Terrorist threats in Syria and Iraq have been increasing recently with signs of the re-emergence of terrorist groups, including Daesh particularly in desert areas. Multiple terrorist attacks occurred recently in Syria. Daesh gunmen ambushed a bus carrying Syrian soldiers, killing at least 20 and wounding others near the eastern town of Mayadeen and in the Deir Ezzor province that borders Iraq. Before that, Daesh was also blamed for killing at least 53 people in an attack in Syria’s central desert province of Homs. Some argue that this Daesh activity is designed to send a clear message that the group is active and capable and was not deterred by the elimination of its leaders.
Meanwhile, in addition to increased terrorist activities, the vigorous narcotrafficking in Syria continues unabated and has not been controlled or even partially contained by re-engaging politically with Syria. This was a crucial step that some Arab countries believed would at least help efforts to confront these illegal networks.
In light of the growing danger of these uncontrolled activities, decision makers are developing the most effective strategies to address the threats at a time when Washington seems to be more willing to engage in facing them, with the approval of the anti-captagon law by the US Congress. Any moves and plans against these threats will be seen positively by a country like Jordan, which is desperately trying to contain the threats that such networks pose to its national security. The threat is no longer limited to drugs, but also include weapons and explosives that some groups consistently try to send to infiltrate Jordanian territories. This was clearly declared by the Jordanian Army, which recently shot down a drone that came from Syria, carrying TNT explosives.
The threat that the narco-trafficking networks represent require quick and effective interventions, and Jordan needs assistance from its allies who have more experience and intelligence on logistics and capabilities. Combined with the threat of re-emerging terrorist groups, a unified effort to face these threats should not distinguish between criminal and terrorist activities, as they are related and need to be addressed concurrently.
Effective control over the continuous flow of drugs from Syria and Iraq needs to be confronted, not only at the Jordanian border, but also at the origin point to drain the resources of those networks. The wide interconnected networks of militias and criminal groups are spread all over the region from Lebanon to Syria, Iraq, Jordan and the Arab Gulf, and addressing them needs to cut their connections across this wide geography. This could isolate the groups and their networks, making it more difficult to traffic the drugs and weapons and make it easier to target individual groups. A US military presence, the revival of an anti-Daesh coalition and the anti-captagon law are all factors that will help in making this confrontation plan efficient and effective.
Terrorism and criminality should be faced seriously and jointly by partners and allies in the region as the growing threat will continue to grow and become stronger, making it more and more difficult to address.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh