Jordanian soldier wounded in 'battle with captagon smugglers' on Syrian border
A group of about 200 smugglers tried to cross the border between Suwayda and Daraa province bordering Jordan on Saturday morning, a claim that was corroborated by a Jordanian political analyst who spoke with soldiers present at the scene.
Smugglers were allegedly armed with machine guns and opened fire on a Jordanian border guard who stumbled across the group.
The New Arab was unable to independently verify all the details of the event and the spokesperson of the Jordanian Armed Forces declined to comment on the incident.
The event was “unprecedented,” according to Salah Malkawi, a Jordanian researcher who focuses on Syria. Usually smugglers hire two or three local couriers to transport drugs over the border, and they are armed with pistols rather than heavier weaponry, according to Malkawi.
“This operation was different because new, different weapons were used and there was an unexpected number of people present. We are talking about between 200 and 250 people,” Malkawi told The New Arab.
“Iran and Hezbollah are the ones responsible for this operation, and they want to send a message to Jordan and the Gulf countries: ‘We have strong leverage,’ " Malkawi said.
He added that it will cost Jordan lots of money to step up monitoring of the border, whereas the cost of sending armed smugglers to the border is relatively inexpensive for the groups responsible.
Smuggling operations from Syria into Jordan are common, with smugglers usually transporting Captagon – a type of amphetamine pill – and Hashish. Jordan is a transit point between Syria and the Arab Gulf countries, the Gulf countries being the main consumer of drugs in the region.
Estimates of Syria’s worldwide drug trade reach as high as $4 billion a year – exceeding the proposed 2021 budget by about $1 billion. The drug trade is generally thought to be run by high level Syrian officials connected with Hezbollah and Iran, such as Maher al-Assad, the younger brother of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Jordan typically publicises when they thwart a drug smuggling attempt, though state media was notably mum about Saturday’s incident.
Over the last six months, Amman has initiated a rapprochement with Damascus, with the Jordan’s King Abdullah receiving a phone call from Assad in October – the highest level contact in a decade. Jordan’s intelligence chief explained to reporters in October that the government was dealing with the Syrian regime as a “fait accompli.”
Despite renewed political and economic contact between the two countries, clear tensions remain in the relationship, particularly in the realm of security. Prior to the cutoff in relations in 2011, security cooperation between Amman and Damascus was frequent, but has yet to resume.