Jordan carried out two rare air strikes on Monday in southern Syria, hitting a drug factory linked to Iran and killing a smuggler who was allegedly behind major cross-border smuggling operations, local and intelligence sources said.
One of the strikes, the sources added, hit an abandoned drug factory in the southern Syrian province of Dara’a linked to the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is allied with the Syrian government.
The second strike, on the village of al Sha’ab in the neighboring governorate of Sweida, near the Jordanian border, killed prominent Syrian drug smuggler Marei al Ramthan and his family members while they were at home.
Sources from Jordanian intelligence and from intelligence services in the region said that al Ramathan, a major drug dealer in southern Syria, recruited hundreds of Bedouin transport workers who joined the ranks of the armed factions linked to Iran and the influence in southern Syria.
Judicial sources say that Jordanian courts have sentenced him to death in absentia several times in the past years on charges of drug smuggling.
Two sources from intelligence services in the region and a Western diplomatic source tracking the situation in southern Syria confirmed that Jordanian warplanes bombed the two drug-related targets in two rare raids inside Syria since the start of the conflict there for more than 10 years.
Jordan is a major destination for Captagon, a cheap and addictive amphetamine, and is also a transit point for the substance into the Gulf states.
Western and Arab countries say that this drug is produced in and exported from Syria.
The government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad denies its involvement in the drug industry and smuggling.
On the other hand, Iran says these allegations are part of Western plots targeting it.
Hezbollah also denies involvement in the drug trade and says Jordan’s allegations reflect Washington’s campaign to undermine Iran’s influence in the region.
The bombing came days after Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi threatened to launch air strikes inside Syria if Damascus did not curb smuggling operations.
The Jordanian Foreign Minister said that the drug war linked to Iran poses a threat not only to Jordanian national security but also to the Gulf States.
Two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the strikes were a message to Damascus that it shouldn’t mistake Amman’s determination to move forward on this issue while at the same time leading Arab efforts to end the boycott of Syria.
Jordanian officials say that their fears of an increase in drug smuggling were raised in the past months during security meetings with the Syrian authorities, and that they received pledges, but they didn’t see any real attempt to clamp down on this trade.