Jordan foils arms plot as kingdom caught in Iran-Israel shadow war

“Jordan has foiled a suspected Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons into the U.S.-allied kingdom to help opponents of the ruling monarchy carry out acts of sabotage, according to two Jordanian sources with knowledge of the matter.
The weapons were sent by Iranian-backed militias in Syria to a cell of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan that has links to the military wing of Palestinian group Hamas, the people told Reuters. The cache was seized when members of the cell, Jordanians of Palestinian descent, were arrested in late March, they said.”

Arab States Are Giving Palestinians the Cold Shoulder. Here’s Why.

“What’s noteworthy in this entire conflict since Oct. 7 has been the lack of reaction or response from the Arab world. Saudi Arabia continues to hold the door open for a peace agreement with Israel. The UAE, Morocco and Bahrain didn’t even withdraw ambassadors. Jordan did, but of course with about half of its population being Palestinian, Jordan has a particular problem. That lack of reaction I think is very telling. If you needed another example that Arab states are not viscerally concerned about the Palestinians and their fate, this would be it.”

“The 1967 war and emergence of the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” was a watershed moment. Prior to that, the Palestinians in political terms were effectively a function of other Arab states and Arab militaries. You had the PLA, the Palestine Liberation Army, that was under command of other Arab states — Jordan and Syria in particular. So in a sense, you went from, say, 1947 and 1948 to 1967 without an independent Palestinian voice.
The trauma of ’67 changed that, where the PLO did emerge as the voice of the Palestinians. And what reaction did you get from the other Arabs? Fear and loathing. The 1967 war forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into exile following their brethren from the ’48 war [over the founding of Israel]. Many of them wound up in Lebanon and Jordan. And in Lebanon they emerged as an entity that was increasingly independent of any Lebanese government control. … In 1969, the Cairo accords effectively gave the Palestinians under the PLO virtual autonomy in areas where they were settled. They ran the camps and increasingly ran south Lebanon, and that of course was a precipitating factor for the 1982 Israeli invasion.

But getting back to the main point: The last thing the Arab states, particularly those around Palestine and Israel, wanted to see was an independent Palestinian movement, let alone a state.”

“The 1967 war brought two dramatic changes: It ended dreams of the conquest of Israel by force of arms, and it gave rise to the PLO as a somewhat independent force.”

“Black September, the 1970 PLO effort to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy. That failed not just because of the prowess of the Jordanian military but also because the Syrians withheld the air support for the Palestinians they had promised, and that allowed the Jordanians to win the day. That Syrian air force was under command of a general named Hafez al-Assad [later ruler of Syria], whose hatred and fear of all things Palestinian was intense.

That was one of the many ironies of the Israeli invasion in 1982, in that Israel did serious work for Syria in dismantling the PLO structures in Lebanon and forcing the PLO to evacuate from Beirut.”

“secular Palestinian nationalism. But even that was seen as an existential threat to both Jordan and Syria. For both countries, the PLO was a threat that they dealt with in different ways, but for both it was their top national security concern. Everything else was secondary. I don’t think we grasped that in the case of Syria.

The so-called Arab street [a term for public opinion in the Arab world] was behind the Palestinian cause, but it never really affected policy on part of any of the Arab governments. As you go around the region almost all [the Arab governments] were united on one point, which was that the Palestinians were a threat, a foreign population that should be weakened if not exterminated.

In Syria, you had the orchestration of a campaign against the PLO, and in Jordan, and the same in Egypt. It is noteworthy there is no Palestinian population in Egypt. Going back to the days of [former Egyptian leader] Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptians saw the threat. Again, the Palestinians contributed to their isolation through some spectacular acts like the assassination of a Jordanian prime minister in front of the Sheraton hotel in broad daylight in Cairo by two Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PLPF] gunmen, one of whom stooped down to drink the assassinated prime minister’s blood.”

The Killing of 3 American Troops Was an Avoidable Tragedy

“U.S. Special Forces had first set up shop in al-Tanf during the war against the Islamic State. Their plan was to support the Revolutionary Commando Army, a friendly Syrian rebel group. That project failed embarrassingly. The Revolutionary Commando Army suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Islamic State in 2016, and one of its leaders ran off with American-made guns after he was accused of drug trafficking in 2020. Kurdish-led forces elsewhere in Syria became a much more reliable partner for the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, Russia—which is allied with the Iranian and Syrian governments—agreed to enforce a 55 kilometer “deconfliction zone” around al-Tanf. The zone also included Rukban, an unofficial refugee camp built by Syrians fleeing government persecution. (The Syrian government reportedly tortured two former Rukban residents to death in October 2022.) No country wanted to take responsibility for the camp, and it took almost a decade for the U.S. military to begin providing food aid to Rukban.

Washington, however, had a different purpose for al-Tanf in mind: countering Iran and its allies. The base’s location near the Iraqi-Syrian border made it valuable real estate, especially for anyone intent on breaking up the “land bridge” between Iranian allies. It also allowed the U.S. military and Israeli intelligence to listen in on Iranian communications, according to Al-Monitor, a Washington-based magazine focused on the Middle East. So the Americans stayed.

“Control of [al-Tanf] neutralized a key border crossing point on the road between Baghdad and Damascus, which forced Iran and others to cross from Iraq into Syria at a more distant border crossing to the north,” former Trump administration official John Bolton declared in his 2020 memoir, The Room Where It Happened. “Besides, why give away territory for nothing?”

More provocatively, Israeli forces began using al-Tanf’s airspace to bomb Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria. (Since American aircraft often fly the same route, Syrian “air defenses can’t tell the difference until it’s too late,” a U.S. official told Al-Monitor.) The Israeli air campaign, known as “the war between the wars,” was designed to prevent Iran from moving weapons into the region in anticipation of a future war. Israel dropped more than 2,000 bombs on Syria in 2018, through “near-daily” air raids, with the direct involvement of U.S. leaders.

“The Israeli strike plans were submitted through the U.S. military chain and reviewed at CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command], usually days in advance of the strike; the strike plans outlined the purpose of the mission, the number of warplanes that would carry out the attack, and when it would occur,” wrote Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Gordon in his 2022 book, Degrade and Destroy: The Inside Story of the War Against the Islamic State. “They also spelled out the routes the Israeli planes would take and the coordinates of the target that would be struck. CENTCOM would examine the request, which would also be shared with the U.S. defense secretary, who would have the final say.”

It seemed like a win-win arrangement. Israel had a safe route for its bombing runs, and the United States could weaken a foreign rival without getting directly involved. But there was a problem: Iran was not stupid, and it could see that the American troops were facilitating the raids on its own troops. In retaliation for a series of Israeli attacks in October 2021, the Iranian military bombed al-Tanf the following month. No Americans were harmed at the time, but it was an ominous sign of the dangers involved.”

“Other officials and experts continued to worry that al-Tanf could become a liability. Former U.S. Air Force colonel Daniel L. Magruder Jr. called al-Tanf “strategic baggage” in an article published by the Brookings Institute a few weeks after Biden was elected. He recommended withdrawing U.S. forces in exchange for a deal to allow the refugee safe passage. The colonel warned that Russia and Iran had “acted provocatively” against al-Tanf in the past. “Would the U.S. be able to control escalation if an American were killed?” he wondered.

Three years later, Magruder’s question is sadly relevant. It remains to be seen how Biden will react to the killing of the three American troops, and whether that reaction deters further violence or escalates the situation even more. But Washington can’t say it wasn’t warned.”

US hits hard at militias in Iraq and Syria, retaliating for fatal drone attack

“The strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft hit more than 85 targets, including command and control headquarters, intelligence centers, rockets and missiles, drone and ammunition storage sites and other facilities. U.S. Central Command said the strikes used more than 125 precision munitions, and they were delivered by numerous aircraft, inlcuding long-range bombers flown from the United States. One official said B-1 bombers were used.
Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet, said the strikes hit areas in east Syria including the countryside of Mayadeen, Quriya and Rahba that is home to a telecommunications center for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and arms depot in Boukamal along the Iraq border.

The assault came came just hours after Biden and top defense leaders joined grieving families to watch as the remains of the three Army Reserve soldiers were returned to the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

It was unclear what the next steps will be, or whether the days of U.S. warnings have sent militia members scattering into hiding, making it more difficult to detect and strike them. But it was evident that the recent statement released by Kataeb Hezbollah, one of the main Iran-backed militias, saying it was suspending attacks on American troops had no impact on the administration’s plans.

The U.S. strikes appeared to stop short of directly targeting Iran or senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard Quds force within its borders. Iran has denied it was behind the Jordan attack.”

Russia Is Fighting More Than One War. I Went to Check on the ‘Other’ One.

“Here’s what’s being ignored in Syria: An average of 84 civilians have been killed per day over the past decade, according to a U.N. estimate. This totals more than 306,000 deaths since 2011, when the Assad regime brutally cracked down on pro-democratic demonstrations and triggered the civil war.
The U.N. has said that these numbers represent a minimum estimate and that the likely number killed is much higher. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based NGO, has made an estimate of over 600,000 killed, including civilians and non-civilians. Russia has been assisting Assad since 2015, conducting air and ground operations against the opposition forces.”

“The UAE began restoring diplomatic relations with the Assad regime in 2018. This year, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have pressed regional countries to recognize his government. And in May, Assad was welcomed back to a summit of the Arab League for the first time since 2011, in what Al Jazeera described as a “warm reception” — this despite an overwhelming amount of evidence that he and his regime have committed war crimes. Assad used the opportunity to deliver a speech stressing that other countries should not meddle in the “internal affairs” of Arab states.”

The US carrier groups posted near Israel could be under threat from Hezbollah’s new anti-ship missiles: report

“The Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah has obtained Russian anti-ship missiles capable of targeting US carrier groups posted near Israel, Reuters reported.
In a speech last week Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah issued a veiled threat to the US, saying that the militant group had weapons capable of striking US warships in the region to deter attacks on Israel.

Reuters, citing unnamed sources, said that Nasrallah was talking about Russian Yakhont missiles which Hezbollah obtained while fighting alongside Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the Syrian civil war.

The missiles have a range of around 186 miles, and can be launched from ground, sea or air.

Speaking about the possibility that Hezbollah had acquired the weapons, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters: “This is news without any confirmation at all. We do not know if it is true or not.”

A US official told the outlet: “We’re obviously paying a lot of attention to that… and we’re taking what capabilities they have seriously.””

US fighter jets strike Iran-linked sites in Syria in retaliation for attacks on US troops

“U.S. fighter jets launched airstrikes early Friday on two locations in eastern Syria linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Pentagon said, in retaliation for a slew of drone and missile attacks against U.S. bases and personnel in the region that began early last week.
The U.S. strikes reflect the Biden administration’s determination to maintain a delicate balance. The U.S. wants to hit Iranian-backed groups suspected of targeting the U.S. as strongly as possible to deter future aggression, possibly fueled by Israel’s war against Hamas, while also working to avoid inflaming the region and provoking a wider conflict.

According to a senior U.S. military official, the precision strikes were carried out near Boukamal by two F-16 fighter jets, and they struck weapons and ammunition storage areas that were connected to the IRGC. The official said there had been Iranian-aligned militia and IRGC personnel on the base and no civilians, but the U.S. does not have any information yet on casualties or an assessment of damage.”