Will the Men of Dignity initiative towards Jordan see the light?

Fighters from the Men of Dignity movement in As-Suwayda (Edited by Enab Baladi)

Fighters from the Men of Dignity movement in As-Suwayda (Edited by Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli

Just days after the Men of Dignity movement, which is the largest military faction in As-Suwayda, proposed a nine-point initiative to Jordan, to cooperate on issues related to combating drugs being exported from the region to Jordan, the initiative continues to go unanswered amid discussions about its feasibility.

Through the initiative proposal on January 20, the movement announced its readiness to pursue all those involved in the smuggling and trade of drugs, after the Jordanian side provides lists of the culprits.

The movement criticized in its statement the Syrian regime and held it directly responsible for the drugs issue and facilitating the transformation of southern Syria into an area of storage and smuggling. Moreover, the movement called upon the local community, dignitaries, and religious references to stand up to their responsibilities concerning the problem.

The main reason for the Men of Dignity movement’s initiative was not primarily Jordan’s interest but aimed to solve the Jordanian problem without civilian casualties in the province that Jordan has repeatedly bombed, where its raids have killed civilians, including children.

The media office of the movement denied to Enab Baladi any responsiveness from Jordan until today, pointing out that there is also no coordination with the Free Syrian Army or the American base in al-Tanf, at the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle.

Will the initiative see the light?

On different occasions, Jordanian officials have repeated statements that Amman always prefers to deal with governmental entities, which explained its efforts to limit drug control cooperation with the Syrian regime, which has not shown any initiative towards the neighboring country.

Political analyst Jamal al-Shoufi, based in As-Suwayda, told Enab Baladi that the proposal of the Men of Dignity movement was not surprising, especially since the movement had shown such an orientation in 2022 when it launched a security operation against groups manufacturing and trading drugs in the province.

The local “Dawn Forces” faction was one of the active groups in drug trade operations in the region and was based in the town of Ateel north of As-Suwayda until it was attacked by a coalition of local factions, led by the Men of Dignity movement, which resulted in the complete dissolution of the faction and the escape of its leader Raji Falhout.

Al-Shoufi believes that Jordan should seize this initiative with “wisdom”, especially since the Jordanian targeting operations in the eastern and southern countryside of As-Suwayda province hit smugglers, hence targeting them will not have an impact on the flow of drugs to its territories.

Al-Shoufi considered that the main beneficiaries of the drug trade and smuggling operations are militias close to Iran, like Hezbollah of Lebanon, along with elements in the Syrian security services, considering that the current situation poses a danger to Jordan and the people of As-Suwayda alike.

He added that any actual step to combat the drug trade requires Jordan to seize the local initiatives directed towards it from inside Syria.

The Men of Dignity movement was founded in 2013 and emerged from the security tensions that the region experienced at the time, with the regime’s pursuit of those wanted for mandatory military service in the province, whose numbers reached tens of thousands. Sheikh Wahid al-Balous, the leader and founder of the movement, provided protection for these wanted individuals.

Al-Tanf is not interested

A few kilometers to the northeast of As-Suwayda province lies the American base of al-Tanf, where the Free Syrian Army is stationed, a faction established by the United States to protect what is known today as “the 55-kilometer zone” where its base is located.

In a conversation with local media, the commander of the Free Syrian Army, Farid al-Qassem, said that his faction coordinates with Amman in combating drugs, and is working to develop it, noting that the Free Syrian Army launched an initial coordination with the Men of Dignity movement in As-Suwayda to fight drugs.

Enab Baladi contacted the media office of the Free Syrian Army, which in turn denied any coordination between the Free Syrian Army and the Men of Dignity movement, pointing out that there is ongoing communication between the movement and the army’s commander through channels and individuals.

For the Free Syrian Army based at the border triangle between Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, combating drug trade and smuggling operations is part of its duties in the region, as it regularly announces the seizure of drug shipments from time to time.

About a week ago, the faction announced the destruction of a drug shipment it had previously confiscated, as it published a video recording showing quantities of the drug pills during their destruction at the al-Tanf base.

Political analyst Jamal al-Shoufi told Enab Baladi that the International Coalition’s attention is currently not focused on southern Syria but is directed towards the northern geography of Syria.

He added that the desert barrier between al-Tanf and As-Suwayda hinders any coordination or communication between the two sides, especially since in the general context the people of As-Suwayda do not go outside their land, as previous historical experiences have proven, therefore, they will not go out to coordinate with anyone residing outside their lands.

Jordanian strikes left an impact

The repeated Jordanian aerial strikes on populated areas in the southern Syrian province of As-Suwayda have resonated with the local community, affecting the lives of civilians in the southern and eastern countryside of the province.

The airstrikes, attributed to Jordan, increased towards the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024, showing a new strategy in dealing with issues related to drug smuggling into its territory from Syria.

The latest raids, which were not officially adopted by Jordan, targeted the towns of Arman and Malah south of As-Suwayda on January 18, resulting in ten casualties.

The strikes also caused material damage, including the destruction of targeted houses and damage to neighboring buildings, leaving residents fearing their recurrence.

Previously, on January 9, airstrikes believed to be Jordanian hit three sites in the As-Suwayda province in southern Syria.

On January 5, airstrikes thought to be Jordanian targeted locations in southern Syria amid ongoing drug smuggling operations across the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Also, on December 19, 2023, warplanes believed to be Jordanian launched strikes on “hideouts” of drug smugglers in response to a “major” smuggling operation coming from Syria, according to what Reuters reported from two intelligence sources in the region and a Western diplomat following the situation, who were not named.

On May 8, 2023, warplanes presumed to be Jordanian raided targets in the Lajat area between Daraa and As-Suwayda provinces in southern Syria, killing eight members of a family, including six children, and the prominent drug smuggler Marai al-Ramthan.

 

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