Abdulrahman al-Masri covers politics and news in the Middle East and Syria in particular. He can be followed on Twitter: @AbdulrhmanMasri

  • Jordan’s increased involvement in Syria, On: Sun, 18 Jun 2017

  • Calling Iran’s Rohani a ‘moderate’ is a misnomer, On: Sun, 28 May 2017

  • Changes expected to Canada’s anti-ISIS mission, On: Sun, 21 May 2017

  • Can the US pressure Russia to relinquish Assad? , On: Sun, 23 Apr 2017

  • Amman must bolster ties with Syrian rebels, On: Sun, 19 Mar 2017

  • Canada Muslims weather fallout after deadly attack , On: Sun, 12 Feb 2017

  • Turkey introduces a softer Russia to the Syrian opposition, On: Sun, 22 Jan 2017

  • Donald Trump is not good news for Syrian revolutionaries , On: Sun, 20 Nov 2016

  • Challenges surround the anti-ISIS Raqqa operation , On: Sun, 13 Nov 2016

  • What does al-Rai incident say about US reputation in Syria? , On: Sun, 02 Oct 2016

  • Jabhat Fateh al-Sham dominates Aleppo rebels despite losing senior commander , On: Sun, 18 Sep 2016

  • Civilians, rebels leave long-besieged Daraya , On: Sun, 04 Sep 2016

  • Al-Nusra is playing realpolitik, On: Sun, 07 Aug 2016

  • Obama’s approach allows Russia to determine events in Syria, On: Sun, 17 Jul 2016

  • Turkish Army boosts border security with Syria, On: Sun, 03 Jul 2016

  • US Centcom commander visits Syria’s north-east , On: Sun, 29 May 2016

  • Ankara and Washington walk separate paths on Kurdish issue , On: Sun, 15 May 2016

  • What does Canada’s refocused mission against ISIS have to offer?, On: Fri, 25 Mar 2016

  • Partitioning Syria is not the answer , On: Fri, 25 Mar 2016

  • US envoy in Syria to prop up Kurdish-Arab alliance , On: Fri, 12 Feb 2016

  • Syrian opposition sees little hope in Geneva peace talks , On: Fri, 22 Jan 2016

  • Kurdish-Arab coalition emerging as ground force v ISIS , On: Fri, 27 Nov 2015

  • What does Canada’s new Liberal government mean to the Middle East?, On: Fri, 30 Oct 2015

  • Niqab debate at the heart of Canada’s election campaign, On: Fri, 16 Oct 2015

  • Canadian parties clash over Syrian refugee crisis , On: Fri, 11 Sep 2015

  • Campaign buys ISIS slaves’ freedom but may spur more kidnapping, critics say, On: Fri, 28 Aug 2015

  • Moscow pushes Syria talks to promote its agenda , On: Fri, 21 Aug 2015

  • US-backed secular force off to a slow start in Syria , On: Fri, 14 Aug 2015

  • Jordan’s increased involvement in Syria

    Recent mili­tary deve­lopments in southern Syria are particularly alarming to Amman’s national security.


    2017/06/18 Issue: 111 Page: 14



    Jordan, one of the few remaining stable coun­tries in the Middle East, is likely to increase its military involvement in neighbouring Syria as the war flares closer to its northern border.

    The Jordanian national security equation is directly connected to the security of its borders with war-torn Syria and Iraq.

    Jordan has been undertaking a minor role in the Syrian conflict, one that has enabled Amman to maintain a semblance of security and stability along its 375km border with Syria. However, as the international struggle for influence in the region mounts, it seems that the Jordanian strategy is no longer applicable.

    Recent military developments in southern Syria are particularly alarming for Amman’s national security.

    First, the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is making worrying advances in south-eastern Syria, reaching towards al-Tanf garrison near the Jorda­nian and Iraqi triangle border point, where US and British special forces are stationed alongside a tribal rebel force countering the Islamic State (ISIS) in Deir ez-Zor governorate.

    This development prompted the United States to take precautions, including targeting Assad troops as they neared the area. These concerns are amplified given the apparent involvement of Iranian-funded, sectarian militias among the regime’s crowds.

    Second, the Assad regime, backed by Iranian and Hezbollah forces, has been conducting a simultaneous campaign against nationalist-oriented rebels in Daraa governorate in southern Syria. The level of participation by Iranian-backed forces in this campaign is unprecedented and is combined with increasing rhetoric against Amman by the Assad regime and Hezbollah.

    Third, the ISIS-affiliate Khalid Ibn al-Walid Brigade in the Yarmouk Basin presents a challenge to Jordan, as the Salafi jihadist force has been attacking multiple points along the border, killing border guards and displaced civilians.

    There is a high likelihood that Sunni extremist activities in the south would intensify following the ISIS defeat in Raqqa and retreat south. This defeat also rings alarms for Jordan at home, where the country is facing an internal struggle with Islamist extremists.

    These mounting challenges to Jordan’s security are likely to push the kingdom to increase its involvement in Syria’s crisis to protect its interests. Jordan’s security objectives are associated with its ability to project influence among rebels in southern Syria and with ensuring there are no Sunni extremists nor Iran-backed Shia militants in this region.

    While Jordanian authorities do not seem to have issues with Assad forces being in control of the border region, they are concerned about Hezbollah and other Shia militias, whose presence in southern Syria could destabilise the area. Such a presence would pose a direct threat to the national security of two of the United States’ most valuable allies in the Middle East: Jordan and Israel.

    While the de-escalation zones agreement reached in May between Russia, Iran and Turkey has designated an area for southern Syria, the situation in the border region has seen a remarkable escalation. That was essentially caused by the Irani­ans, who seem to view the southern and south-eastern sections of Syria as strategically significant for their agenda (linking Tehran with the Mediter­ranean via a passage through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon).

    This escalation in an area that is designed for a ceasefire is perhaps related to the fact that the United States was not part of the initial deal.

    Amman is exhausting all diplomatic channels with Russia with the aim of reaching an agreement that could prevent the advances of Iranian-linked militias further south. The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States and Russia are having secret talks in Jordan aimed at setting up a de-conflic­tion zone for southern Syria.

    The Amman factor in connect­ing the Russians and the Ameri­cans is not only about having the two superpowers reach a consen­sus on how things should go in the troubled region but also about the security of northern Jordan. Amman has a pragmatic relationship with Moscow; they have worked together on issues related to Syria. Amman is also a staunch ally of the United States. This unique position could allow Jordan to facilitate productive discussions between Washington and Moscow, especially consider­ing the apparent willingness to cooperate from both sides.

    While Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to maintain strategic relations with the Jordanians and the Israelis, thus furthering cooperation with the Americans, it remains unclear whether Moscow can pressure the Iranians into changing their course of action in the south. In many instances, Russia failed to restrain Assad forces from breaching ceasefire agreements as well as influence Iranian behaviour in Syria.

    It remains uncertain exactly what Moscow’s position is on Iran projecting influence in the south and south-eastern regions. While it is not in Russia’s interest per se that Iran is advancing in such a manner, having a British-US-Jordanian build-up in the Syrian desert would probably jeopardise Putin’s interests in Syria.

    Either way, Amman must be hard-headed and proactive. Though the kingdom may not have the capability to make a military incursion into Syria, like that made by Turkey in the north, Jordan has to reinforce and strengthen its military positions on the border.

    At the same time, Amman must mobilise Western allies — notably the United States and Britain — to prepare for the worst-case scenario, while considering steps towards rallying regional part­ners to establish the military alliance (an Arab NATO) to counter Sunni extremism and Iranian expansionist influence, which was discussed in Saudi Arabia during US President Donald Trump’s visit.

    Jordan is ultimately being forced to increase involvement in Syria. Although the war next door is complex and multi-lay­ered, Amman must be equipped to face these developing chal­lenges.

    Showing strength and readi­ness are the kingdom’s best propositions, while diplomacy may not be as efficient. Showing strength also involves increasing weapons support for the indig­enous, nationalist-oriented rebels who can curb progress in Daraa and the Yarmouk Basin.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Senior Correspondents:

    Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

    Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

    Correspondents

    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

    Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

    www.alarab.co.uk

    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    66 Hammersmith Road

    London W14 8UD, UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved