On 18 December, the Jordanian army intercepted a major drug smuggling operation from Syria, highlighting the enduring challenge along the 375-kilometre desert border. This troubled border zone has long facilitated a multimillion-dollar drug trade amid civil war chaos and Syrian regime complicity.
Yet, recent events signify a worrisome turn in smuggling tactics— increased frequency, better coordination, diverse shipments, and heightened violence. These alarming developments not only exacerbate illicit trade but also introduce an entirely new spectrum of security challenges that Jordan cannot afford to disregard.
In recent days, there's been a sharp increase in smuggling operations heading into Jordan. Within less than a week, the Jordanian border forces intercepted five such attempts. The first was reported on 12 December, followed by three consecutive incidents, with the latest occurring late on Sunday the 17th, leaving just a day's gap between them.
However, the number of smuggling attempts during this period is likely higher than reported. Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, mentioned that out of three drug smuggling attempts from the Syrian-Jordanian border, one successfully breaches through.
Shift in tactics
Recent reports indicate a shift in tactics among smugglers, orchestrating simultaneous and coordinated operations across a stretch exceeding 100 km. This strategic change could escalate their success rate. Even with this conservative estimate, it indicates the likelihood of at least one more smuggling operation occurring that week, suggesting nearly daily incidents.
It's crucial to note that the scale of these operations varies considerably. For instance, on 14 December, authorities intercepted nearly half a million Captagon pills and 1500 kilogrammes of hashish. Yet, a significantly larger seizure occurred on 18 December, comprising nearly 5 million Captagon pills and 13,000 kilogrammes of cannabis.
Beyond the surge in frequency, the recent smuggling attempts have been marked by an alarming escalation in violence.