Jordan says Iran-linked groups in Syria are waging a drug war along the border

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  • The Jordanian army says Iran-backed militias are fueling the illegal trade
  • The Jordanian king sees Iran expanding its role along the border
  • “We face a war along the borders” – Army spokesman

AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan said on Monday pro-Iranian Syrian army units and militias loyal to Tehran are stepping up attempts to smuggle hundreds of millions of dollars worth of drugs across the Jordanian border to wealthy Gulf markets.

The army said it was preparing for an escalation in confrontations with armed smugglers trying to drop large quantities of drugs along the rugged border terrain with Syria.

“We are facing a war along the borders, a war on drugs, waged by organizations supported by foreign parties. These Iranian militias are the most dangerous because they target Jordan’s national security,” Colonel Mustafa Hiari, senior army spokesman, told state-run Al Mamlaka TV.

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Jordan said four smugglers were killed by the army on Sunday in the latest showdown along the border that has killed at least 40 infiltrators and injured hundreds since the beginning of the year, mostly nomads employed by Iran-linked militias. ruling in southern Syria.

Jordan is both a destination and a major transit route to the oil-rich Gulf States for the cheap amphetamine made in Syria known as Captagon.

War-torn Syria has become the region’s most important manufacturing base for a multi-billion dollar trade also destined for Europe. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government denies involvement in drug manufacturing and smuggling.

The sharp rise in smuggling attempts has forced Jordan to change the army’s rules of engagement along the border, where it has given its military the power to use overwhelming force.

Jordan’s King Abdullah said last week he feared a Russian withdrawal from southern Syria as a result of the Ukraine war would allow Iran-backed militias to fill the gap.

The growing influence of Iran-backed militias, including the Lebanese Hezbollah group, in southern Syria in recent years has already alarmed both Jordan and Israel.

Jordanian officials say their concerns about the alarming surge have been raised with Syrian authorities but have seen no real attempt to curb the illegal trade.

“Our demands have always been for the armed forces to do their job, but so far we haven’t felt that we have a real partner in protecting the borders,” Brigadier General Ahmad Khleifat, the head of border security, told al Glad newspaper.

“The smuggling operations are supported by elements within the Syrian army and its security agencies, as well as Hezbollah militias and Iranian militias present in southern Syria.”

Jordan said the amounts seized in the past five months exceeded 20 million Captagon tablets, compared to 14 million for all of last year.

(This story corrects the spelling of the names throughout)

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Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Adaptation by Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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