Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Sunday called on Iran to change its “behaviour”, citing regional interference by Tehran and threats to the kingdom's borders by Iranian-backed militias who operate in Syria.
The remarks were rare direct criticism by the king against Iran, although Jordanian officials accused pro-Iranian militias two months ago of playing a central role in a multimillion-dollar operation trafficking drugs from Syria into Jordan.
The movement of drugs, mainly Captagon pills, from government-held areas of Syria to Jordan and then to the Arabian Peninsula increased in the past three years as the Syrian military and allied militias captured border areas from Syrian rebels with Russian support.
“Iranian interference is reaching several Arab states, and today we are facing regular attacks on our borders by militias linked to Iran,” King Abdullah told Al Rai, a Jordanian daily newspaper owned by the government.
“We therefore hope to see a change in the behaviour of Iran. It has to be realised on the ground,” he said.
The interview marked the king's first public comments since taking part in a meeting on July 16 between Arab leaders and US President Joe Biden, hosted by Saudi Arabia in Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia and Jordan have different opinions on how the drug problem should be handled.
Saudi officials regard the drug smuggling as part of an Iranian drive to undermine the kingdom's national security and have opposed efforts by Jordan and other Arab states to end the region's isolation of Syria's President Bashar Al Assad and his government over their violent suppression of a peaceful uprising in 2011 that then turned into full-scale civil war.
Jordan, alarmed by a surge in the trafficking of Captagon, a highly addictive amphetamine, has over the past two years sought to be more accommodating to Mr Al Assad's government in hopes of securing its co-operation in curbing the drug flow.
King Abdullah said Jordan still hopes to have good ties with Iran. The two countries maintain diplomatic relations and have mostly refrained from criticising each other.
“We don't want tension in the region,” he told Al Rai. “Jordan and all Arab countries want good relations with Iran based on mutual respect.”