Jordanian Airstrikes on Iranian-Backed Traffickers in Syria Culmination of Week of Chaos

Credit: (Royal Jordanian Air Force)

The Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted airstrikes in Syria targeting drug traffickers supported by Iran. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported the death of a trafficker named Nasser Faisal Al-Saadi, who was allegedly killed in the airstrikes. The Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) also engaged in clashes with armed groups on the northern borders, resulting in the death and injury of smugglers, seizing a large quantity of drugs and weapons, and emphasizing their commitment to dealing with any threats to the kingdom’s security.

The Syrian-Jordan border has recently been a hotbed of conflict, with clashes erupting between drug and weapons smugglers and the Jordanian forces. The situation has escalated to armed confrontations, leading to casualties and the thwarting of multiple smuggling attempts.

The JAF have been actively engaged in combating these smuggling attempts, resulting in significant seizures of drugs and weapons. The most recent clash, yesterday, December 18, 2023, resulted in casualties among the JAF and the prevention of a large-scale smuggling attempt.

Over the last week fighting on the border has led to the death and injury of smugglers, as well as injuries among Jordanian border guards. The Iranian smugglers in Syria have been attempting to cross the border from southern Syria into Jordan, taking advantage of adverse weather conditions, like fog, and rugged terrain in the area.

The scale of the smuggling attempts is alarming, with significant quantities of drugs and weapons being seized by the Jordanian forces. The confiscated items include Captagon pills, hashish, Kalashnikovs, ammunition, rocket launchers, RPGs, and anti-personnel mines. The Jordanian authorities have been vigilant in their efforts to prevent these threats to national security, emphasizing their commitment to pursuing and deterring those involved in these smuggling operations.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), operating in the Al-Tanf region of Syria between Iraq and Jordan, has also been involved in combating drug smuggling, recently seizing a shipment of drugs intended for smuggling to Jordan and the Gulf states.

The situation has prompted responses from both the Jordanian and Syrian authorities. Jordanian Minister of Interior, Mazen al-Faraya, has praised the role played by anti-narcotics agencies in Arab countries emphasizing the need to prevent drug cultivation, production, and smuggling in the region.

The kingdom’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, has issued stern warnings regarding continued attempts to smuggle drugs and weapons from Syria into Jordan, affirming Jordan’s commitment to taking “all necessary steps to protect its national security,” which culminated in this morning’s airstrikes.

According to SOHR, a Hezbollah-linked drug trafficker Nasser Al-Saadi is believed to have been killed in the strike that occurred in the Salkhad area of Suwayda’s countryside. In contrast, other raids struck what are believed to be narcotics-related outposts in Syria’s southern Daraa province. These are not Jordan’s first cross-border strikes carried out to combat the drug trade, in May of this year Jordan conducted airstrikes in Kharab Al-Shaham against drug traffickers in Daraa.

The Assad regime’s Ministry of Interior claims the regime has also been active in arresting individuals involved in drug smuggling, indicating a recognition of the issue within Syria’s borders, however, Jordan’s King, Abdullah II has questioned Assad’s level of control in Syria. The continuing chaos on the border underscores the complex security challenges faced by both Jordan and Syria.

While the JAF have demonstrated their resolve in dealing with these threats and have emphasized their preparedness to confront any attempts to breach the border and undermine national security, the Assad regime seems unwilling or incapable of stemming the flow of drugs and weapons from their southern border.

As the situation continues to unfold, it is clear that a coordinated and sustained effort will be necessary to address the root causes of these smuggling operations and prevent further escalation of violence along the Syrian-Jordan border. Following normalization between the two neighbors in the summer the troubles on the border have only continued to worsen as time goes on.


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