Syrian and Jordanian army and intelligence chiefs meet over border drug war
The military and security chiefs of Jordan and Syria met on Sunday to clamp down on a growing drug trade along their mutual border that has seen deadly skirmishes, largely blamed on pro-Iranian militias that control southern Syria.
The meeting comes after Syria’s neighbors secured a pledge from Damascus during a meeting in Amman last May to cooperate with their efforts to curb Syria’s thriving drug trade in return for help ending its pariah status following a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters during the civil war.
The talks led by Jordanian army chief Lieutenant General Yousef Hunaiti and Syrian Defense Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas in the presence of the intelligence chiefs of the two countries also tackled the threat of drugs to regional stability, a statement from Jordan’s foreign ministry said.
“The meeting discussed cooperation in combating the threat of drugs and its sources of production and smuggling and the parties that organize and carry out smuggling operations across the border,” the statement said.
Arab and Western governments accuse Syria of organizing the production and smuggling of the highly addictive and lucrative “Captagon” amphetamine into the Gulf, with Jordan as its main transit route.
The kingdom fears lawlessness in the strategic southern region if Washington’s allegations that pro-Iranian militias protected by Syrian army units run the multi-billion dollar smuggling networks are an echo.
The United States, Britain and the European Union have blamed the Syrian government for the production and export of the drug, naming Maher al-Assad, head of the army’s elite Fourth Department and the president’s brother, as the key figure.
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies involvement in drug making and smuggling or complicity by Iranian-backed militias linked to its army and security forces. Iran says the allegations are part of Western plots against the country.
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Jordan, impatient with what it says are broken promises to curb the drug war, took matters into its own hands and in May carried out a rare strike inside Syrian territory that demolished a drug factory linked to Iran, local and Western intelligence sources said.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said earlier this month in Damascus that his country would not hesitate to act against any threat to its national security and urged Damascus to act more forcefully.
In the past few weeks, the Jordanian army shot down two Iranian drones coming from Syria with one it said was carrying weapons, a worrying development for Amman which has in the past accused Damascus of sending militants to terror attacks.
Jordan has asked for more military help from the US to strengthen security on the border, where Washington since the beginning of the conflict for more than a decade has been given around $1bn to establish border posts, officials say.
Jordan shares a border with Syria about 230 miles long.