Mohammad Aburumman

Jordan's "Sponsorship of Daraa"

تم نشره في Mon 15 February / Feb 2016. 12:00 AM

According to Andrew Harper —representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are approximately 70 thousand Syrians fleeing Daraa to villages bordering with Jordan. Many fear a significant rise in the number of displaced Syrian citizens as Russian bombardment intensifies to provide full cover for the progress of the Syrian Army south towards their border with Jordan.

It is clear that "the scenario of Aleppo" is reoccurring in Daraa. This means that the humanitarian crisis south of Syria will aggravate. Moreover, the expected number of refugees will radically increase to hundreds of thousands, contrary to what some Jordanian officials believe, that the central and southern regions of Syria have been vacated of residents, which is completely inaccurate. Initial UNHCR information confirms what we previously warned about, which happens to be much more accurate. There will be a dramatic influx of refugees heading for Jordanian borders, pulling much humanitarian strain and international weight on the already problematic situation.

A noteworthy reminder, in this discourse, would be that there are —already, close to 16 thousand people on the north eastern Jordan-Syria borders, many of whom are children. And that is a number that is likely to increase soon. Should the situation in Syria become any more gruesome, Jordan’s decision makers will find themselves in deep diplomatic trouble, in face of a worsening humanitarian problem.

The military confrontation will not be easy in Daraa. The province homes 50 to 70 thousand fighters. 40 thousand of the fighters concentrated in Daraa are “Southern Front” militants of the FSA —with warm positive relations to Jordan, and 5 to 7 thousand of them are “Al Nusra”. The rest consists of near-line Salafi jihadist factions like Muthanna bin Haritha and “Shohadaa Al Yarmouk Brigade” (who swore allegiance to "Daesh"), and other factions of national Islamic tendencies.

Those fighters would not surrender to the Syrian Army whatever the price, and will resist until their last breath. Confrontations between them will in turn soon shift away from direct to "guerrilla warfare”, short-burst engagements, and suicide bombings. And because Jordanian-Syrian geographical boundaries extend approximately 375 kilometers in length, opposition may find themselves "sandwiched" between the borderline and advancing Syrian Army troops. They will in other times, as well, find themselves cornered near refugee camps adjacent to the border —camps full of displaced citizens who fled the promised “Russian hell”!

So far Jordan has succeeded, tactically, over the past five years in avoiding the military and security perils of the Syrian situation pressing on the Kingdom, and has woven “with strings of gold” its pathway in face of the challenges of a deteriorating conflict so close to bay. The Administration was pragmatic in dealing with the contradictory and shifting factors of the equation in terms of regional pressures on one hand, the Country’s relationship with Syrian opposition and Regime on another, as well as in regards to changes in international-American orientations regarding the Syrian crisis.

In spite of Jordan’s tactics having remained dynamic, or rather “Nationalistically Pragmatic” (as in putting the interests of Jordan and the Country’s security first and foremost) —or perhaps precisely because of it, Jordan has managed to achieve key strategic objectives. First, Jordan’s sponsorship of southern Syria militarily and humanitarianly, in the absence of the Syrian State, neutralised “Al Nusra”, ensured there was no real foot-set  for “Daesh” (ISIS) in the south, and helped unify factions fighting south of Syria under the umbrella of the “Southern Front”.

Additionally, Sponsorship of the South helped establish elaborate ties with Hourani tribes on the basis of the economic humanitarian premise Jordan’s “Cushion” strategy entails.

Mainly pursued to protect the Kingdom’s national security, The Cushion strategy aims to establish and maintain positive relations with residents of the Syrian south.

However, on the other hand, the givens and determinants of the Syrian situation have changed since Russia intervened. There is a dramatic shift in Western and American strategies. And as Saudi Arabia engages in War with Yemen, these shifts became more obvious with the assassination of Zahran Alloush, and the definitive break of the cease-fire put together by Jordan a while ago to protect the Syrian south from what is happening, and what will soon also happen.

 

These changing variables are well-perceived by the Decision Maker in Jordan. The Administration’s approach is based on avoiding direct intervention in Syria, and staying clear from “Russia’s military intrusion”. But what about the dangerous outcomes expected on all aspects, militarily, security-wise, and humanitarianly? How are we going to address the new settings where Jordan’s previous approaches to the matter no longer work?

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