Jordan says Iran-backed militias and Syrian soldiers behind border 'drug war'

Army spokesman says Iranian militias are the most dangerous 'because they target Jordan's national security'

Jordanian soldiers patrol near the eastern Jordan-Syria border in Al Washash, Mafraq governorate. AP
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Iran-backed Syrian army units and militias are behind a sharp rise in attempts to smuggle millions of dollars of drugs over the border into Jordan and towards the Gulf, the Jordanian military said on Monday night.

The remarks are the first official comments from the military in Jordan since they announced a more confrontational approach to smuggling attempts involving shootouts with cartels and the military downing drug drones. It is also the first time Jordan has directly accused Syrian military units of being tied to the growing regional narcotics trade.

“The Jordanian armed forces are confronting a drugs war on the [Syrian] border,” Col Mustafa Hiyari, head of military media, told reporters.

“The smuggling is being led by organisations supported by outside parties. These Iranian militias are the most dangerous because they target Jordan's national security [and] ... These organisations sometimes receive support from undisciplined groups from [within] the Syrian border guards."

Jordan is trying to confront a rapid rise in drug smuggling, particularly of Captagon pills. It has sought to repair ties broken by the over 10-year Syrian civil war, in a bid to secure Damascus' co-operation in curbing the illicit trade.

On Sunday, four smugglers were killed in the latest shootout with the military as they tried to cross the rugged Syrian-Jordanian border.

Although some of the Captagon is ultimately sold on the Jordanian market, most is smuggled by gangs through the kingdom and on towards the Gulf, officials say.

Late last year, Russia, which has troops in parts of Syria near the border with Jordan, arranged talks between Amman and Damascus to discuss security concerns and co-operation. The US, Jordan’s main donor and chief ally, gave mixed signals on the talks.

The UN and Arab security officials say pro-Iranian militias connected to Hezbollah are part of the Captagon cartels in Syria.

They say the cartels mainly operate in areas controlled by the Fourth Division, a praetorian guard headed by the president's brother, Maher Al Assad.

During a visit to the US last week, Jordan's King Abdullah told the Hoover Institute that he expects Iran to extend its influence into Syrian areas along the border, as Russia focuses on its invasion of Ukraine.

Iran's influence in southern Jordan has also been a major concern of Israel, which has carried out dozens of air strikes and operations against Hezbollah and Iranian units in the area to deter their forces.

Updated: May 24, 2022, 1:43 PM
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