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Chaos in Southern Syria

2024-02-07 08:22

Issam Khoury

#RegionalInstability , #SouthernSyriaUnrest , #JordanAirstrikesSyria , #DrugTraffickingSyria , #ArmedGroupsConflict , #SyriaCrisis , #MilitaryInvolvement,

Chaos in Southern Syria

"Jordan strikes drug routes in Syria amidst tension; local conflicts intensify with external influences, complicating southern Syria's stability."

On January 5, 2023, the Jordanian air force targeted a drug dealer's house in the village of Al-Sha'ab in the Syrian countryside of Sweida with two airstrikes[1]. Another strike hit warehouses near the village of Al-Ghariya. Recently, these Jordanian airstrikes inside Syrian territory have become routine and similar to Israel's strikes in Syria. This indicates a lack of trust in the Syrian regime's ability to manage the "step-by-step[2]" project proposed by Jordan to reintegrate Syria into the Arab fold through Arab incentives, provided that Iran withdraws from its territories and guarantees Hezbollah and Shia militias' withdrawal from frontlines and security checkpoints.


Armed clashes erupted on March 31, 2023 between two armed groups involved in drug trafficking in Jleeghem al-Hammad area located in the Syrian Badia region. It is noteworthy that Abu Anad al-Jumaily[3], affiliated with Syria's State Security branch linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), while the winning side was associated with Syrian's Air Intelligence linked to Russian military police. News about this dispute spread across social media platforms giving an impression to Jordan that it is dealing with smuggling operations orchestrated by Syrian security institutions through local intermediaries. Russian forces are also benefiting from this trade amidst chaos in Syria.


Therefore, it was necessary for the United States to activate its covert military arm in southern Syria as a message to Moscow stating, "We can stabilize southern Syria if you are unable." This covert arm is led by Ahmed Al-Awda who has demonstrated clear commitment towards following instructions from sponsors of the MOC room (Military Operations Command in southern Syria), particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Ahmed Al-Awda has close ties with Syrian businessman Khaled Al-Muhaymid, who is closely associated with UAE decision-making circles. It appears that Ahmed Al-Awda played a role in the elimination of ISIS leader Abu Hassan al- Quraishi[4], who was killed in October 2022 in the southern Syrian city of Jasim. The United States announced that local fighters affiliated with the Free Syrian Army besieged and killed the third caliph of ISIS[5].


After the Syrian revolution became an armed conflict, Ahmed Al-Awda established a military faction called "The Youth Sunni Brigade," which later joined the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army. He committed to reconciliation with the Syrian regime under Russian sponsorship in 2018. This reconciliation seems to have been influenced by Gulf directives following former President Donald Trump's decision to dissolve MOC room in 2017[6], which managed operations for the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army.


Despite reconciling with the Syrian regime, Ahmed Al-Awda and many of his associates did not comply with the Syrian army under the Syrian regime. They also did not work under the umbrella of the Syrian intelligence linked to the Russian military police but remained independent. They established a negotiating team with the Syrian regime called "The Central Committee." However, the Syrian regime violated many agreements with The Central Committee and arrested several opposition fighters who had joined in reconciliation with the Syrian regime.


Due to tightening security by both Syria and Iran behind them, Ahmed Al-Awda left Syria for Jordan and stayed there for approximately 13 months before returning to his hometown of Basra al-Harir in September 2022 along with his supporters. One month after his return, Khalifa Qurayshi was assassinated.


After coordinating with Russia, Al-Awda led a military brigade in southern Syria named "Brigade Eight." This brigade did not make significant moves under Russian supervision but recently played a military role to strengthen The Central Committee and prevent defections within it. On January 7th, 2024, this brigade raided former leader Mohammed Jadallah Al-Zoubi's headquarters in the Miftara area on Yadouda Road west of Daraa after accusing him of carrying out assassinations on behalf of the Syrian regime, including killing committee leader Radi Al-Hashish[7].


This clear direction taken by Brigade Eight gives the impression that Ahmed Al-Awda and Arab countries supporting the "step-by-step" project may support him in establishing ground control over southern Syria. This would create a safe zone free from agents of the Syrian regime and mercenaries associated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard. In this way, they could achieve their anti-captagon project “Captagon Act”. Undoubtedly, this move is supported by the Jordanian air force which Damascus cannot deter as it seeks financial gains from Arab countries.



[1] Jordan launches airstrikes on drug traffickers' hideouts linked to Iran in Syria/ January 5, 2024/ AFP

الأردن يشن غارات جوية على مخابئ تجار مخدرات مرتبطين بإيران في سوريا (france24.com)


[2] The plan assumes "the withdrawal of all foreign forces and foreign fighters from all Syrian territories they entered after 2011, including the areas in northeastern Syria and the US military base, lifting sanctions, and donor funding for the reconstruction of Syria."

"The Jordanian Initiative" for Syria... Three stages ending with the exit of Iran and Hezbollah / Al-Majalla / June 25, 2023.


[3] Drug smuggling groups supported by the security forces clash in Daraa / Baladi News, March 31, 2023.

مجموعات تهريب مخدرات مدعومة من أمن النظام تشتبك في درعا | شبكة بلدي الإعلامية (baladi-news.com)


[4] al-Quraishi individual concealed themselves in southern Syria, claiming to be named "Abdul Rahman Al-Iraqi."


[5] How did the leader of the Islamic State organization get killed in southern Syria? (Al Jazeera, December 1, 2022)

 كيف قتل زعيم تنظيم الدولة جنوب سوريا؟ | أخبار | الجزيرة نت (aljazeera.net)


[6] Why did America halt its arms program for Syrian opposition groups? (Arabi21, July 24, 2017)

 لماذا أوقفت أمريكا برنامج تسليحها لجماعات سورية معارضة؟ ... (arabi21.com)


[7] What is happening in the vicinity of Yadouda, west of Daraa? / Enab Baladi Magazine / January 8th - 2024

 لماذا أوقفت أمريكا برنامج تسليحها لجماعات سورية معارضة؟ ... (arabi21.com)



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