Jordan Alarmed by Escalation in Syrian Smuggling Tactics

Syria map showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean Sea.

“What were initially infiltration and smuggling attempts have evolved into full-fledged armed clashes, with the explicit objective of forcibly crossing the border by targeting Jordanian border guard forces.”

Jordanian authorities are signaling growing alarm over the willingness of smugglers from Syria to use armed force to circumvent tightened Jordanian border security. This comes at a delicate moment for the kingdom due to Israel’s campaign in Gaza, given Jordan’s large Palestinian population and concerns that Jordan could become a conduit for weapons to be smuggled into the West Bank. Smuggling has long been an economic mainstay for communities along the Syria-Jordan border, especially after the Syrian government lost control of key border crossings during the Syrian civil war. Since then, smuggling across the border has become increasingly institutionalized and largely controlled by networks within the Syrian Army’s 4th Division, many of them linked to Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah. Concerns that potentially hostile armed groups control smuggling routes from Syria has led Jordan to tighten security across the shared border, in turn leading smugglers to seek new ways to circumvent border security. Recent reports and statements suggest that smuggling networks in Syria are increasingly willing to use force to get across the increasingly monitored border.

The first accompanying excerpt, from the Syrian opposition news website, explains how small-scale smuggling has “evolved into full-fledged armed clashes, with the explicit objective of forcibly crossing the border by targeting Jordanian border guard forces.” The article adds that Jordanian authorities are concerned about weapons being smuggled into the kingdom. Particularly noteworthy was a mid-December firefight in which a Jordanian border guard was killed, weapons were seized, and an airstrike took place on a purported smuggling safehouse inside Syrian territory, attributed to but not claimed by the Jordanian military. The second excerpt, also from, details the handful of weapons seized during the incident—a handful of rocket propelled grenades, mines, and sniper rifles. Although troubling from a Jordanian perspective, the small number of weapons were likely not part of the primary cargo being smuggled, but rather used by smugglers to force their way across the border. Instead, as the excerpt notes, the primary cargo was hashish and five million Captagon pills, likely destined for Saudi Arabia. The production and export of Captagon, a synthetic amphetamine-like substance—produced in Lebanon and Syria and consumed heavily in Gulf countries—has become a key part of Syria’s wartime economy.[i] The third accompanying excerpt, from the English-language Arab Weekly, claims that Jordan is inflating the threat from smugglers to “secure assistance and stronger cooperation” from Gulf countries, most prominently Saudi Arabia, the destination for much of the contraband. If evidence emerges that weapons are being smuggled across the border, concerns that these weapons could end up in the hands of Shia groups in Saudi Arabia would likely elicit a response from Riyadh. Smuggling along the Syria-Jordan border peaks in the cold winter months, due to the dense fog that often envelops the area at night, hampering visibility for those seeking to curb smugglers. While the seasonal uptick is expected, the increasing willingness of smugglers to engage in firefights with Jordanian border guards is concerning. The failure of increased Jordanian border security measures is a latent concern for Amman. Given that Iran and Hezbollah exert substantial influence over smuggling networks in Syria, the Syria-Jordan border may well become an additional regional flashpoint.


“Syrian-Jordanian Border Battle Ends With Airstrikes, Amman Hints at Iran’s Involvement,” (Syrian opposition news website) via The Syrian Observer (Syrian news aggregator), 20 December 2023.

What were initially infiltration and smuggling attempts have evolved into full-fledged armed clashes, with the explicit objective of forcibly crossing the border by targeting Jordanian border guard forces…

This form of military operations and clashes underscores the significant challenges confronting Jordan due to the Syrian regime and the escalating influence of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria. Despite the security measures and military tightening implemented by Amman along the Syrian-Jordanian border, smuggling operations have not only persisted but have also intensified. A particularly alarming security threat arising from these clashes is the initiation of arms and rocket smuggling operations, underscoring the extent of Iranian pressure on Jordan.

“حرب وقتلى” على الحدود السورية الأردنية..رسائل وتحذيرات وخيارات مفتوحة

War and death’ on the Syrian-Jordanian border… messages, warnings, and open options,” (Syrian opposition news website), 19 December 2023.

The Jordanian army seized about five million Captagon pills and about 13,000 hashish palms, in addition to 4 Rocket Launcher missiles, 4 RPG missiles, 10 anti-personnel mines, a G3 sniper rifle, and a M-16 type rifle equipped with a sniper scope.

“Is Jordan inflating smugglers’ threat on border with Syria?” The Arab Weekly (London-based Arabic-language weekly), 19 December 2023. Observers believe however that Jordan is exaggerating the developments in the border region, pointing out that the phenomenon of active gangs is not new and that most countries suffer from it. Jordan is not an exception, especially since the neighbouring country, Syria, is gripped by security chaos, observers told The Arab Weekly. They suggest the exaggeration may be related to Jordan’s desire to present itself regionally, especially to the Arab Gulf countries, as the first line of defence for regional security. The aim, according to observers, is to secure assistance and stronger cooperation.


[i] For more on the Captagon trade, see: Lucas Winter, “Pharmaceutical Drugs and the Syrian War,” OE Watch, December 2015. and Lucas Winter, “Syria Becoming Center of Illicit Drug Production and Export to Europe and Arabian Peninsula,” OE Watch, January 2021.

Image Information:

Image:  Syria map showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean Sea.
Source: CIA Factbook, Attribution: Public Domain

Houthis’ Red Sea Attacks Not Only Motivated by Gaza

Yemen map showing major population centers as well as parts of neighboring countries and the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

“The preparation of the naval force comes in light of the enemy mercenaries’ relinquishing of national sovereignty, and their exposing the country’s sovereign oil, gas and fishery resources to unprecedented plunder…”

While recent naval attacks by Yemen’s Ansarallah group—better known as the Houthis—have been justified as being in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, Ansarallah’s build-up of capabilities to engage in an anti-access naval campaign was motivated by domestic concerns that predate Israel’s operations against Hamas in Gaza. Beginning on 19 October, Ansarallah began targeting primarily commercial vessels in the Red Sea using unmanned aerial vehicles, ballistic missiles, and anti-ship cruise missiles. The majority of these weapons were shot down by ships from the USS Gerald Ford Carrier Strike Group.[i] These attacks were concurrent with other attacks carried out by Iranian allies, all presented as in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and as part of a coordinated anti-Israel response by members of the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance”—Hezbollah in Lebanon, “Islamic Resistance” militias in Iraq, and Ansarallah in Yemen. According to the accompanying excerpt from the official Yemeni daily 26 September, Ansarallah leaders have justified their buildup of anti-ship capabilities as motivated by their adversaries “exposing the country’s sovereign oil, gas and fishery resources to unprecedented plunder” and their attempts to “expand and control the most important strategic ports and islands, such as Socotra and Mayun [also known as Perim Island].” From Ansarallah’s perspective, its domestic adversaries—both the Saudi-backed Internationally Recognized Government and the Emirati-backed Southern Transitional Council—have used the early 2022 UN-brokered truce in Yemen to tighten control over resources and strategic locations on Yemen’s coastline with foreign assistance and complicity.[ii] In August 2023, a few months before hostilities broke out in Gaza, Ansarallah officials threatened to sink two oil tankers seeking to transport Yemeni oil for export from ports in the Gulf Aden under the control of Ansarallah’s domestic opponents. Ansarallah’s position vis-à-vis Red Sea shipping prior to 7 October, per the article, was “to encourage international navigation through the [Bab El Mandab] Strait provided that it does not harm the sovereignty, unity, security or independence of the Republic.” Thus, while Ansarallah’s attacks on shipping vessels transiting Bab El Mandab are—at least rhetorically—linked to Israel’s invasion of Gaza, they should also be understood as a deliberate effort by the group to assert control over the entirety of Yemen’s territorial waters and internationalize the struggle for control of Yemen’s resources and strategic locations.


“قدرات اليمن في حماية البحار والمياه الوطنية  Yemeni capabilities for protecting national seas and waterways,” 26 September (official Yemeni daily), 25 September 2023.

”We were in a raging war with two ships coming to the port of Aden to plunder Yemeni gas, and they retreated four times, most recently yesterday. We informed the companies that owned the ships ‘Sinmar Jane’ and ‘Bolivar’ that we would strike them if they entered to loot gas from the port of Aden, and they are ready to do so. A few days earlier, President Al-Mashat vowed to ‘target the military bases of the Saudi-Emirati coalition forces on the Yemeni islands.’ At that time, he concurred with the Chief of Staff of the Naval Forces and Coastal Defense, Brigadier General Mansour Ahmed Al-Saadi, ‘on the level of qualitative armament that the naval forces now possess, which enables them to confront the enemy with all merit and ability, and allows them to meet the challenges…”

The Minister of Defense, Major General Muhammad Nasser Al-Atifi, had previously confirmed that maritime security of Yemeni territorial waters would be a priority in the next stage…

The preparation of the naval force comes in light of the enemy mercenaries’ relinquishing of national sovereignty, and their exposing the country’s sovereign oil, gas and fishery resources to unprecedented plunder. Alongside this organized plunder are the occupation’s efforts to expand and control the most important strategic ports and islands, such as Socotra and Mayun. It was necessary for the Yemeni armed forces to carry out their duty to protect the territorial waters and the sovereign wealth of oil, gas and fisheries from the dangers coming from the coalition of aggressors and their mercenaries from inside and outside the country, and to prepare themselves as a deterrent weapon for all these ambitions. Regarding freedom of international navigation in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the position of the Republic of Yemen is specific and clear, which is to encourage international navigation through the Strait provided that it does not harm the sovereignty, unity, security or independence of the Republic.


[i] For details on Ansarallah’s naval arsenal, see: “A Maritime Menace: The Houthi Navy,” Oryx Blog, 2 January 2023.; “Houthis Showcase Large Arsenal Of Missiles, Drones At Sana’a Military Parade,” MEMRI, 21 September 2023.; “Under Fire in the Bab al-Mandab: Houthi Military Capabilities and U.S. Response Options,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 8 December 2023.;“Houthi anti-ship missile systems: getting better all the time,” IISS, 4 January 2024. For details on Ansarallah’s anti-ship ballistic missiles, see: “We Might Have Just Seen the World’s First Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Attack,” Popular Mechanics, 1 December 2023.

[ii] For more on control over Socotra, see: Lucas Winter, “Regional Friction Over Yemen’s Socotra Island,” OE Watch, June 2018.; For more on control over Yemen’s Arabian Sea ports, see: Lucas Winter, “Saudis Seek Pathway to the Arabian Sea,” OE Watch, October 2018.

Image Information:

Image:  Yemen map showing major population centers as well as parts of neighboring countries and the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
Source: CIA Factbook,
Attribution: Public Domain

Fears of Gaza Violence Prompt Egypt To Reinforce the Sinai Border

Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

“Threats [to Egypt] usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense…”

Egypt has turned its strategic focus toward its eastern border amidst rising concerns that violence from Israel’s military operation in Gaza could spill over into the Sinai Peninsula. Most concerning to Egypt’s military-led government is the potential of a massive influx of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai.[i] The Egyptian military, according to the first accompanying excerpt from the Qatar-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, is firmly opposed to any relocation of Gaza’s residents to the Sinai. Reflecting these principles, Egyptian President Sisi has stated that “Egypt has not and will never allow the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai.”[ii] A secondary security concern for Egypt’s Armed Forces is cross-border fire from errant projectiles from both sides of the conflict.[iii] As a result of these concerns, Egypt has begun to quietly take precautions. It has increased its military and security presence around the Rafah border crossing.[iv] In late October, Egyptian military leadership conducted a readiness inspection of the Armed Forces’ 4th Armored Division, 3rd Field Army, based in Suez.[v] Military and security measures alone, however, are unlikely to ease the mounting pressure on Egypt’s border with Gaza. The second accompanying excerpt, also from al-Araby al-Jadeed, argues that Egypt will need to overhaul its strategic thinking to cope with these pressures. To do so, the author argues, the Egyptian government should provide immediate, open support for Hamas via all means possible short of war. In addition, he argues that Egypt should begin to “coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.”


مخططات تهجير الفلسطينيين إلى سيناء… رفض مصري ممتد لعقود

“Decades-long Egyptian rejection of plans to forcibly relocate Palestinians to Sinai,” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 2 November 2023.مخططات-تهجير-الفلسطينيين-إلى-سيناء-رفض-مصري-ممتد-لعقود

Despite these fears, this plan still depends on many factors in order to implement it, “some of which are almost impossible,” according to the description of a former Egyptian security official, who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity. On top of these factors is “the position of the Egyptian military establishment, which absolutely rejects the idea of ​​settling Palestinians in Sinai , due to many considerations related to Egyptian national security.”

The former official added, “The army’s rejection of that idea existed previously, during the era of the late President Hosni Mubarak, and it still exists today, which can be seen in the messages conveyed in President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s recent speeches, which seemed to be directed to the armed forces in order to reassure its leaders and allay their fears.”

لماذا على مصر التفكير في أمنها القومي بشكل مختلف؟

“Why should Egypt think about its national security in a different way?” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 12 November 2023.لماذا-على-مصر-التفكير-في-أمنها-القومي-بشكل-مختلف

… Egyptian national security theory and its constants, or what remains of those constants, the most important of which is that threats usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense, and that whenever Gaza collapses, Egypt’s defensive lines collapse, regardless of the degree of compatibility with the political or administrative system in power following the collapse…

The Egyptian government must immediately stop talking about more than meager aid, as after a month of aggression, no more people entered the Gaza Strip than they did one day before. It must restrain the “Samsung media”, as this is a major national security issue and a top priority, and this is not the time to export hatred for the Palestinian resistance and belittle it, nor the time to outbid it, condemn it, or blame the victims in any way. Rather, it is the best piece of chess through which everything you want can be achieved. Without a single concession. Egypt should coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.


[i] The idea of a population transfer from Gaza to the Sinai is not new and has been floated several times before. Since 7 October, several Israeli statements and documents have alluded to the forcible displacement of Gaza’s population as a policy option. See for instance: “An Israeli ministry, in a ‘concept paper,’ proposes transferring Gaza civilians to Egypt’s Sinai,” AP, 30 October 2023.; Giora Eiland. “It’s time to rip off the Hamas band-aid,” Ynet News, 12 October 2023.

[ii] Statement quoted in: “Defend and populate Sinai,” al-Ahram Weekly, 31 October 2023.

[iii] This includes projectiles fired toward Israel from the south that have landed along the Sinai’s Red Sea coast, as well as cross-border Israeli fire that hit an Egyptian border guard post near Gaza. On the former, see: “Drone blasts hit two Egyptian Red Sea towns, Israel points to Houthi,” AP, 27 October 2023. On the latter, see: “At least seven injured as Israeli tank ‘accidentally’ hits Egyptian border,” al-Jazeera, 22 October 2023.

[iv] Images of Egyptian special forces deployed in Rafah can be found at:

[v] The inspection included the first official appearance of the South Korean K9A1 155 mm self-propelled howitzer in the Egyptian military.  For images and description of the platforms involved see:

Image Information:

Image: Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Source: CIA Factbook, Attribution: Public Domain

Syrian Regime, Opposition Wary of Hamas Despite Support for 7 October Attacks on Israel

Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023

“Syrians received the news of the operation as a historic, heroic act that was able to break the prestige of the Israeli occupier…”

On the surface, Hamas seems to enjoy widespread support in Syria among backers of both the government and the anti-government Sunni Arab opposition.[i] Media outlets associated with each side have used laudatory rhetoric to describe the 7 October Hamas “al-Aqsa Flood” operation. The first accompanying excerpt from the anti-Syrian-government news website Syria TV,describes the Hamas raid as “a source of pride for the Arab and Islamic nation in every sense of the word.” The second excerpt, from the pro-Syrian government daily al-Watan, states that Hamas’ raid “will be recorded in history in golden letters that time will not erase.” In addition to widespread support for the operation itself, outlets affiliated with both the Syrian regime and the opposition strongly oppose Israel’s military actions in Gaza. Thus, according to the author of the third accompanying excerpt from the Qatar-aligned al-Araby al-Jadeed, events in Gaza have forged the first “consensus among the various components of the Syrian people…since the beginning of the revolution.” And yet, while they agree with the operation, the Syrian government and its opposition also concur in being wary of Hamas. Hamas was an ally of the Syrian government until 2012, when it broke with Damascus and sided with members of the Syrian rebellion. In 2017, however, Hamas’s new leadership steered the group back into the pro-Iran camp, and in 2022, Hamas formally reconciled with the Syrian government.[ii] Many in the Syrian opposition resent Hamas’s return to supporting the Syrian government, as expressed in the fourth accompanying excerpt from the Syrian opposition news website SyriaDirect. Similarly, the Syrian government remains skeptical of Hamas despite their recent rapprochement. Last August, Syrian President Assad accused Hamas’ leadership of “betrayal” for siding with Syrian rebels and against his government for much of the 2010s.[iii] Indeed, since the “al-Aqsa Flood” attack on 7 October, the Assad government has taken steps to remove military assets from areas near the border with Israel, in a sign that it seeks to avoid becoming militarily entangled on Hamas’ side.[iv] This shared perspective between the Syrian government and opposition – widespread support for the  “al-Aqsa Flood” operation, strong opposition to Israeli military activity in Gaza, and a general distrust of Hamas – is likely generalizable to other segments of the broader Arab public.


طوفان الأقصى وأسطورة الجيش الذي لا يقهر 

Fayez al-Asmar. “Al-Aqsa Flood and the myth of the invincible army,” Syria TV (Syrian opposition news website), 12 October 2023.طوفان-الأقصى-وأسطورة-الجيش-الذي-لا-يقهر 

In fact, the Hamas operation is an unprecedented military operation in terms of size and method of implementation in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and it in itself is a source of pride for the Arab and Islamic nation in every sense of the word. 

بين «طوفان الأقصى» والطوفان الجارف 

Rifaat Badawi. “Between the al-Aqsa Flood and the torrential flood,” Al-Watan (pro-government Syrian daily), 10 October 2023.بين-طوفان-الأقصى-والطوفان-الجارف/

The “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation will be recorded in history in golden letters that time will not erase, because it will remain engraved in the memory of the Palestinian and Arab generations who believe in resisting and defeating the Israeli occupation, for all of Palestine, from the river to the sea, and its capital will be Holy Jerusalem, no matter how many sacrifices are made and no matter how long it takes.

غزة التي وحدت السوريين

“Gaza, which unified Syrians,” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 15 October 2023.غزة-التي-وحدت-السوريين

The “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation and the subsequent Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip formed a consensus among the various components of the Syrian people, with all their affiliations, the first of its kind since the beginning of the Syrian revolution. At the popular level, in all opposition-controlled areas, and in diaspora countries, Syrians received the news of the operation as a historic, heroic act that was able to break the prestige of the Israeli occupier.

من إدلب هنا غزة: السوريون يشاركون الفلسطينيين آلامهم ويستذكرون مأساتهم

“From Idlib to Gaza: Syrians share the pain of the Palestinians and remember their tragedy,” Syria Direct (Syrian opposition news website), 21 October 2023.من-إدلب-هنا-غزة-السوريون-يشاركون-الفلس/

Many Syrians feel let down by the Hamas movement, which restored relations with the Syrian regime in 2022, after ten years of estrangement that began when it left Damascus in February 2012. This in addition to Hamas’s close relations with Iran, the regime’s main ally in suppressing Syrians who protested against Assad in the spring of 2011, demanding freedom. However, their position on Hamas did not affect their sympathy for the Palestinian cause and support for the people of Gaza, as expressed by a number of sources who spoke to Syria Direct.


[i] For additional context see: “Syrians’ Reactions to the First Weeks of Israel-Hamas War,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy-Fikra Forum, 24 October 2023.

[ii] For additional details on Hamas in the region, see: Lucas Winter. “Hamas Rejoins the Resistance Axis,” OE Watch, December 2017.

[iii] “After Assad Insulted its Leaders, Hamas to Open Office in Damascus,” Syrian Observer, 15 August 2023.

[iv] “Al-Assad Was Absent from Nasrallah’s Speech,” Syrian Observer, 10 November 2023.

Image Information:

Image:  Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023
Source: Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages,
Attribution: CC BY-SA 3.0

Arabic Media Boasts Narrative Of Victory Following Hamas’ 7 October Attack Of Israel

Israel strikes targets in Gaza Strip, October 2023

“What happened…will cause the Israeli public, especially those in the settlements surrounding Gaza, to lose confidence in the ‘professional army’ model that the occupation army has promoted in the last two decades…”

In the aftermath of the 7 October attack by the Hamas Qassam Brigades into Israel’s Gaza Envelope, a narrative of victory regarding the operation appears to be crystalizing in Arabic-language media. The accompanying excerpts from mainstream Arabic-language publications illustrate the contours of this narrative, in which Israeli forces are portrayed as largely ineffective and Qassam forces as highly effective. The first accompanying excerpt, from Qatari-aligned daily newspaper al-Araby al-Jadeed, emphasizes that the raid brought to light a disconnect between the image and reality of Israeli capabilities. According to the article, Israel’s elite forces and its military-security technology both suffered a reputational defeat that will lead the “Israeli public, especially those in the settlements surrounding Gaza, to lose confidence in the ‘professional army’ model.” Parallel to the narrative of Israeli military ineffectiveness is a narrative of the Qassam Brigades’ competence and operational success. The second accompanying excerpt, from Qatari-funded and pro-Arab al-Jazeera, is centered on Hamas’s information advantage and effective operational planning and execution, highlighting the group’s “strategic deception” and the effective coordination between various Qassam units (elite forces, engineering teams, drone operators, rocket/artillery units, and marine commandos).[i] The third accompanying excerpt, from Lebanon’s al-Akhbar, presents Qassam’s elite forces as devoted, committed, religious, mentally and physically strong young men. These young men, the author concludes, have replaced Qassam [RG1] ’s rockets as “the most permanent and effective strategic weapon.”[ii] The divergence between this emerging narrative of Hamas’s competence and heroism, and the Western portrayal of Hamas’s fighters as brutal terrorists, is striking.


“نخبة القسام في مواجهة «اليمام»

(Qassam’s elite faces ‘Yamam’),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 14 October 2023.نخبة-القسام-في-مواجهة-اليمامالسردية-الإسرائيلية-تسقط-في-غلاف-غزة

Al-Najjar… confirms that the clashes that took place with the Qassam elite forces were isolated pockets, and were carried out by individual settlers, who were killed or captured immediately, while the occupation army did not resist…

The occupying state, which promotes the capabilities of its elite forces, even through drama, as in the case of the widely known “Fauda” series, needs a long time to repair the damage to the prestige of its own units, according to Saeed Abu Moalla, professor of media at the Arab American University…

It is not only the reputation of the elite combat units that was damaged in the battle of the “Al-Aqsa Flood,” says Ahmed Rafiq Awad, head of the “Jerusalem Center for Future Studies” at Al-Quds University. The military technology units in the occupation army, which market themselves as being the top in manufacture spyware, as well as the military industries that established the separation fence with the Gaza Strip, including its surveillance tools, have also been subjected to a profound shock that will affect their reputation around the world…

Ultimately, what happened, according to Mansour, Awad, and Erekat, will cause the Israeli public, especially those in the settlements surrounding Gaza, to lose confidence in the “professional army” model that the occupation army has promoted in the last two decades, which relies on elite units and high technology.

الأدوات العسكرية للمقاومة في معركة “طوفان الأقصى”

(The Resistance’s military tools in the ‘al-Aqsa Flood’ battle),” al-Jazeera (pro-Arab Qatari media company), 14 October,الأدوات-العسكرية-للمقاومة-في-معركة

The resistance used all military operational tools, starting with intelligence deception operations of the intelligence services in the occupying state, led by the “Aman” [military intelligence] apparatus, which is responsible for giving estimates of the army’s position to the political leadership. The resistance was also able to hide the details of the operation and preparations from Israeli technology and espionage systems, and to mobilize forces, organize equipment, and maintain leadership and command during the battle, through the resistance’s continuous affirmation of the progress of the prepared plan, and its later announcement of rotating forces on the front and supplying the fighters with ammunition and equipment.

العابرون على جناح “النخبة”: هؤلاء أبناؤنا الذين لم يكبروا بعد

(Those going through the ‘elite’ wing: these are our children who have not yet grown up),” al-Akhbar (pro-Hezbollah leftist Lebanese daily), 9 October 2023.العابرون-على-جناح-النخبة-هؤلاء-أبناؤنا-الذين-لم-يكبروا-بع

Out of every 100 fighters, the resistance selects one or two who succeed in passing the physical, psychological, and spiritual tests…

What is it like for Muhannad to be among the elite? A young man free from all restrictions, single, of pure nature, who believes in authentic slogans untainted by reality, whose heart is attached to God, who is enthusiastic and has an excellent physical structure, and also, wholly ready for sacrifice…

Before the day before yesterday, missiles were, in the eyes of both enemy and friend, the only resistance weapon capable of limited action and morally acceptable impact. Today, rockets have become a secondary weapon, while men’s forearms, which trampled on Zionist military honor, have become the most permanent and effective strategic weapon.


[i] Planning is important for the Qassam Brigades. A Qassam training manual, published in 2011, appears to have been used by ISIS for training. See: “Military Training in the Islamic State,” OE Watch, August 2015.

[ii] These elite forces are purported to include 5,000 well-trained and well-equipped forces, per a 2017 study by Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies

Image Information:

Image:  Israel strikes targets in Gaza Strip, October 2023
Source: Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages,
Attribution: CC 3.0

Russia Uses Diplomacy To Increase Military Influence In Libya

Russian military assets in Al Khadim airfield, Libya, 2020

“Libya offers at least two advantages to Russia: its ports are only about an hour’s flight from the European coast, and its air bases in the south are very close to Sudan and the African Sahel countries…”

A series of recent diplomatic visits involving Russian officials and Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar could eventually lead to deepening bilateral military relations, according to regional press coverage.[i] In August, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov led the first-ever Russian military delegation to visit Haftar.[ii] Yevkurov went back less than a month later, in mid-September, quickly followed by a visit to Moscow by Haftar, where he met with Russian President Putin and Defense Minister Shoigu. According to the first excerpt from al-Araby al-Jadeed, a Qatari-aligned daily newspaper, Haftar is seeking a more formal defense relationship with Russia, which would include official political recognition for Haftar and his allies, as well as sustained military support for forces under Haftar’s control. In exchange, per the second accompanying excerpt, from the Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency, Russia would establish a long-term aerial and naval military presence in eastern Libya, similar to its current presence in Syria.As the excerpt notes, Libya’s proximity to Europe, the Sahel, and Sudan gives it unique geopolitical value to Russia, creating a corridor of influence linking its bases in Syria to territories ruled by friendly governments in the African Sahel. Although the discussions remain nothing more than talks at the moment, the intensity of Russia’s military-diplomatic efforts signals Moscow’s growing interest in increasing its military influence in eastern Libya.


“حفتر يجري لقاءات مكثفة مع مسؤولين في روسيا: بحث عن شراكة عسكرية معلنة؟

(Haftar holds intensive meetings with Russian officials: Seeking over military partnership?),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 28 September 2023.حفتر-يجري-لقاءات-مكثفة-مع-مسؤولين-روس-بحث-عن-شراكة-عسكرية-معلنة

In other details about Haftar’s discussions in Moscow, sources’ information agreed that Haftar asked Moscow to upgrade the level of bilateral relations by signing a defense and security agreement stipulating that he would obtain more military equipment, such as Russian air defense systems, drones, and the establishment of advanced workshops to maintain his militia’s military equipment, most of which are Russian-made.

According to the same sources, Moscow summoned Haftar after he repeated his request during Yevkirov’s two visits to Benghazi, last August and the week before last. The sources confirmed that the discussions are still in early stages, as Moscow is still unwilling to officially announce its presence in Libya by signing any official and announced agreement.

“حفتر بين مطرقة العقوبات الأمريكية وسندان الدعم الروسي

(Haftar between the hammer of US sanctions and the anvil of Russian support),” Anadolu Agency (Turkish news agency), 2 October 2023.التقارير/حفتر-بين-مطرقة-العقوبات-الأمريكية-وسندان-الدعم-الروسي-إضاءة/3005791

… Haftar has not abandoned Russian support and is asking for a price in return, not the least of which is recognition of his legitimacy and the provision of heavy and advanced weapons such as combat aircraft, drones, and air defense systems… [Russia] is still prepared to provide more weapons and training to his soldiers, and maintain military equipment in exchange for establishing its military presence on the southern front of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This makes it difficult for Haftar to choose between US sanctions and Russian military and diplomatic support…

Libya offers at least two advantages to Russia: its ports are only about an hour’s flight from the European coast, and its air bases in the south are very close to Sudan and the African Sahel countries. Although Wagner elements were deployed in several Libyan air bases in the east and south, such as Al-Jufra (central), Al-Kharrouba (east), Brak Al-Shati and Tamanhint (south), they have not yet been able to have an independent naval base in Sirte nor an air base in Al-Jufra (east of Tripoli)—as is the case with the Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval base in Syria—due to American pressure on Haftar. Therefore, observers expect that Moscow will seek to seize more than one military base in Libya, and connect them to its air supply line from Russia to Syria, passing through Libya and from there to its allies in Sudan and the African Sahel countries, all the way to the Central African Republic.


[i] For additional reporting and context, see: “Russia Seeks to Expand Naval Presence in the Mediterranean,” Wall Street Journal, 15 September 2023.; “Libya: The security relationship between Khalifa Haftar and Moscow is intensifying,” Le Monde, 11 October 2023.; and “After Libya’s floods, Russia throws its weight behind Haftar,” The New Arab, 9 October 2023.

[ii] The Russian Defense Ministry’s Telegram channel reported on it being the first-ever such visit Yevkurov first visit was on 22 August, the day before the head of the Wagner Group was killed in an airplane crash and in the context of reassuring African countries with Wagner presence that the PMC was now under government control. Yevkurov returned to Libya on 17 September, in the aftermath of the Derna floods. Haftar traveled to Moscow on 28 September. 

Image Information:

Image:  Russian military assets in Al Khadim airfield, Libya, 2020
Source: US AFRICOM Public Affairs,  
Attribution: Public Domain

Russian Influence Fades in Southern Syria

A Druze man photographed in Suweida Syria, 2008.

“In the last two years, the decline of the Russian role within Syrian territories has become clear…”

Russia’s fading presence and loss of influence in southern Syria was on display during recent antiregime protests by the ethnoreligious Druze minority group in the Syrian province of Suweida.[i] As of mid-September, the protests had been going on for over a month. Russia, which had previously mediated between the regime and the Druze, was nowhere to be seen.[ii] Suweida’s protest movement—which has ebbed and flowed throughout the civil war—was motivated by longstanding deterioration in living conditions.

A prominent Druze leader, speaking to protesters who had been injured by regime forces in mid-September, placed blame for the unrest on local Iranian agents and allies. As reported in the first excerpt, from the Lebanese news website al-Modon, he accused them of stealing Syrian wealth and brainwashing its citizens with a “subversive” ideology. Russia’s absence from the volatile situation in Suweida is as noteworthy as are the strident accusations made against Iran and its local allies. In 2018, Russia had established itself as an effective mediator between the Syrian regime and Sunni rebels from Daraa, the province immediately to the west of Suweida. Russia did so by bringing rebel factions into a Russia-controlled proxy force known as the “5th Corps.” Two years ago, as reported in the second accompanying excerpt, from Qatar’s al-Jazeera, Russia began handing control of its southern proxies to the Syrian regime, and Iran took advantage of this situation through its influence in Syrian Military Intelligence and the Syrian Army’s 4th Division.[iii] Druze discontent with Iran’s influence rose due to Iranian proxies and allies in the regime extracting scarce resources from Suweida’s economy—including lucrative cross-border smuggling routes into Jordan and the Gulf. In 2022, a group of Druze leaders sought Russian assistance in curbing Iran’s local influence, on the assumption that Russia maintained sway in this part of Syria. In response, Russia sent a group of lowly military police with no decision-making powers, in what was a clear hint of waning Russian influence.[iv] The situation has only become starker with the Suweida protest movement. Indeed, as of mid-September, the Kremlin had made no official statement on the protests in Suweida, and Russian government-linked media blamed them on the United States, as noted in the third accompanying excerpt, also from al-Modon. The Kremlin is no longer able to provide even the illusion of influence in this part of Syria. Iran, for its part, appears to have solidified its influence in the south, but in doing so has made itself increasingly unpopular.


“السويداء:الهجري يدعو للجهاد ضد إيران وميليشياتها..بعد استهداف المتظاهرين بالرصاص

(Suweida: al-Hajiri calls for jihad against Iran and its militias… after protesters shot at),” al-Modon (Lebanese news website), 13 September 2023.

He considered that the “security movement” that opened fire on demonstrators in Suwayda was the product of the “corrupt” security services that have been tampering with Syria for years, stressing that the demonstrators should not be drawn into the plan of these agencies to attack the people of Suwayda…

He considered that the authority in Iran is “racist and corrupt” and entered Syria in order to “steal the country and its wealth and change people’s minds in a direction they are not convinced of,” stressing that Iran, its militias, and the Lebanese Hezbollah are “occupiers and we do not accept their presence in Syria…and we announce this publicly.”

كعكة الأسد.. هل يقوي مقتل بريغوجين نفوذ إيران في سوريا؟

(Assad’s cake… will the killing of Prigozhin strengthen Iranian influence in Syria),” al-Jazeera (Qatari news outlet), 6 September 2023.صراع-حول-كعكة-الأسد-هل-يقوي-مقتل

In the last two years, the decline of the Russian role within Syrian territories has become clear. This was not limited to the disappearance of Russian hopes for reaching a political solution to the war that has been going on for more than ten years, but it also amounted to cutting off Russian support for many of Moscow’s agents in Syria…

The Iranians took advantage of this opportunity in order to remove Russia relatively from the scene and capture former proxies whom the Kremlin could no longer support militarily and financially. This happened with the Syrian regime’s Eighth Brigade, one of the most loyal units to Russia within the armed forces in southern Syria, which was reduced. Russia halved the salaries of its members, and in 2022 it completely stopped communicating with the brigade, which prompted the brigade to work for the Syrian Military Intelligence Directorate, one of Iran’s most powerful agents. At the same time, the National Defense Forces militias east of Deir ez-Zor, led by Hassan al-Ghadhban, separated from Moscow. In favor of the Iranian-backed Fourth Division, after Moscow failed to pay the salaries of the members for a full six months.

“موسكو تقرأ إنتفاضة السويداء..من لبنان

(Moscow reads the Suweida uprising… from Lebanon),” al-Modon (Lebanese news website), 5 September 2023.

Although more than two weeks have passed since the Suweida uprising, the Kremlin remains silent about it. 

What is relatively new this time in accusing the West of being behind the Suweida uprising is the claim of an American plan to destabilize the region by controlling the network of financial flows linked to the crisis in the Lebanese banking system…

On the first of this month, the Topwar website, which is linked to the Russian Ministry of Defense, published a text regarding the Suwayda uprising entitled “The Syrian Protests and the US Strategy in Lebanon”…


[i] The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic ethnoreligious group that constitute 3 percent of Syria’s population, concentrated in Suweida Province. There are also Druze communities on the Syria-Israel border and in Lebanon. Unlike neighboring Sunni-majority Daraa Province—the heartland of Syria’s rebellion—the Druze-majority province of Suweida carved out an effective position of neutrality in Syria’s civil war. By staking out a neutral position, the Druze effectively became “strategic bedfellows” of the Assad regime. See: Fabrice Balanche. “The Druze and Assad: Strategic Bedfellows,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 20 October 2016.

[ii] See for instance: “Syrian government releases detainees with Russian mediation in Syria’s Suwayda,” North Press Agency, 11 July 2020.

[iii] For more see: Lucas Winter. ”Growing Iranian Influence Near the Border with Israel in Southwest Syria,” OE Watch, March 2021.

[iv] Key Druze leaders refused to meet with the powerless Russian delegation, which consisted of military police. See: Sources: Eight Demands to Russian Delegation in Suweida,” (Syrian opposition news website) via The Syrian Observer (Syrian media aggregator), 9 August 2022. and

السويداء: حركة رجال الكرامة ترفض استقبال وفد روسي

“Suweida: Men of Dignity refuses to meet Russian delegation,” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 10 August 2022.

Image Information:

Image: A Druze man photographed in Suweida Syria, 2008.
Source: CharlesFred, Flickr,
Attribution: CC 2.0

Syrian Regime Forces Increase UAV Use Along Jordanian Border

An Ababil-3 UAV at an Iranian arms expo on Kish Island in November 2016.

“Iran has transferred many dual-use drones, with surveillance and bombing capabilities, to Daraa Governorate.”

Reported unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) use by Syrian regime forces and their allies along the border with Jordan has noticeably increased. Jordanian authorities claimed that they had intercepted at least five small drones smuggling weapons and/or illicit substances from Syria between June and mid-August 2023.[i] Two reports from Syrian opposition sources provide context to the recent uptick in UAV use by Syrian regime forces and their allies. The first accompanying excerpt, published by the Horan Free Gathering, an opposition group in southern Syria, stated that UAVs have been used to smuggle drugs since at least 2018, when the conflict was frozen in southern Syria. Recent clampdowns along the land border have prompted smugglers to rely more heavily on UAVs. The article claims that Iran has transferred several combat UAVs to Syrian forces in Daraa, making them “the regime’s new weapon in the province.” The second accompanying report, from the Syrian opposition media channel Syria TV, provides details on two recent Syrian regime UAV strikes against rebel leaders in Daraa Province. Per the report, both attacks were conducted at night using Iranian Ababil drones, and neither attack appears to have succeeded against its primary target, only causing damage to buildings. The reports note that the Ababil UAVs fly quietly at low altitudes and rely on human-planted targeting devices. While Iranian-backed regime forces have employed UAVs throughout the conflict, the uptick in their use in southern Syria is notable and likely to cause concern in neighboring Jordan and Israel.


“بين تهريب المخدرات والعمليات الأمنية.. الطائرات المسيرة وسيلة النظام الجديدة

(From Drug Smuggling to Security Operations… UAVs are the Regime’s New Method),” 19 July 2023, Horan Free Gathering (southern Syria opposition group),

The regime’s use of small drones to smuggle drugs is not new. Since the settlement process in southern Syria at the end of July 2018, it began to use to smuggle drugs to Jordan, mainly high-value cocaine and “crystal,” in addition to smuggling some light weapons and ammunition…

A source for the Free Horan Gathering confirmed that Iran has transferred many dual-use drones, with surveillance and bombing capabilities, to Daraa Governorate, and has trained officers and members of the Syrian regime forces on using them, making it the regime’s new weapon in the province.

“الطائرات المسيّرة في درعا.. تكتيك عسكري جديد يوسع نفوذ إيران في سوريا

(UAVs in Daraa… New Military Tactic Expands Iranian Influence in Daraa),” Syria TV (Syrian opposition media network), 4 August 2023.

From the beginning of last July until the second of August, 6 sorties were recorded by Ababil drones, west of Daraa, all of them flying after dark, according to what an informed source told Syria TV. On August 1, a drone targeted the house of the young man, Amjad Al-Mizal, in the town of Al-Yadoudah, west of Daraa, without recording any casualties. Abu Malik al-Zoubi, 35 years old, from the city of Tafas, west of Daraa, who witnessed the bombing of a house in the city on the 24th of last July, told Syria TV that an Ababil-2 drone targeted the house of journalist Muhannad al-Zoubi after midnight with a shell containing high explosives, causing substantial damage to the house…He added that these planes do not make a sound while flying in the area, and sometimes they do not emit light, and they fly at low altitudes to accurately hit their target…
A leading source in the opposition factions told Syria TV that officers from the Fourth Division recently supervised training operations for regime members on the use of drones at the headquarters of the Fifth Division in the city of Izraa in rural Daraa. The training included dozens of members of the regime’s army and its security services and aimed to improve their drone-handling capabilities, according to the commander. He added that the training focused on Iranian-made Ababil 2 and Ababil 3 drones, including those made locally, in addition to Quadcopters used by local militias to smuggle expensive crystal meth and cocaine to the Kingdom of Jordan and Arab countries.


[i] Jordanian authorities also reported other UAV interceptions earlier in 2023. In May, a Jordanian airstrike killed a prominent drug dealer in Syrian territory. For more on “Captagon,” the key illicit substance smuggled from Syria, see: Lucas Winter, “Pharmaceutical Drugs and the Syrian War,” OE Watch,December 2015. 

Image Information:

Image:  An Ababil-3 UAV at an Iranian arms expo on Kish Island in November 2016.
Attribution: CC 4.0

Turkey Parlaying UAV Sales Into Prominent Position in Emerging Multipolar Gulf Security Architecture

Turkish Bayraktar Akıncı UAV on display at Teknofest Aerospace and Technology Festival in 2019.

…Thanks to these agreements, hundreds of companies producing subsystems in the Turkish defense and aviation industry will expand their export portfolios…”

There is a growing perception that Arab Gulf monarchies are intent on diversifying their defense and security partnerships beyond the United States’ security umbrella. A recent analysis in the prominent Saudi-owned monthly magazine al-Majalla argues that this new “multi-polar Gulf security” architecture is caused in part by the perceived decline in U.S. security commitments. Turkey, the article argues, is among the key countries ready to play a greater role in Gulf security.[i]

A key element of Turkish global military influence has been the success of its UAV exports, especially the Bayraktar TB-2 drones, manufactured by the Turkish company Baykar.[ii] In September 2022, the UAE placed an order for 120 TB-2 drones—at that time, the largest order ever.[iii] With reports of limited TB-2 inventory due to production constraints and high export demands, the deal was expected to have a localization component whereby some of the elements of manufacturing and production would occur on Emirati soil. Baykar delivered 20 units to the UAE shortly after the deal was announced. Since then, there has been no official follow-up or public reporting on the matter. However, the 2022 Emirati deal has officially been eclipsed in value by a Saudi-Turkish deal for Akinci UAVs—the most advanced drone made by Baykar—signed during Turkish President Erdogan’s mid-July 2023 visit to Saudi Arabia. Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar explains that the deal not only helps align Turkey and Saudi defense sector priorities but is expected to have a positive windfall across Turkey’s defense industry, according to the second accompanying excerpt, from an interview published in the global defense-focusednewswebsite Breaking Defense.  The deal has an explicit localization component stipulating that up to 70 percent of each unit could be produced in Saudi Arabia.[iv] Involving Saudi military industry in the production process will not only ease the pressures on production in Turkey, but will also meet key Saudi “Vision 2030” goals for its domestic defense industry.[v] It will also provide a major boost to Saudi capabilities, after its arsenal of Chinese import UAVs have underperformed in the Yemen conflict.[vi] Turkey, meanwhile, is receiving a much-needed influx of Gulf money in the hopes of stabilizing rampant inflation and persistent economic volatility.


تركيا… الوافد الأمني الجديد إلى الخليج (Turkey… the new entrant to Gulf security),” al-Majalla (Saudi-owned news magazine), 24 July 2023.

The repercussions of regional fluctuations and the obligations to compensate for the decline in the level of United States security commitments have prompted the Arab Gulf states to change their strategies on three levels: diversification in sources of arms supplies, diversification in partnerships, and diversification in alliances. Although the United States remains by far the most important security player in the Gulf, diversification strategies have opened the door for regional, external, traditional, and newcomer actors such as China, India, Russia, and Turkey to become involved in the Gulf region. This situation has led to what can be called “multi-polar Gulf security,” which raises many questions about the prospects for Gulf security and the potential role of newcomers in the region…

It is difficult to predict the future in a highly volatile and unstable region, especially with the countless variables involved in each situation. However, with the current trend of the United States continuing to detach from the region and in light of Turkey’s rising regional position and rapid leaps in the defense industry, Ankara may have an opportunity to strengthen its position in the Gulf and advance towards an enhanced security role. However, internal, regional, and international dynamics must always be taken into account, and Turkey should stabilize its domestic politics, enhance its economic strength, and significantly increase its trade interaction with the Gulf states to compete with actors from outside the region and facilitate a potentially enhanced security role in the future.

Baykar CEO hopes massive Saudi deal paves path for Turkish defense firms in KSA,” Breaking Defense (global defense-focusednewswebsite), 10 August 2023.

“Our partners ASELSAN and ROKETSAN, with whom we collaborate, have also entered agreements with NCMS based on their technological capabilities. Thanks to these agreements, hundreds of companies producing subsystems in the Turkish defense and aviation industry will expand their export portfolios through new collaborations in this field,” Bayraktar said…“…Joining forces with the Saudi defense industry will accelerate Baykar’s rate and capacity of production, which is crucial to meet the burgeoning demand for the Turkish unmanned aerial solutions,” Kasapoglu said…


[i] For background see: Ali Bakir, “Turkey’s defense industry is on the rise. The GCC is one of its top buyers,” The Atlantic Council, 4 August 2023.

[ii] For more on Baykar and Turkish drone exports, see: Karen Kaya, “Turkey as a Drone Superpower: A Case Study of a Mid-Size Power Driving the Operational Environment,” FMSO’s Foreign Perspective Brief, 28 March 2023.

[iii] Over the past decade, Turkey’s military influence among Gulf countries was centered on its close defense and security relationship with Qatar. Turkish relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE were strained for much of the 2010s. They thawed in 2021 when the Qatar embargo ended and a broader regional rapprochement began.

[iv] Jeremy Binnie. “Local production agreements signed for Saudi Bayraktar Akinci UAVs,” Jane’s, 8 August 2023.

[v] For more on the defense industry component of Saudi Vision 2030, see: Lucas Winter “Saudi Arabia and China in the Arabian Sea,” OE Watch,October 2016.; Lucas Winter, “Saudi Arabia and the UAE Streamline Military Industry,” OE Watch,January 2020.; and Lucas Winter, “Saudi Arabia’s Domestic UAV Program Slow To Get Off the Ground,” OE Watch,01-2022.

[vi] See: Lucas Winter, “UAV Technologies Proliferating in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” OE Watch,07-2022.

Image Information:

Image:  Turkish Bayraktar Akıncı UAV on display at Teknofest Aerospace and Technology Festival in 2019.
Attribution: CC 4.0

Iran’s Proposed Maritime Security Alliance Draws Mixed Reviews

North Arabian Sea (Jan. 19, 2021)

“Iran’s actual and real success in forming [the new naval alliance] is an imposition of a new deterrence theory and a great challenge to the United States of America and its hegemony in the region, which it is slowly losing.”

In early June 2023, Iran’s navy commander suggested that Tehran was on the verge of establishing a regional naval security alliance that would include India, Pakistan, and several Arab Gulf states, most notably Saudi Arabia.[i] Reactions in Arabic-language media were mixed. Outlets affiliated with or supportive of China, Iran, and Russia portrayed the announcement as a highly consequential move that would further erode, if not fully negate, U.S. regional influence. However, the announcement was essentially ignored by mainstream Arabic-language Gulf media outlets from the countries purported to form the alliance’s backbone, most notably Saudi Arabia.

The first accompanying source, an excerpt from Russia’s Sputnik Arabic, characterizes the proposed alliance as a one-time “fantasy” that has become an imminent reality made possible by the U.S. failure to provide regional maritime security. The second accompanying source, from a report in China’s CGTN Arabic, argues that the China-brokered Saudi-Iran détente has created favorable conditions for regional security cooperation between Iran and the Arab Gulf states.[ii] The third accompanying source, an opinion piece in the pro-Iranian Lebanese media outlet al-Mayadeen, describes how this new alliance constitutes Iran’s “imposition of a new deterrence theory and a great challenge to the United States of America and its hegemony in the region,” as well as “a practical reality, a fatal blow to the strategic interests of Israel.” Although not a tacit rejection of the idea, other Gulf media outlets have been less enthusiastic and officials from the Arab states involved have not commented. Prominent Saudi media outlets, such as al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Riyadh, have also kept quiet. By contrast, Saudi media outlets have vocally expressed new alignment with Iran on regional matters, most notably Syrian normalization since Saudi Arabia’s May 2023 détente with Iran. Iran’s inclusion in the Russo-Chinese “Maritime Security Belt” exercises in the Indian Ocean, most recently in March 2023, indicate the possibility of a Russo-Chinese role in encouraging a regional naval coalition that marginalizes the United States’ role. Chinese interest in and encouragement of this Iranian-led security mechanism, if genuine, suggests that Saudi leadership might take the idea more seriously than the lack of media coverage would otherwise suggest.


“تحالف بحري بين إيران والخليج… لماذا أصبح من الضروري أن تحافظ دول المنطقة على أمنها بنفسها؟

(Naval alliance between Iran and the Gulf… Why did it become necessary for regional countries to guarantee their own security?),” Sputnik Arabic (Russian Arabic-language media outlet), 5 June 2023.تحالف-بحري-بين-إيران-والخليج-لماذا-أصبح-من-الضروري-أن-تحافظ-دول-المنطقة-على-أمنها-بنفسها-1077771292.html

A few weeks ago, talk of an alliance including Iran and the Gulf countries together was a fantasy, but it has become a reality with the announcement of the imminent formation of a naval alliance that includes the countries of the region… Hassan Ibrahim Al-Nuaimi, an Emirati political analyst, considered that the countries of the region suffered from maritime threats, while foreign countries failed to secure the seas in the region. Thus, it became clear to the Arab Gulf states that these foreign countries only pursue their own agendas, and do not care about the interests of other countries.

“إيران تخطط لتشكيل تحالف بحري وسط تحسين العلاقات في الشرق الأوسط

(Iran plans naval alliance amidst improving relations in Middle East),” CGTN Arabic (Chinese Arabic-language media outlet), 6 June 2023.

Iran’s proposal for a security alliance or coordination mechanism with Gulf countries is completely natural. Iran had the idea, and it is not a new one, but conditions were not adequate in the past…

” تحالف دولي.. إيران في مواجهة هيمنة أميركا على المنطقة

(International alliance… Iran confronting American regional hegemony),” al-Mayadeen (pro-Iran Lebanese media outlet), 12 June 2023.تحالف-دولي-إيران-في-مواجهة-هيمنة-أميركا-على-المنطقة

Iran’s actual and real success in forming it is an imposition of a new deterrence theory and a great challenge to the United States of America and its hegemony in the region, which it is slowly losing… The international naval alliance is a joint security project for Iran and the Gulf states, the realization of which constitutes a practical reality, a fatal blow to the strategic interests of “Israel” in that region…


[i] In addition to Pakistan and India, Iran’s proposed alliance is to include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iraq.

[ii] The CGTN video report cites Dr. Niu Xinchun, the Director of Middle East Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).

Image Information:

Image:  North Arabian Sea (Jan. 19, 2021)
Source: Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Madrigal,  
Attribution: Public Domain