Reports emerged in early February that Fatah’s Tanzim military arm in the West Bank has been purchasing weapons smuggled from Syria through Jordan to arm itself for the succession battle when Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s rule comes to an end.
The reports may still be unconfirmed, but we should take note of what is going on in southern Syria, which could grow into dangerous complications between Jordan and Israel.
Iran is entrenching itself in Syria and concentrating on the south of the country along the border with Jordan, not far from Israel. In contrast to reports of Assad’s army taking control of the area, the true situation is far from that. The Sunni resistance forces are still strong and active.
The expected US withdrawal from the Tanf border crossing between southern Syria with Iraq has provoked a race for control of the crossing. The competition even involves various divisions of the Syrian army, who do not hesitate to shoot each other. For them, this is a struggle over the smuggling routes between Syria and Iraq.
However, there is also the political angle — Iran schemes to turn southern Syria into a Shiite stronghold, and the Alawites are strongly opposed to this. Within the Syrian army, there are soldiers who wear Syrian military uniforms, but are Shiites loyal to Iran, recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe even from Iran itself.
Israeli artillery struck Shiite positions near Quneitra, which were established along the border with Israel, on February 11. The observation positions were reportedly manned by Shiite militias, and possibly Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers.
In other words, this entire region is devoid of an actual sovereign. From this vacuum comes criminal elements, similar to the current situation between Libya and Egypt, where the late Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s weapons stores are being smuggled into Egypt. Iran and Hezbollah are active in this enterprise alongside gangster weapons smugglers. It would be more difficult to smuggle weapons to Jordan if there were some kind of sovereignty over the region.