| 15 April 2024, Monday |

Jordanian army says it downs drone carrying drugs from Syria

The Jordanian army said on Tuesday it had downed a drone carrying drugs from Syria into its northern frontier region, and it said Jordan would not allow the border area to become a front line in an Iran-linked drug war.

The kingdom has blamed pro-Iranian militias, who it says are protected by units within the Syrian army, for smuggling drugs across its borders towards lucrative Gulf markets.

Damascus says it is doing its best to curb smuggling and continues to bust smuggler rings in the south. It denies complicity by Iranian-backed militias linked to its army and security forces.

The sharp rise in smuggling attempts has forced Jordan since last year to change army rules of engagement along the border, giving its military the authority to use overwhelming force.

“We are continuing to deal with resolve and force with any threat to our borders and any attempt to destabilise the security of the nation,” the army said in a statement.

The plane, which was carrying crystal methamphetamine, was intercepted and downed on Jordan’s side of the border, it said.

War-torn Syria has become the region’s main site for a multi-billion-dollar drug trade, with Jordan a main transit route to the oil-rich Gulf states for a Syrian-made amphetamine known as captagon, Western anti-narcotics officials and Washington say.

Jordanian officials say they have raised their concerns with Syrian authorities, and although they have received pledges they say they have not seen any real attempt to clamp down on the illicit trade.

Amman carried out rare air strikes on southern Syria last month, hitting a Iran-linked drugs factory and killing a smuggler allegedly behind big hauls across the two countries’ border, local and Western intelligence sources said. read more

The bombing was a message to Damascus that it should not mistake Amman’s resolve at time it was involved in an Arab effort to end Syria’s estrangement, officials said.

Jordan requested more U.S. military aid to bolster security on the border, where Washington has since the more than decade-long conflict began given around $1 billion to establish border posts, officials say. Jordan has a roughly 375 km-long border with Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government denies involvement in drug-making and smuggling. Iran says the allegations are part of Western plots against the country.

Hezbollah also denies involvement in the drugs trade and says Jordan’s allegations echo Washington’s campaign to undermine Iran’s influence in the region.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat