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Jordan, Syria army, intelligence chiefs discuss combating of drug smuggling over border

July 24, 2023 at 3:14 pm

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Moscow, Russia on 3 February 2021 [Russian Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

Jordanian and Syrian army and intelligence chiefs met yesterday to discuss the ongoing smuggling of drugs over the Syria-Jordan border, in the first of a series of meetings to resolve the issue.

In a statement by Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, it said that a meeting headed by Jordanian Army chief, Lieutenant-General Yousef Hunaiti and Syrian Defence Minister, Ali Mahmoud Abbas, was held to discuss the trafficking of narcotics over their countries’ common border, with the Jordanian and Syrian intelligence heads both present.

“The meeting discussed cooperation in confronting the danger of drugs, its sources of production and smuggling and the groups that are organising and supervising the smuggling operations across the border to Jordan”, the statement said. It added that “They also discussed the necessary measures to combat smuggling operations and confront this escalating danger to the whole region.”

In recent years, the lucrative and addictive amphetamine, Captagon, has flooded the Middle East region and beyond, appearing in countries throughout North Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe. Governments and analysts initially speculated that the Daesh terror group was responsible for its production and transport, but it was discovered that the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad – or at least elements close to it – was, instead, responsible.

That link between Captagon and the Assad regime has only grown clearer and more significant over the past year, with the United States, United Kingdom and European Union acknowledging that a key figure in the narcotics’ production and export is Maher Al-Assad, the head of the Syrian army’s elite Fourth Division and the brother of President Assad. That proved to be an even stronger link than the involvement of Iran-backed militias and drug lords linked to the Syrian regime.

READ: Syria: Jordan air strike kills drug lord and his family

Despite Damascus’s intimate relationship with Captagon and its smuggling across the region and beyond to circumvent sanctions and fund its war machine, surrounding Arab states decided to largely welcome the Assad regime back into the fold of the Arab League, re-admitting him into the regional body in May.

There have been reports, although unconfirmed and unacknowledged, that the regime guaranteed Arab states that it would curb the Captagon trafficking in return for its re-admission, and yesterday’s meeting between the Syrian and Jordanian army and intelligence chiefs is a key part of that purported aim.

It was reportedly the first meeting of that forum to combat the narcotics trade, and came amid the ongoing busting of Captagon smuggling operations in the region, such as Saudi Arabia’s seizure of 6 million pills last week.

Jordan has especially been a major stakeholder in the efforts to stem that trade, with much of the smuggling operations being conducted over the Syrian-Jordanian border.

The Hashemite Kingdom’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, told the Syrian regime during a visit to Damascus earlier this month that Amman would not hesitate to act against any threat to its national security, and the Jordanian army has downed multiple drones coming across the border from Syria over the past two months, which were reportedly carrying narcotics and weapons.

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