Drug smugglers operating on Syria’s southern border with Jordan have begun to receive text messages warning against pursuing the illicit trade.

The warnings were sent out nine days after a smuggler was killed in a mysterious air raid in southern Syria.

“We know who you are. Your movements are being watched. Your meetings are under surveillance,” says a purported transcript of the messages, provided by the Suwayda24 network of citizen journalists in southern Syria.

Jordan, a main conduit for what Arab officials describe as a multibillion-dollar trade in the amphetamine known as Captagon, is seeking co-operation with Damascus to halt the flow of drugs.

Captagon pills are frequently smuggled through the 360-kilometre border between Jordan and Syria and the trade has been booming since 2018.

That same year, the Syrian military regained control over most of the southern part of the country from rebels supported by Arab and western countries.

Curbing Captagon flows has been a main factor behind a drive by Jordan to normalise ties with President Bashar Al Assad and efforts by Amman, Saudi Arabia and other countries to restore Damascus’s membership in the Arab League.

Its membership was suspended in November 2011 after Syrian army tanks overran cities across the country to put down mass demonstrations against Mr Assad, who has ruled since 2000.

Jordanian efforts received a boost from Saudi Arabia, which agreed with Iran, Mr Assad’s main regional backer, to Chinese-supervised detente in March.

Jordanian officials have accused Iran-backed militias of sponsoring the trade, a large part of which flows to Saudi Arabia through Jordanian territory.

The messages demand that the smugglers hand themselves in to Jordanian border guards.

“You are contributing to sabotaging the minds of our people’s children,” the message transcript reads.

There was no immediate comment from Jordanian authorities.

Officials in Amman have not denied that Amman may have been responsible for the May 8 air raid that reportedly killed Syrian drug dealer Murei Al Ramthan and at least five of his six children.

Rayyan Maarouf, a researcher at Suwayda24, said the messages had been sent to Jordanian and Syrian numbers belonging to smugglers as well as members of their families.

Mr Maarouf said Suwayda24 was forwarded the message by a resident of southern Syria.

Jordanian mobile phone companies have boosted coverage in border areas over the past decade, encouraging more residents of southern Syria to use Jordanian sim cards, which in some areas provide better coverage than the Syrian network.

A member of the Syrian opposition, who is in exile in Jordan, said the messages suggest that there is co-operation from the Syrian authorities.

“The Syrian regime has to acquiesce for such messages to be sent on its networks,” he said, pointing out that the messages mostly went to local middlemen and drivers who transport the Captagon, and not to members of the Syrian military.

“Whoever is sending the messages is keen to show that Jordan is taking a tough stance on the narcotics.”



Source: The National News

By: Khaled Yacoub Oweis

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Observatory.