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Iran’s Proxy Militias Now Threaten Stability in Jordan

Bordering both Syria and Iraq, Jordan faces unique security challenges. Its strategic alliance with the United States plays a pivotal role in bolstering its security. Iran, the US’s chief regional adversary, is now putting pressure on the Hashemite kingdom.

Jordan national flag cloth fabric waving on beautiful grey sky. © Design_Bank /

April 05, 2024 03:49 EDT

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan finds itself in a precarious position as it grapples with an array of security concerns emanating from its borders with Syria and Iraq. Iranian-backed proxies and militias operating in these neighboring countries have become a significant threat to both Jordan’s stability and its strategic alliance with the United States. 

In addition, the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, as well as the attacks on Americans in Syria, Iraq and Jordan’s Tower 22 (T22), underscore the urgent need for concerted efforts to address these challenges. T22 is an important location northeast of Jordan where Jordan’s borders meet Syria and Iraq. Tower 22 is near the Al Tanf garrison in Syria. 

Jordan’s border regions with Syria and Iraq have long been a source of concern due to the presence of Iranian-backed proxies and militias. These groups, such as Hezbollah, the Popular Mobilization Forces (Al-Hashd al-Shaabi) and Kata’ib Hezbollah, enjoy support from Iran and have been involved in smuggling weapons and drugs along with other illicit activities across the border. The influx of arms and drugs not only destabilizes Jordan but also poses a direct threat to regional security. Since Hamas’s attack on October 7, 2023, on Israel, more than 160 attacks on American troops in Syria and Iraq have been reported.

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza serves as a stark reminder of the potential spillover effects that regional conflicts can have on Jordan. Since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, tensions have been escalating, with even further increased risk of radicalized individuals and groups operating within Jordan’s borders, inspired by the violence and seeking to carry out attacks against both Jordanian and American interests. The attacks on Americans in the region serve as sobering examples of the real and immediate threat posed by these actors.

Jordan has consistently found itself caught between regional threats, domestic socioeconomic pressures and international conflicts. The country faces a range of significant challenges and concerns, including the ongoing impact of the Syrian crisis, the deadlock in the Israel–Palestine conflict and the rise of radicalism in the Middle East as a result of economic and political factors.

The US is a crucial ally

For the United States, Jordan is a crucial ally in the region, providing important intelligence, military cooperation and acting as a stabilizing force amidst the volatile Middle East. The security of Jordan is directly linked to American interests in the region, making it imperative for both nations to collaborate closely in addressing the challenges posed by Iranian proxies and militias. Strengthening intelligence sharing, enhancing border security measures, and bolstering counterterrorism efforts should be top priorities for both Jordan and the United States.

To effectively address these security concerns, a multifaceted approach is required. First and foremost, Jordan should continue to strengthen its security apparatus and enhance border control measures to prevent the smuggling of weapons, drugs and illicit activities. Furthermore, closer coordination and intelligence sharing with partners, such as the United States, Israel and other Arab states, will be essential in identifying and neutralizing threats posed by Iranian proxies.

Likewise, diplomatic efforts should be pursued to highlight the destabilizing role of Iranian proxies and militias in the region. Jordan, with support from its allies, should work to raise international awareness and garner support for measures that curb Iran’s influence and should hold it accountable for its support of these groups. Jordan’s security concerns regarding Iranian proxies and militias operating near its borders in Syria and Iraq are significant and require urgent attention. 

The recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, coupled with attacks on Americans in Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, highlight the immediate threat faced by both Jordan and the United States. Through enhanced intelligence cooperation, strengthened border security and diplomatic efforts, both nations can work together to mitigate these challenges and ensure the stability and security of the region.

Impact of Iranian proxies’ activities on Jordan 

The activities of Iranian proxies and militias near Jordan’s borders not only pose security threats but also have significant economic implications. The smuggling of weapons and drugs disrupts legitimate trade routes, hampers economic development and fuels corruption. Jordan’s efforts to secure its borders and curb illicit activities are crucial for safeguarding its economic interests.

The presence of Iranian-backed militias and their involvement in regional conflicts exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq. 

The displacement of civilians, destruction of infrastructure and loss of life have far-reaching consequences for Jordan as it continues to host a large number of refugees from neighbouring countries. Managing the humanitarian fallout and addressing the needs of vulnerable populations further strain Jordan’s resources. Iranian proxies and militias often operate along sectarian lines, exacerbating existing divisions within the region. This can fuel tensions and create a fertile ground for radicalization, sectarian violence and the spread of extremist ideologies. Jordan’s efforts to maintain social cohesion and religious harmony within its borders become increasingly challenging in such a volatile environment.

The activities of Iranian proxies and militias reflect broader regional power struggles, particularly between Iran and its rivals, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Jordan, as a key regional player, finds itself navigating through these complex dynamics. Balancing its relationships with various actors while safeguarding its national security interests poses a significant diplomatic challenge. Addressing the security concerns posed by Iranian proxies requires close collaboration with regional partners. Strengthening regional cooperation can enhance collective security and contribute to a more stable Middle East.

Given the threat posed by Iranian proxies, Jordan has prioritized robust counterterrorism strategies. These strategies encompass intelligence gathering, law enforcement cooperation and pre-emptive measures to identify and neutralize potential threats. Sharing intelligence with the United States and other allies is crucial for effectively countering transnational terrorist networks.

In addition, Jordan has sought to address security concerns through multilateral diplomatic channels. Engaging in regional forums, such as the Arab League and the United Nations, provides platforms for voicing concerns, garnering support and seeking diplomatic solutions to regional conflicts. Multilateral diplomacy can further amplify Jordan’s efforts to address security challenges.

Jordan’s approach to security and regional security initiatives 

The United States has been a key partner in supporting Jordan’s security efforts. Through military assistance programs, capacity-building initiatives and intelligence cooperation, the US has played a vital role in helping Jordan enhance its border security, counterterrorism capabilities and overall stability.

Jordan has consistently emphasized the importance of regional stability and security. Given its location in a volatile region, the country has actively sought to address security challenges through diplomatic means, regional cooperation and collaboration with international partners. 

Jordan has been an active participant in global counterterrorism efforts. The country has taken steps to prevent and combat terrorism by enhancing its intelligence capabilities, strengthening border security and implementing counterterrorism legislation. Jordan has also cooperated with international partners, sharing intelligence and participating in joint operations against terrorist groups.

Jordan has actively engaged in regional security initiatives, fostering cooperation and dialogue with neighboring countries and regional organizations. These platforms provide opportunities for discussing security concerns, coordinating strategies and developing joint initiatives to address common challenges.

Jordan has developed strong military partnerships with various countries, including the United States and other Western allies. These partnerships involve military training, joint exercises, and the provision of military equipment and assistance. The cooperation aims to enhance Jordan’s defense capabilities, strengthen its border security and improve its ability to respond to security threats.

Jordan has played an active role in the pursuit of peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The country has hosted peace negotiations, including the historic Jordan–Israel peace treaty signed in 1994. Jordan’s commitment to a two-state solution and its efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation in the region have been key elements of its approach to security.

Jordan–US military cooperation 

Jordan’s military partnership with the United States has significantly contributed to the enhancement of its defense capabilities in several ways. 

Firstly, the United States has provided substantial military aid and equipment to Jordan, including advanced weaponry, armored vehicles, aircraft and surveillance systems. This assistance has helped modernize and strengthen Jordan’s military capabilities, enabling it to effectively address security challenges. 

The US military partnership has also involved extensive training and education programs for Jordanian armed forces. Jordanian military personnel receive training in various areas such as counterterrorism, intelligence gathering, special operations and logistics. These training programs improve the skills and professionalism of Jordan’s armed forces, enhancing their operational effectiveness.

The United States and Jordan regularly conduct joint military exercises that involve the participation of both countries’ armed forces. These exercises promote interoperability, facilitate the exchange of best practices and enhance coordination between the two militaries. They also provide an opportunity for Jordan to learn from the US military’s experience and expertise. The partnership facilitates intelligence sharing between Jordan and the United States. Information sharing on security threats, terrorist activities and regional developments enables both countries to have a more comprehensive understanding of the security landscape and take proactive measures to mitigate potential risks.

Jordan and the United States have collaborated closely in the fight against terrorism. The US provides intelligence support and operational cooperation to Jordan’s efforts to counter terrorist organizations such as ISIS and other extremist groups. This cooperation has been crucial in preventing terrorist attacks, disrupting terrorist networks and promoting regional stability.

The US has assisted Jordan in improving its border security measures, including the deployment of surveillance technology and the training of border protection forces. This support has helped Jordan better monitor and control its borders, preventing the infiltration of militants and illicit activities.

The US partnership has also contributed to the development of Jordan’s defense industry. Through joint ventures and technology transfers, Jordan has been able to develop indigenous defense capabilities, including the production and maintenance of military equipment. This enhances Jordan’s self-reliance and strengthens its defense industrial base. Overall, the military partnership between Jordan and the United States has played a crucial role in enhancing Jordan’s defense capabilities. It has provided vital military aid, advanced equipment, training and intelligence cooperation, enabling Jordan to address security challenges, combat terrorism and maintain stability in the region.

Jordan’s security concerns in a volatile region have been met with steadfast cooperation from the United States, resulting in a robust partnership that has significantly bolstered Jordan’s defense capabilities. Through military aid, advanced equipment provisions, training and education programs, joint exercises, intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation, the United States has played a vital role in helping Jordan address security challenges, combat terrorism and maintain regional stability.

The US-Jordan military partnership stands as a testament to the shared commitment to regional security and the recognition of Jordan’s strategic importance. This collaboration has not only strengthened Jordan’s ability to defend its borders and counter security threats but has also fostered interoperability, knowledge exchange and the development of indigenous defense capabilities. 

Furthermore, the US support has extended beyond military assistance to encompass various aspects of security cooperation, including border security, counterinsurgency efforts and involvement in the peace process. Such comprehensive cooperation underscores the depth of the relationship and the mutual understanding of the complex security dynamics in the region.

As Jordan continues to navigate its security challenges, the unwavering cooperation with the United States remains a cornerstone of its security strategy. The partnership serves as a model for effective collaboration between nations, promoting stability, countering terrorism and advancing shared objectives in the pursuit of a secure and peaceful future for Jordan and the wider region. However, Jordan’s security concerns stem from being a buffer zone between Israel and Iran. 

[Erica Beinlich edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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