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Jordan’s evolving strategies amid diplomatic tensions with Syria

Jan 28,2024 - Last updated at Jan 28,2024

The Syrian-Jordanian border has recently become a hotbed of unprecedented incidents, marked by violent clashes between the Jordanian army and networks involved in the smuggling of drugs, non-traditional weapons and explosives into Jordan. This surge in cross-border criminal activities has compelled Jordan to reevaluate its engagement strategy to effectively confront and mitigate these emerging threats.

The urgency of this shift in strategy is underscored by the increasing sophistication and frequency of incidents along the border. To safeguard its national interests and protect its citizens, Jordan must adopt a decisive approach. Addressing the sources of these threats within  the Syrian territory becomes paramount, signalling a clear message to illicit networks while limiting the scope of confrontation primarily to the border regions.

This matter has transcended mere border disputes; it has evolved into a question of national security for Jordan. The geopolitical situation in the region, coupled with the potential spillover effects on Jordan’s security and borders, necessitates a robust and proactive approach. Jordan’s adopted strategy seeks to communicate the high cost associated with the continuous targeting of its borders. This includes striking sites within Syria and targeting individuals accused of involvement in smuggling, showcasing Jordan’s commitment to safeguarding its national security. 

Jordan had initially hoped for greater cooperation and involvement from the Syrian side in addressing these shared concerns. Excuses related to areas outside the control of the Syrian government or the presence of militias do not contribute positively to enhancing bilateral cooperation. Notably, Jordan, as one of the first countries to advocate for Syria’s return to the Arab League, envisioned positive impacts on regional security through collaborative efforts with the Syrian government.

In an interesting development, local initiatives have emerged from within Syrian social components trying to directly engage with Jordan. Residents of Suwayda from the Druze community, for example, have embarked on their own political activism, even establishing direct communication channels with other countries. This development poses a serious risk for the Syrian regime, potentially fostering increased fragmentation and legitimising demands for greater autonomy in certain areas.

Historically, Jordan has refrained from engaging with non-official components. However, the evolving situation demands a reassessment of this stance. Jordan must now explore all possibilities to protect its borders and address the risks originating from Syrian territory. While the current diplomatic tension between Jordan and Syria is palpable, an escalation may not be the most pragmatic solution. Instead, it can be viewed as an invitation for the Syrian regime to assume a more efficient role in controlling these phenomena. This is particularly crucial given the perceived risk from anti-Jordan militias and the emergence of terrorist groups, notably Daesh, present in close proximity to the Syrian territories along the Jordanian borders.

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