Mission impossible? Jordan to list all terrorists in Syria

Mission impossible? Jordan to list all terrorists in Syria
Jordan is hailing its selection to compile the list of terrorist groups in Syria as a refection of world confidence in Amman's regional role.
4 min read
22 November, 2015
Jordan is part of the US-led international coalition bombing IS in Syria and Iraq [Getty]

Jordan has reportedly set up a dedicated security operations room to coordinate efforts towards drafting a list of "terrorist" groups in Syria.

The Jordanian government was chosen to undertake what many believe is an immensely challenging task during the latest round of the Vienna Syria peace talks.

One reason often cited for the selection of Amman is that it is on good terms with almost all actors involved in the Syrian conflict, including the Syrian regime.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed spoke to Minister Mohammad al-Momani, official spokesperson for the Jordanian government, to shed more light on the issue.

"This security-based task will do the biggest service to the political process" in Syria, said Momani.

"The list will be used as a key reference point in both political and military efforts as it will determine which groups will be targeted in strikes, and which will be invited to negotiations," he added.

Iran-backed militias ommitted

However, Jordan's mission will be difficult and complicated.

For one thing, the Jordanian government will have to coordinate with countries that have conflicting positions on the groups to be included or excluded from the list of terrorist organisations, and Jordan may well have to produce multiple lists.

"The exclusion of Hizballah and the IRGC from the list of terror groups is based on a Russian proposal"
- Mohammad al-Momani

In his remarks to al-Araby al-Jadeed, Momani omitted any mention of Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which are both fighting alongside the regime in Damascus.

Several countries, including Saudi Arabia, see these Iran-backed militias as terrorist groups no different from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

"The exclusion of Hizballah and the IRGC is based on a Russian proposal, arguing that their role can be contained by working with the Syrian regime once a final political settlement is agreed," Momani said.

"The classification will instead focus on groups fighting the Syrian regime, to identify those that can be invited to take part in the political process."

The organisations that will be excluded from the list of terrorist groups, the Jordanian official explained, will have a military role as well as a political role if they agree to the political process, e.g. fighting the groups designating as terrorist groups.

Momani said it is likely a formula will then be agreed to provide these groups with military support.

'Mission impossible'

An accurate list agreed upon by all sides is "impossible" to draft
-Jordanian former military judge

For his part, Hatem al-Ghuwairi, expert on security issues who previously served as military judge in the Jordanian State Security Court, told al-Araby al-Jadeed an accurate list agreed upon by all sides is "impossible" to draft.

"Since countries are in disagreement over the definition of terrorism and the criteria for designating terror groups, not to mention their entanglement with groups operating in Syria, putting that list together is impossible," he said.

The security expert went further, arguing that most armed groups in Syria, including those that will not be designated as terror groups, would reject the political process as long as it does not guarantee the dismantlement of the Syrian regime they are fighting.

Meanwhile, he continued, most of the groups classed as moderate are weak on the ground, compared to those designated as terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State (IS) and the Nusra Front.

In the end, Ghuwairi said Jordan's role could create problems with the armed groups in Syria as well as the countries involved in the conflict.

On Monday, the Jordanian government had said the selection of Jordan to coordinate efforts to compile a list of terror groups in Syria "is an international acknowledgement of the country's clear vision regarding the war on terror."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had earlier said participants at talks in Vienna on Syria have agreed that Jordan would coordinate efforts to compile the list of terrorist groups in Syria

"The work will be coordinated on supplementing the terrorist [groups] list, Jordan will be in charge of coordination," Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of a G-20 summit of world leaders in the Turkish coastal province of Antalya.

It is worth noting that Jordan is part of the US-led international coalition bombing IS in Syria and Iraq. Jordan has also reportedly supported moderate Syrian rebels, particularly in southern Syria.

However, Jordan recently started coordinating militarily with Russia, following Moscow's intervention in Syria.

It has also kept the Syrian regime embassy open in Amman, and is thought to be in close coordination with Damascus over the more than one million Syrian refugees living in Jordan. Official border crossings between the two countries are closed, however, since the Syrian rebels took control of the Nasib crossing in April.