As-Suwayda desires crossing point with Jordan, Amman not interested

A fighter from the Men of Dignity Movement in As-Suwayda governorate, southern Syria - August 11, 2022 (Men of Dignity Movement/Facebook)

A fighter from the Men of Dignity Movement in As-Suwayda governorate, southern Syria - August 11, 2022 (Men of Dignity Movement/Facebook)

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Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Mahmoud

Statements by former Jordanian Minister of Information Sameeh al-Maaytah reiterated on December 22, the discussion about the desired crossing point between As-Suwayda governorate and Jordan amidst the residents’ desire to reach an agreement of this kind in hopes of achieving an economic revitalization of the governorate.

Al-Maaytah stated to the local “Suwayda 24” network, commenting on the possibility of establishing an economic crossing point between Syria and Jordan from the As-Suwayda side and discussions about entrusting local authorities with the Syrian side of the crossing point, that the idea is not on the table in Jordan, and there are no official discussions in this regard.

Al-Maaytah also affirmed that Jordan prefers to deal with official entities since crossings require official security entities to supervise goods, customs, and other procedures.

The proposal to establish the economic crossing point is not new, at least for As-Suwayda governorate, which called for this step since last August when a joint statement was issued by the two spiritual leaders of the Druze community, Hamoud al-Hanawi and Youssef Jarbou, demanding, what they described as “the leadership,” a set of demands in order to reach an agreement to end the ongoing protests in the rebellious city for 20 weeks.

The statement included a set of unmet demands, including a change in the government and reconsideration of operating a border crossing for the governorate to revive it economically, as As-Suwayda, like other areas under the regime’s control, suffers from economic and living difficulties, prompting the residents of the governorate to protest against the economic decisions summarized by salary increases and raising fuel prices beyond the citizens’ financial capacity before the demands shifted from economic improvement to political change and overthrowing the regime.

Despite the state of protests and the official Syrian and media ignorance of them, the governorate does not have enough economic sufficiency to compensate for its need for the capital or other nearby governorates, especially those close to it. Moreover, the border tension between Syria and Jordan has not achieved this anticipated idea for the residents of As-Suwayda yet, despite previous demonstrations in 2022, which called for economic reform but to no avail.

Influencing factors

Amman has been demanding Damascus for months to control the borders and stop attempts to smuggle drugs into it through official and unofficial crossings. This was clearly reflected in the “Jordanian Initiative,” which explicitly included the issue of drug smuggling. This has had a negative impact, as smuggling has not stopped; instead, the attempts have increased, especially with the involvement of arms, leading to clashes that resulted in casualties on the border line, in addition to seizing large quantities of drugs destined for smuggling into the kingdom.

On December 27, the Jordanian Public Security Directorate announced the start of a large-scale security operation in the Ruwaished area (northeastern Jordan) to pursue smugglers and drug dealers associated with regional gangs active across the borders for drug and weapons smuggling.

The directorate clarified that the security operation comes in the context of the state’s continuous efforts to confront drug smuggling gangs in coordination with the armed forces and concerned authorities. Its goal is to eliminate those who engage in drug smuggling and trafficking within the kingdom.

The Jordanian security forces managed, during a separate operation, to arrest nine smugglers, whose nationality was not disclosed, and seize more than 720,000 drug pills, 1,565 packs of hashish, in addition to 21 firearms.

On December 19, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Jordanian Armed Forces, Major General Yousef Huneiti, stated that his country’s army used all capabilities and resources to prevent infiltration and smuggling and to confront them forcefully in order to preserve the security, stability, and safety of its citizens.

Al-Mamlaka Jordanian TV channel reported, quoting the armed forces, that the border guards, in coordination with the drug enforcement administration and the military security agencies, clashed with “armed groups” attempting to cross the border into Jordan illegally from Syrian territories.

The confrontation ended after 14 hours, resulting in the killing and injury of several smugglers, the arrest of nine of them, and the seizure of “large quantities” of drugs, automatic and rocket launchers.

Why is Jordan refusing?

Researcher in international relations, Amer al-Sabayleh, explained to Enab Baladi that despite the growing voices discussing the idea of the crossing point, even about a “Druze state” in the south, geography keeps Jordan in the spotlight for any imminent changes, and Amman does not prefer to be part of or in direct contact with anything unofficial. However, it has important relations with As-Suwayda, yet the official Jordan does not want to be the gateway to start these changes or lay their foundations.

Al-Sabayleh stated that Jordan, despite all the risks coming from Syrian territories, insists that the presence of a regular army in the region is better than the presence of militias, and the presence of a formal regime is better than the presence of unofficial entities or formations.

The researcher considered that the idea of the existence of a “separate entity” in the south, despite the existence of a state and a regime controlling the capital, would not be acceptable without this preventing communication with As-Suwayda, as there is a Druze extension between the two countries. However, Jordan’s acceptance of a crossing point at this time, while the region is going through a great deal of labour and tension in the security situation and an unprecedented threat, is unlikely, and any betting at this stage may be fruitless.

Al-Sabayleh believes that Jordan prefers to maintain the existing balances and push the Syrian regime for more cooperation in terms of militias and smuggling.

The security chaos and the state of border laxity from the Syrian side have had their repercussions on the relationship between Damascus and Amman. Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper mentioned on December 20 that the complications of the security situation on the Jordanian-Syrian border had political implications on the level of communications between the two sides, which became almost cut off.

The newspaper explained that Amman expressed its displeasure on more than one occasion at the Syrian side’s failure to fulfill its military and security obligations on the “one-sided protected” borders.

Jordanian security decision-making centers also believe that Damascus’ lack of seriousness in putting an end to militias is the other face of exporting the regime’s crises towards neighboring countries.

The Jordanian lack of welcome for a crossing point with As-Suwayda, expressed by former Minister al-Maaytah, who accused the Syrian regime of direct involvement in the issue of drug smuggling in an interview with the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel last September, indicates Amman’s understanding of the difficulty of reaching understandings with the regime regarding border matters, after political tracks, such as the “Jordanian Initiative,” proved the regime’s lack of seriousness in implementing the required commitments from it, both on the regional and Arab levels.

Al-Maaytah said, “The Syrian regime speaks in a procrastinating language. Al-Assad said in an official meeting that there is corruption, bribery, and inability to control, but this talk is not true.”

He added, “A state that claims to have triumphed in the war, triumphed over the opposition and everything, cannot prevent this. This is illogical talk,” considering “Captagon” as an economy for the “Syrian state” and the Syrian regime, the direct family of the Syrian regime’s president, and militias and institutions in the Syrian army.

 

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