By Mohammad Aburumman

The Rhetoric and Timing of Jordan’s Engagement South of Syria

The Jordanian Army’s announced directly targeting ISIS —aka Daesh— locations in the south of Syria, in an uncoordinated strike, without the Global Coalition, against ISIS.

Evidently, give us yet another indication on the shift in Jordan’s military strategy for borderline Syrian territories.

There are two main variables in play here:

The first has a lot to do with the growth of the terrorist group’s influence on the southern Syrian region; in Daraa, with the formation of the Khalid Bin al Walid Army, and the group’s spanning control over several villages along the Yarmouk Basin as well as the Deir al Zour and Homs outskirts across the Syrian Badia, so close to our northern and north eastern borders, all the way to Rukban, especially with so many Jordanians among them, who split from the formerly known faction; the Nusra Front!

As the military pressure against ISIS in Mosul builds up, the Syrian Badia becomes more and more a source of threat, with the chance that Daesh militants may relocate there, as there are several indications it rising ISIS activity in the Badia over the last few months.

Soon, the Syrian Badia may become Jordan’s number one source of external threat.

Second, there is the fact that the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for several operations in Jordan, changing the rules of the game, from when the group was not targeting Jordan directly and not declaring responsibility for attacks in Jordan.

By default, this shift means an open confrontation with ISIS.

More so, over the recent duration, the situation has fundamentally changed; Jordan has been able to keep the terrorist group’s dangers away from the southern regions, relying mainly on a highly effective strategy coined “the cushion” by officials; which relies mainly on the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the so-called moderate factions, reinforcing their presence and influence along the Syrian borderline territories with Jordan, to protect the Kingdom.

Despite everything, ISIS showed noticeable capabilities last year, when it came to infiltrating factions and gaining their allegiance; like the Khalid Bin al Walid Army.

Afterwards, the group actively worked to cultivate a stronger presence in the Syrian Badia, and they are probably trying to win over the Rukban Camp and out the two main rivalling factions; the “Lions of the East”, a faction of the Gulf-affiliated Salafi authenticity and progress flank, and the Tribal Army, said to be close to the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, the American idea to train the “New Syria Army” has failed, as it has been almost completely dismantled after the first confrontation against ISIS, which cost the “NSA” a large portion of their weapons and equipment.

Equally unsettling is the fact that even though the Khalid Bin al Walid Army has been sieged by the Southern Frontier for months now, still the ‘Army’ stands and survives, whereas the Southern Frontier’s situation is not exactly promising, given the rise of dispute and internal crises among their midst over the last several months.

All of the above would accelerate Jordan’s shift to a new strategy in the Syrian south, relying mainly and directly on the Jordanian Armed Forces—Arab Army to keep threats away and stand up to ISIS, which would require precise intelligence and information on movements throughout borderline areas especially, and particularly closer to residential areas.

This is exactly what happened in the Jordanian Air Force’s recent strike.

Most probably, it wasn’t the first aerial raid, but it is necessarily not going to be the last time Khalid Bin al Walid’s locations are struck from the air.

However, there are two reasons, I think, this particular strike was announced: first, due to the scale of its effect on ISIS, and second is the symbolic importance of timing; this strike comes as a response to the terrorists’ last attack on Jordan, on the memorial day of our martyr soldiers, who braved their fates to protect us, as said in the Army’s communique.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.

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