had raised this issue in his previous meeting (five months ago) in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad, and called for an integrated strategy between Jordan and Syria for what he called their voluntary return, but Al-Safadi is fully aware that there are strong preconditions required to persuade, even if only a percentage of them. To return, these are matters that have not been achieved, and there are important details, such as infrastructure, security guarantees, the issue of serving the flag, and sectarian militias, all of which are issues that are not easy to solve.

With regard to drugs, things are getting worse with the passage of time, and the means of smuggling have become more dangerous, as Drones have entered the line of operations, and it is not expected that there will be a response from the Syrian regime, as long as there is certain information that leaders of the regime are involved with Iraqi and Lebanese parties in the operations. And as long as this network provides a large income in the face of international sanctions that have exhausted the regime. Consequently, the issue becomes more complicated, and perhaps this explains the innovation of the step-by-step plan, in the sense that the Syrian regime took steps that were met by steps from the international community. On the other hand, the requirements of the international community take on a political nature, which complicates issues for the Jordanian strategy.

In conclusion, the shadow of the Syrian tragedy still weighs heavily on Jordan, even if the challenges and sources of threat today have changed. It seems that Jordan must consider many options and scenarios to deal with the new repercussions

Mohammad Abu-Rumman

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