Jordan's king says Iran causing problems on Syria border

Jordan's king says Iran causing problems on Syria border
The king said in an interview that the vacuum left by Russia in Syria's south was being filled by Iran and its proxies.
3 min read
19 May, 2022
Jordan is a transit point for Syria's drug exports on its way to its most lucrative market in the Arab Gulf states.

Jordan's King Abdullah II said that the kingdom could be facing an "escalation of problems" on its borders with Syria due to increased activity by Iran and its proxies.

The king, in an interview with the Hoover Institution in Washington D.C., said that the kingdom faces attacks "on a regular basis" on its shared border with Syria, saying "we know who is behind" these attacks. It is believed that the king is referring to Iran.

Since the start of the year, Jordan has faced a steady uptick in drug smuggling attempts on its northern border with Syria blamed on Iran-linked militias.

Jordan adopted a "shoot-to-kill" policy in January, after a group of about 200 smugglers tried to cross the border, wounding a soldier in the process.

"Whether people like to hear this or not, the presence of the Russians in the south in Syria was a source of calm. That vacuum will be filled by the Iranians and their proxies, so unfortunately we may be looking at an escalation of problems on our borders," King Abdullah said.

Syria is a major source for the production and export of Captagon, an amphetamine that has been smuggled into countries across the regime and caused major concerns in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and others about its proliferation.

Estimates of the value of Syria's drug exports reach as high as $4 billion annually, four times the 2021 state budget.

Live Story

Jordan is a major transit point for drugs on their way to Arab Gulf states, the main market for Syria's narcotics.

Drug running is thought to be carried out mostly by Hezbollah and Iranian-backed groups in southern Syria, with the alleged backing of high-level regime officials such as Maher al-Assad, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s brother.

General Ahmad Hashem Khalifat, director of Jordan's border security unit, said on Wednesday: "Undisciplined forces of the Syrian regime army cooperate with drug smugglers and their gangs which are organised and supported by the [regime’s] security services."

He added that despite requests Amman's repeated requests for Syrian border guards to halt the flow of drugs to Jordan, "so far we have not seen a true partner in border protection".

He noted over 19 million Captagon pills and half a million parcels of hashish have been seized this year, compared to 14 million captagon pills and 15,000 hashish parcels in all of 2021.

Jordan has recently moved towards a thaw in relations with the Syrian regime, with King Abdullah receiving a phone call from Bashar Al-Assad in October 2021, the highest level contact in a decade. The two countries' trade volume has also ramped up in the past year as political relations improve following a freeze over the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown on the opposition.

Jordan's intelligence chief later told reporters that the government was dealing with the Syrian regime as a "fait accompli".

Despite the detente between the two countries, key differences between Amman and Damascus remain.

Drug smuggling and the presence of Iranian-backed forces around Jordan's northern borders stand at the forefront of these issues.