Jordan’s purchase of American “F16” fighter jets has raised questions about the reasons for the Jordanian military’s need for these planes, amid talk of messages sent from Amman to Tehran and fears of the return of ISIS to the kingdom’s borders.
On Thursday, the Royal Jordanian Air Force Command and the United States signed an amendment to the F-16 aircraft purchase agreement, which includes the delivery of 12 aircraft, including in the first phase, according to the statement of the “General Command of the Jordanian Armed Forces .”
The agreement comes within the framework of strengthening Jordan’s defense capabilities and military deterrence, increasing the level of combat readiness and joint operations with the US side, in addition to strengthening joint cooperation frameworks between the two countries, and supporting joint efforts to combating and strengthening terrorism. stability in the region, according to the statement.
What are the reasons?
Jordanian author and political analyst Malik Al-Athamna talks about several reasons for Jordan’s need for “F16” aircraft, which will improve the readiness of the Kingdom’s army.
In statements to “Al-Hurra” website, he confirms that the Jordanian army is waging a real war on its northern and eastern borders with “drug smugglers.”
According to his statement, “drug traffickers are clearly supported by Iran,” and he says: “There is Iranian support with clear military technology, and drugs are no longer just a trade, but a war that targets the entire region, not just Jordan not.”
Jordan considers itself “the protector of the Arab depths against Iranian targeting,” and there are almost daily clashes on the northern and eastern borders of the Kingdom between the Jordanian army and Syrian militias and drug traffickers who are fully equipped militarily, according to al-Athamneh ‘s statement.
For his part, Jordanian political researcher Salah Malkawi confirms that Jordan lives in a “crisis” region based on geography.
And he talks to the “Al-Hurra” website about the Jordanian army’s confrontation with the “danger of Iranian militias” on the border with Syria, in light of the escalation of smuggling operations during the last period.
According to him, these militias are involved in drug smuggling operations to Jordan and the Gulf states.
Southern Syria, specifically the governorates of As-Suwayda and Daraa, is considered according to “Agence France Presse” as a stronghold for the main smuggling routes for Captagon pills to Jordan.
On January 27, 2022, the Jordanian army announced that it had thwarted a number of attempts to smuggle large quantities of narcotics, killing 27 smugglers as they attempted to cross the border from Syria into the Kingdom with the support of armed groups .
In February 2022, the Jordanian military announced that efforts to smuggle drugs across the Syrian-Jordanian border, which stretches for about 375 kilometers, had become an “organization” that uses drones and is protected by armed groups.
The military said at the time that Jordanian authorities had thwarted the entry of more than 16 million Captagon pills during about 45 days at the beginning of last year, equivalent to the amount seized throughout the year 2021.
On May 23, 2022, Jordan said that “units of the Syrian army loyal to Iran and factions loyal to Tehran are intensifying their efforts to smuggle drugs worth hundreds of millions of dollars across the Jordanian borders to the rich Gulf markets,” according to “Reuters” .
And the Kingdom confirms that 85 percent of the seized drugs are intended to be smuggled out of Jordan, especially south to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, according to “Agence France Presse.”
The Captagon industry is not new to the region, and Syria has been the most prominent source of this substance since before the outbreak of war in 2011, but the conflict has made its production more popular, used and exported.
The Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, are the main destination for Captagon pills, which are a drug that is easy to manufacture.
A message to Iran?
In July 2022, Jordan’s monarch, King Abdullah II, revealed that his country was facing attacks on its borders “regularly” from “militia linked to Iran”.
In an interview with the official Jordanian newspaper, Al-Rai, the Jordanian monarch confirmed that his country faces regular attacks on its borders from “militia linked to Iran.”
The Jordanian monarch spoke of “drug and arms smuggling operations,” which “target us as well as our brothers,” according to the Jordan News Agency, “Petra.”
King Abdullah said at the time: “As I have previously confirmed on several occasions, Iranian interference affects Arab countries, and today we face regular attacks on our borders from militias linked to Iran.”
Al-Athamneh believes that the F16 deal is aimed at developing the readiness of the Jordanian military, which sends an “indirect message to Iran.”
He points out that the Jordanian army is not fighting a conventional war, but it is facing “another war” with extremists and drug traffickers practicing terrorism that “threatens the fabric of Arab societies.”
Al-Athamneh believed that the first suspect behind these threats is the “Iranian regime”.
On the other hand, Malkawi claims that the F16 fighter jet deal came within the framework of a “military modernization” process that was programmed years in advance and will include the entire Jordanian air force by replacing old aircraft with more modern combat aircraft. .
He speaks of a process aimed at “completely restructuring the Jordanian army and replacing its old weapons with modern ones.”
Malkawi believes the deal “doesn’t send a message to the Iranian regime,” saying, “It has nothing to do with Iran, near or far.”
Fears of the return of ISIS
In 2014, ISIS took control of large parts of Iraq and Syria before being driven out under the weight of counterattacks supported by the United States and its allies in the international coalition to confront the terrorist organization.
Jordan is a member of the international coalition led by the United States to fight the terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq, and Amman and Washington have close military cooperation.
The mission of the international military coalition is to fight ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, according to Reuters.
And in 2019, the terrorist organization lost the last of its territory.
The Syrian city of Raqqa was the organization’s main stronghold, and since losing the last significant piece of ground in 2019, ISIS elements have launched “hit-and-run” attacks in Syria, according to Reuters.
Therefore, Al-Athamneh talks about Jordanian fears and concerns about the return of the “ISIS” organization again in the security-sensitive areas in the neighboring countries of the Kingdom, referring in particular to Syria and Iraq.
And stressed the need for the Jordanian army to enforce “air control” on those border areas with the two neighbors.
Malkawi agrees with him, confirming that “Jordan is a cornerstone of the international coalition against the terrorist organization ISIS.”
Malkawi spoke of real Jordanian fears about the danger of “the return of ISIS” in southern Syria adjacent to the Jordanian border, as well as the confrontation of the Jordanian armed forces with “serial gangs and smuggling of drugs and weapons” across the border.