In a renewed struggle for the political interests of countries, the conflict arena in Syria appears very clearly as a center of tension and ongoing conflicts. The failure of normalization and the faltering step-by-step proposal reveal mazes that have not yet found a solution. These two concepts have become symbols of the political impotence and permanent tensions plaguing the region. 

The Captagon trade also puts on the table new threats that portend dire effects on the stability of the region. Today, there is escalating tension between Jordan, drug traffickers in southern Syria, and hidden Iranian interference, which paints a frightening picture of our troubled region.

The Jordanian “non-paper” for a solution in Syria: 

After the faltering political file in Syria, and the intransigence of the Syrian regime and its allies in making any progress within this file, with the lack of sufficient international will for change in Syria, some countries began to present proposals and solutions away from the idea of excluding the current Syrian regime, so the Jordanian “non-paper” initiative emerged, which It was presented by Jordan to the countries concerned with the Syrian file, including the US administration, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings at the end of 2021. 

According to the “non-paper”, whose title indicates that it was an unofficial proposal at the time, the declared goal was “to find a political solution based on United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 2254,” and according to a new approach that relies on providing incentives to the regime in exchange for the measures required of it, as it presented a table that includes the areas Which will be worked on based on the principle of “step by step,” and the areas are divided into four aspects: humanitarian, implementing UN Resolution 2254, fighting terrorism, and the withdrawal of foreign countries’ forces from Syria. 


 The five-parties consultative meeting in Amman and the Arab initiative: 

At the beginning of May 2023, Jordan took concrete steps to present its new path to a solution in Syria, through the Amman consultative meeting, about 3 weeks before the Arab summit in Riyadh. The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of the Syrian regime, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, and the outcomes of the meeting focused on four key files within the context of “step by step”, as every step taken by the regime towards a solution will be met with a reaction from the Arab side to end isolation from Syria and pressure to ease sanctions and launch the reconstruction process, and these files are:
– The political solution “in line” with Resolution 2254 and not “according to it”
– organizing voluntary and safe returns of refugees and ending their suffering
– supporting Syria and its institutions in any legitimate efforts to extend its control over Syria’s lands and end the foreign presence
– ending the file of manufacturing, trading, and smuggling drugs to the Arab countries and the Gulf via Jordan or elsewhere in cooperation between the Syrian regime, Jordan, and Iraq. 


Returning to the Arab League: 

The return of the Syrian regime to the Arab League and its invitation to attend the 32nd Arab Summit in Jeddah represented a remarkable shift in the normalization of Arab relations with the Syrian regime after its membership was suspended for more than a decade. This step returned the Syrian regime to the Arab arena despite the continuing circumstances that led to its freezing, including failure to adhere to the conditions set by the Arab League for its return, such as working to solve the refugee crisis and revealing the fate of detainees, and the faltering political process to resolve the Syrian crisis. 

The conditions and demands set by the Arab countries regarding the issue of normalization with the Syrian regime vary, as Jordan pays attention to the return of Syrian refugees due to the large numbers present on its lands, but what is more important to it is its concern with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states about the escalation of drug smuggling operations, as the militias linked to Iran in Syria are considered the party directly responsible for the production and smuggling of these drugs. 


Has the Syrian regime adhered to its responsibilities? 

Only a few months after the Syrian regime reaped the first fruits of the Arab approach to finding a solution in Syria, which is based on entering into a political dialogue with it to end the Syrian crisis and address its repercussions with direct Arab supervision and participation, the momentum for normalization declined, and the “step by step” approach with the Syrian regime became stagnant. Drug smuggling operations continued across the borders of Iraq and Jordan, and large shipments were seized at that time, as 450,000 Captagon pills were seized in Lebanon, and Amman recorded its largest seizure ever with six million pills, and in the same month, the Iraqi authorities found 250,000 pills. In a school near the Syrian border. Months earlier, 3 million pills had been seized at the crossings with Syria. 

 The Jordanian authorities announced the thwarting of several drug smuggling operations from Syria to Jordan, which resulted in clashes between Jordanian forces and smuggling gangs. While the Jordanian government expected to reduce the volume of smuggling by approving the normalization initiative with the Syrian regime, the intensity of smuggling increased and the situation escalated, which indicates the use of the regime Drugs as a means of pressuring Arab countries to normalize without any conditions or compensation. 

In light of the continued drug smuggling into Jordan, the Jordanian Foreign Minister warned that the Kingdom will take all necessary steps to prevent this security threat, during his meeting with his Iranian counterpart, stressing that those who attack Jordan’s security will not escape punishment. In turn, the Jordanian Minister of the Interior said: “His country treats every truck coming from Syria to Jordan as carrying drugs until proving the opposite.”

Jordan expands its operations to include Syrian territory: 

On December 19, 2023, Jordan launched several air strikes targeting drug traffickers’ hideouts in southern Syria in the town of Salkhad in Suwayda Governorate, in addition to other hideouts in Daraa Governorate, in response to what Jordan called extensive, intensive smuggling operations. These rare raids considered the first carried out by the Jordanian army inside Syria since the conflict in the region began more than a decade ago. 

What is happening today has taken on new dimensions in the war on drug gangs, as smuggling operations have taken on an advanced nature after using the drones in smuggling. If it was usual for these drones to carry drugs, what is new is that they carry TNT explosives and weapons, as they were shot down by the Jordanian military defenses, which deal with continuous movements and provocations close to the border, with goals far beyond the drug issue alone. 

During the following days, widespread armed clashes took place between Jordanian border guard forces and large armed groups of smugglers on the northern border of Jordan, resulting in the injury and arrest of a number of smugglers, the thwarting of the smuggling of large quantities of drugs, weapons and missiles, and the destruction of a car loaded with explosive materials.

Increasing intensity of Jordanian statements referring to Iran 

Jordan and its allies consider Lebanese Hezbollah and other factions loyal to Iran to be responsible for the escalation in smuggling cases. At the same time, Iran and Hezbollah reject these accusations and describe them as a Western conspiracy against Syria, and deny collusion with the armed factions. 

Jordanian Military Media Director Mustafa Al-Hayari recently stated, “Jordan is facing an organized criminal enterprise that smuggles drugs in large quantities on the northern border, and that there is an insistence on smuggling drugs into Jordan despite the human and material losses incurred by the smugglers, stressing that the smuggling operations are behind organized gangs that have the ability to bear losses, and it has received military training for that, and there are external agendas behind it,” referring to Iran. He also stressed that “communication with the Syrian regime regarding drugs has occurred more than once without any reaction.” 


Syrian civilians are the biggest losers 

At a time when the Syrians are still paying the heaviest price, in their war with the Syrian regime, which killed and arrested thousands of them and displaced millions from their homes, and those who remain in areas controlled by the Syrian regime are paying the price due to the poor security, living and economic conditions in these areas, in addition to the spread of corruption, crime, and drugs sponsored and supported by the Syrian regime as it is a major source of income for it. Today, civilians in southern Syria are exposed to a new crisis, which is their exposure to killing and displacement as a result of the military operation launched by Jordan against drug dealers and smugglers within Syria’s borders. 

A woman and her husband were killed in the village of Al-Shaab, southeast of Al-Suwayda, as a result of the bombing of their house by Jordanian aircraft on the 9th of January, and the Jordanian raids on January 18 on several houses in the villages of Arman and Malah in Al-Suwayda led to the killing of 9 civilians, including 5 women and two girls, in addition to one drug smuggler, amid silence from the Syrian regime, which is supposed to control the region. 

The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity affirms that Jordan has the right to maintain the security and safety of its borders and prevent drug smuggling across them, but indiscriminate bombing of homes inhabited by civilians is never an acceptable solution. Rather, it must take into account the security and safety of civilians in its operations, and it also affirms that trying to coordinate with the Syrian regime in war against drug trade and smuggling is illogical, as the regime and its allies are the largest supporter of this trade around the world. 

The Arab countries and concerned countries must realize that the process of normalization with the Syrian regime will not achieve peace and security in the region, and the only solution that achieves peace and ends the Syrian crisis is the comprehensive political solution that can achieve a safe environment whose conditions are determined by the Syrians themselves and which can achieve safe and voluntary return to the displaced and the refugees, and guarantees internal peace in Syria and peace with neighboring countries.