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 alsouria.net, 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 alsouria.net, 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.


Sources:

“Syrian-Jordanian Border Battle Ends With Airstrikes, Amman Hints at Iran’s Involvement,” alsouria.net (Syrian opposition news website) via The Syrian Observer (Syrian news aggregator), 20 December 2023. https://syrianobserver.com/news/86785/syrian-jordanian-border-battle-ends-with-airstrikes-amman-hints-at-irans-involvement.html

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,” alsouria.net (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. https://thearabweekly.com/jordan-inflating-smugglers-threat-border-syria 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.


Notes:

[i] For more on the Captagon trade, see: Lucas Winter, “Pharmaceutical Drugs and the Syrian War,” OE Watch, December 2015. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/195975 and Lucas Winter, “Syria Becoming Center of Illicit Drug Production and Export to Europe and Arabian Peninsula,” OE Watch, January 2021. https://community.apan.org/cfs-file/__key/telligent-evolution-components-attachments/13-21393-00-00-00-38-05-55/2021_2D00_01_2D00_01-Syria-Becoming-Center-of-Illicit-Drug-Production-_2800_Winter_2900_.pdf?forcedownload=true


Image Information:

Image:  Syria map showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean Sea.
Source: CIA Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/syria/map 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.”


Sources:

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.https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/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. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/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.


Notes:

[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. https://apnews.com/article/israel-gaza-population-transfer-hamas-egypt-palestinians-refugees-5f99378c0af6aca183a90c631fa4da5a; Giora Eiland. “It’s time to rip off the Hamas band-aid,” Ynet News, 12 October 2023. https://www.ynetnews.com/article/sju3uabba

[ii] Statement quoted in: “Defend and populate Sinai,” al-Ahram Weekly, 31 October 2023. https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/511373.aspx

[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. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/explosion-heard-egyptian-red-sea-town-near-israeli-border-witness-2023-10-27/ On the latter, see: “At least seven injured as Israeli tank ‘accidentally’ hits Egyptian border,” al-Jazeera, 22 October 2023. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/22/at-least-seven-injured-as-israeli-tank-accidentally-hits-egyptian-border

[iv] Images of Egyptian special forces deployed in Rafah can be found at: https://twitter.com/mahmouedgamal44/status/1715623393909694745

[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: https://twitter.com/mahmouedgamal44/status/1717074441501290762.


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, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/egypt/map Attribution: Public Domain


Legacy Articles On Iran

2024-04-15 Spotlight on Vatanpour, Iran’s “Most Active” Airbase (Michael Rubin)
2024-04-15 Iran Hints It Will Supply Air Defense Weaponry to Palestinians (Michael Rubin)
2024-04-15 Iran Rationalizes Russia’s Pro-Arab Position on Disputed Islands (Michael Rubin)

2024-03-01 Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Seeks Dominant Role in Maritime Development (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Iran’s Supreme Leader Announces Maritime Development Strategy (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Iran Seeks To Assert Global Leadership in Determining International Cyber Policy (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Belarus and Iran Form Alliance Against the West (Paris Gordon)

2024-01-03 Iran Announces Integration Of Artificial Intelligence Into Drone Fleet (Michael Rubin)
2024-01-03 Iran Equips Drones With Heat-Seeking Missiles (Michael Rubin)
2024-01-03 Iran Demands Disarmament Of Kurdish Dissidents In Iraq (Michael Rubin)

2023-11-08 Iran Promoting Medical Tourism To Generate Hard Currency (Michael Rubin)
2023-11-08 Iran’s Supreme Leader Accuses West of Ukraine War Conspiracy (Michael Rubin)

2023-10-03 Iran Claims Development of Cruise Missiles Guided by Artificial Intelligence (Michael Rubin)
2023-10-03 Requirements for Desirable Iranian Oil Ministry Jobs Revealed (Michael Rubin)
2023-10-03 Iran’s Supreme Leader Warns of Declining Fervor of New Generation (Michael Rubin)

2023-08-25 Iran Claims New Flight Simulator Will Enhance National Power (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran’s Simorgh Transport Plane Makes Maiden Flight (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran Indicates Plans To Commercialize Nuclear Technology, Sell Heavy Water (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran’s Persistent and Growing Influence in Latin America (Ryan Berg)

2023-06-01 Iran Unveils New Thermobaric Warhead (Michael Rubin)
2023-06-01 Iran Opens New Helicopter, Drone Base in Southeastern Provincial Capital (Michael Rubin)
2023-06-01 Iran Ready To Help Syria Rebuild Its Defense Infrastructure (Michael Rubin)

2023-05-01 Iran Installs New Precision Missiles on Army Helicopters (Michael Rubin)
2023-05-01 Iran Seeks To Reestablish Embassy and Consulate in Saudi Arabia Before Hajj (Michael Rubin)
2023-05-01 Iran Considers Rapprochement With Pakistan (Michael Rubin)

2023-04-01 Iran Unveils Updated Yasin Training Jet With Possible Close Combat Applications (Michael Rubin)
2023-04-01 Iran’s Increased Defense Budget Leading to More Arms Exports (Michael Rubin)
2023-04-01 Iran Capitalizing on Post-Earthquake Conditions To Deepen Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)

2023-03-01 Iran Praises Revolutionary Guards’ Proxy Afghan Brigade (Michael Rubin)
2023-03-01 Iran Profiles the Female Police Seeking To Quell the Women’s Protests (Michael Rubin)

2023-02-01 Iran Moves Sea-Borne Drone Fleet Closer to Reality (Michael Rubin)
2023-02-01 Iranian General Reiterates Goal To Expel United States From Region (Michael Rubin)
2023-02-01 Iran Fires Indigenous Torpedoes From Submarines for First Time (Michael Rubin)

2023-01-01 Iran Asks Tajikistan Not To Use Iranian Drones in Dispute With Kyrgyzstan (Michael Rubin)
2023-01-01 Iran Claim of Hypersonic Missile Capability Probably Exaggerated (Michael Rubin)

2022-11-01 Iran Vaunts Persian Language as Marker of National Identity Despite Country’s Ethnic Diversity (Michael Rubin)
2022-11-01 Iran’s Proposal To Build Railroads and Housing in Syria Could Enrich IRGC (Michael Rubin)
2022-11-01 Iran Lauds Air Defense, Claims Sepehr Radar Will Soon Be Operational (Michael Rubin)

2022-10-01 Iran Wants Sukhoi-35 Fighters From Russia (Michael Rubin)
2022-10-01 Iran Intercepts Crystal Meth Shipment From Afghanistan (Michael Rubin)

2022-09-01 Iran Reportedly Using New Carrier, Submarines To Expand Reach of Drones (Michael Rubin)
2022-09-01 Iran Unveils Stealth Speedboats (Michael Rubin)
2022-09-01 Iran’s Flawed Statistics and Growing Drug Addiction (Michael Rubin)

2022-08-01 Iranian F-14 Crash Highlights Iran’s Need for New Fighter Contract (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iranian Trade With China Is Up, but So Is Political Risk (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards To Expand Drug Treatment Center (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iran Believes Turkey’s Rapprochement With Israel and Saudi Arabia Is a Threat (Ihsan Gunduz)

2022-07-01 Iran Unveils New Drone-Fired Cruise Missile (Michael Rubin)
2022-07-01 Iran Opens New Drone Plant in Tajikistan (Michael Rubin)
2022-07-01 Iran Warns UAE Against Allowing Israel in the Persian Gulf (Michael Rubin)

2022-06-01 Khamenei Speaks on Necessity of Palestinian “Resistance” (Michael Rubin)
2022-06-01 Iran Initiates and Defends New Bread Subsidies Amid Deteriorating Economy (Michael Rubin)
2022-06-01 Iran Seeks To Counter Misinformation Circulating on Social Media (Michael Rubin)

2022-05-01 Iran Digs into Central Syria, Filling Vacuum Left by Russia (Lucas Winter)
2022-05-01 Iran Tries To Justify Abstention in UN Vote Condemning Russian Invasion of Ukraine (Michael Rubin)
2022-05-01 Iranian Navy Joins Indian Naval Exercises (Michael Rubin)
2022-05-01 Iran’s New Damavand Destroyer Set To Join Navy (Michael Rubin)

2022-04-01 Iran: Emphasizing Religiosity in Regular Army Promotions (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran Uses Online War Games To Teach Younger Generation of Officers (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran’s Supreme Leader Condemns Alleged Corruption of the West (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran Repositions Its Proxies in Syria as Russia Turns Focus to Ukraine (Lucas Winter)

2022-03-01 Iranian Authorities Arrest Alleged Deputy Leader of Royalist Terrorist Group (Michael Rubin)
2022-03-01 Iran’s Prosecution of Arab Separatist Highlights Supposed Saudi Ties (Michael Rubin)
2022-03-01 Russia and China To Help Iran Build New Airports (Michael Rubin)

2022-02-01 Iran and Syria Discuss Transportation Cooperation (Michael Rubin)
2022-02-01 Iran’s Purported Counter-Hijacking Record (Michael Rubin)
2022-02-01 Iran Busts Weapons and Ammunition Smuggling Ring (Michael Rubin)

2022-01-01 Iran-Pakistan Bolstering Naval Cooperation (Michael Rubin)
2022-01-01 Iran Agrees To Gas Swap with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan (Michael Rubin)
2022-01-01 Iran and Syria Seek To Jumpstart Economic Ties (Michael Rubin)

2021-04-01 IRAN Unveils New Baman Radar System (Michael Rubin)
2020-10-01 Iran Stockpiling Supplies through Chahbahar (Michael Rubin)

2020-09-01 More Iran in Venezuela (Geoff Demarest)
2020-09-01 Iran Increases Range of Smart Bombs (Michael Rubin)
2020-09-01 Iran: Passive Defense Organization and Basij Sign Memorandum of Understanding (Michael Rubin)
2020-09-01 Iran: Khamenei Speaks on Sanctions, Enmity toward America, and Nuclear Power (Michael Rubin)

2020-08-01 Iran: Khamenei Speaks on Corruption (Michael Rubin)
2020-08-01 Iran: What’s Behind the Government’s Secrecy on Handing Over Kish Island to Chinese? (Michael Rubin)
2020-08-01 Iran Eager to Enter the Global Market as a Military Equipment Exporter (Jerrilee Plude)
2020-08-01 China and Iran Announce $400 Billion Trade Deal (Peter Wood)

2020-07-01 Russian Arms Sales to Iran? (Ray Finch)
2020-07-01 An Afghan Perspective: A New Phase in Afghanistan-Iran Relations (Michael Rubin)
2020-07-01 More Iran in Venezuela (Geoff Demarest)
2020-07-01 The Three Main Missions of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Michael Rubin)

2020-06-01 Iran: Prosecute Cybercriminals (Michael Rubin)
2020-06-01 Iran Improves its UAV Technology (Robert Bunker and Alma Keshvarz)

2020-05-01 Iran: Khamenei on Power and Patience (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 Iran Unveils Ghadir Submarine Upgrades (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 India Evacuates its Citizens from Iran (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 Iran Announces Mass Production of COVID-19 Test Kits (Jerrilee Plude)

2020-04-01 Israel Establishes New ‘Strategy and Iran Directorate’ Under General Staff (Zachary Fesen)
2020-04-01 Iran: Sanctions Don’t Impact Military Spending (Michael Rubin)
2020-04-01 Iran: IRGC Establishes Biological Defense Headquarters (Michael Rubin)

2020-03-01 Counterfeit Bank Notes Seized in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2020-03-01 Iran-Increasing Domestic Production of Rare Earth Elements (Michael Rubin)
2020-02-01 Iran to Send Astronaut into Space? (Michael Rubin)

2020-01-01 Iran: Identity Theft and Extortion in Isfahan (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran and Russia to Establish Visa Waivers (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran: Use Suicide Drones as Air Defense (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran, China, and Russia Plan Joint Naval Drills in Indian Ocean (Zachary Fesen)

2019-12-01 Iran- Khamenei Speaks on America (Michael Rubin)
2019-12-01 Iran Establishes Official VPN Operators (Michael Rubin)

2019-11-01 Iran and Turkey- Friend or Foe (Ihsan Gunduz)
2019-11-01 Iran Opens Persian Gulf Air Defense Command Center (Michael Rubin)
2019-11-01 Iran- Mobile Rocket Systems and Underground Tunnels (Michael Rubin)
2019-11-01 Iran Announces Dome Defense against Drones (Michael Rubin)

2019-10-01 Iran- Khamenei Speaks on Kashmir (Michael Rubin)
2019-10-01 Iran- Armed Forces Ready to Take Over National Intranet Project (Michael Rubin)
2019-10-01 Israel- Iran’s Military Entrenchment in Iraq Poses Threat (Karen Kaya)

2019-09-01 Iran Warns of Phone and Text Scams (Michael Rubin)
2019-09-01 Iran – Mohajer-6 UAV Strikes Targets in Iraq (Michael Rubin)
2019-09-01 Iran’s Negotiations with Domestic Kurdish Opposition Groups (Ihsan Gunduz)
2019-08-01 Iran: Optoelectronic Military Developments (Michael Rubin)

2019-07-01 Iran: Progress on National Intranet (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Nationwide Curriculum for Computer Programming (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Preparing for Zafar III Satellite Launch (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Admiral Fadavi Selected as Revolutionary Guards Deputy (Michael Rubin)
2019-06-01 The Dynamics of Trilateral Relations between Turkey, Russia, and Iran (Ihsan Gunduz)

2019-05-01 Iran Cements its Presence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2019-05-01 Iran: Khamenei Threatens to Use Precision Missiles (Michael Rubin)
2019-05-01 Iran Conducts its Largest UAV Exercise (Michael Rubin)

2019-04-01 Iran: Hovercraft successfully fires cruise missiles (Michael Rubin)
2019-04-01 Iran Diverting Money from Development to Military (Michael Rubin)
2019-03-01 Iran Builds Up Syrian Proxies on the Western Banks of the Euphrates (Lucas Winter)
2019-02-01 IRGC: Iran Can Extend Ballistic Missile Range (Michael Rubin)

2019-01-01 Iran’s Basij in Cyberspace (Michael Rubin)
2019-01-01 Iran Unveils JDAMs? (Michael Rubin)
2019-01-01 China, Russia and Iran Seek to Revive Syrian Railways (Lucas Winter)

2018-11-01 Iran to Build New Missile System? (Michael Rubin)
2018-11-01 Supreme Leader’s Advisor- United States Common Enemy of Iran and China (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Will Iran Pivot to the East (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Iran: IAEA Shouldn’t Inspect Universities (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Russia and Iran Hamper Turkey’s Aspirations to Become Energy Hub (Ihsan Gunduz)

2018-08-01 Questions on Shortfalls in Electricity Generation in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Achieving Gasoline Self-Sufficiency in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Visit of Chinese Military Delegation to Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran to Re-Launch “Helicopter Carrier” (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran Preparing to Host Nanotechnology Festival (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran to Launch New Satellite by Year’s End (Michael Rubin)

2018-07-01 Group Planning to Hack Bank in Iran Arrested (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Who Took $30 Billion out of Iran? (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Iran to Attend Russian Military Trade Show (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Iran Cracks Down on Internet Café VPNs (Michael Rubin)

2018-06-01 Iran, Russia to Jointly Manufacture Helicopter (Michael Rubin)
2018-06-01 Iran Unveils New Unmanned Helicopter (Michael Rubin)
2018-06-01 Russia and Iran Compete for Syria’s Phosphates (Lucas Winter)
2018-06-01 Is Iran Ready to Send Its Navy to Japan (Michael Rubin)

2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Will Iran Interfere in Kashmir? (Michael Rubin)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Will Iran Interfere in Kashmir? (Michael Rubin)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)

2018-04-01 13 Million Users of Domestic Messaging Apps in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Supreme Leader Advisor Lauds Russian Strategic Ties (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Muslims Supported by US, UK are Illegitimate (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Israel’s Missile Defense Can Be Overwhelmed (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran Unveils New Anti-Armor Missile (Michael Rubin)

2018-03-01 Iran: Warship Sinks after Mishap (Michael Rubin)
2018-03-01 Iran: Winning Hearts and Minds in Deir Ezzor (Lucas Winter)
2018-03-01 Iran Develops UAS with “Smart Bomb” Capability (Alma Keshavarz and Robert Bunker)
2018-03-01 Iran: US Sponsoring Islamic State in Afghanistan (Michael Rubin)
2018-03-01 Iran: Winning Hearts and Minds in Deir Ezzor (Lucas Winter)
2018-03-01 Iran: Telegram Giving Data to US and Israel (MIchael Rubin)

2018-02-01 A Malaysian Perspective on US-Iran Relations (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 Turkish Perspectives on Iran (Karen Kaya)
2018-02-01 Iran: Was America Behind Uprising? (Michael Rubin)
2018-02-01 Iran: Lifting the Ban on Instagram was Illegal (Michael Rubin)

2018-02-01 Iran Approaches the Syria-Jordan Border (Lucas Winter)
2018-02-01 Indonesian Perspectives on the Iran Protests (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 India’s Interest in Stability in Iran (Matthew Stein)
2018-02-01 China Limits Internet Exposure to Iran Protests (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 Saudi-Iran Tensions Seen in Nigerian Crackdown on Shia Group (Jacob Zenn)

2018-01-01 Iran: New Military Budget Proposed (Michael Rubin)
2018-01-01 Iran-Khamenei Speaks on Views toward America (Michael Rubin)
2018-01-01 Iran’s Amphibious Aircraft from Russia (Michael Rubin


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.


Sources:

“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), https://www.horanfree.com/archives/13821

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. https://tinyurl.com/sxssrr6v

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.


Notes:

[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.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ababil_3_UAV.jpg  
Attribution: CC 4.0