Jordan Bolsters Surveillance of Syrian Sleeper Cells
By: Tamer Samadi Translated from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab).
Jordanian officials in Amman are openly expressing concern over the possible existence of a "Jordanian Michel Samaha" on their land, noting that they have repeatedly arrested "Syrian sleeper cells" in a number of Jordanian cities which are hosting large number of Syrian refugees.
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Following last week’s arrest of pro-Assad Lebanese politician Michel Samaha on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks, Jordan has upped its security measures against the Syrian regime's supporters in the country. Tamer Samadi reports on how security forces have already made significant progress in identifying Syrian sleeper cells.Publisher: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab)
Amman Worried about "Jordanian Samaha" on its Territory
Author: Tamer Samadi
First Published: August 13, 2012
Posted on: August 13 2012
Translated by: Sami-Joe Abboud
The Lebanese authorities' accusations leveled against former minister and MP Michel Samaha, including his alleged involvement in plots to carry out bombings in various areas under the guidance of the Syrian regime, has seemingly had a significant effect on Jordan. This has prompted some elements within the Jordanian government to sound the alarm and call for greater caution. Some Jordanian newspapers even rushed to openly express their concern over "the presence of a Michel Samaha among Jordanian supporters of the Syrian regime.”
Jordanian security services have declared a state of security alert since the beginning of the popular uprising in their northern neighbor. Subsequently, security services have also formed a so-called "strategic security cell," which includes senior officials from state institutions, especially the General Intelligence Directorate.
According to statements made by a prominent Jordanian minister to Al-Hayat, in only a short period of time, this cell managed to "monitor Syrian cells hidden in northern areas," Besides monitoring individuals who presented themselves as defectors from the Syrian army but turned out to be Syrian security elements entering into Jordan to spy. Furthermore, the Security Directorate of Jordan previously confirmed that the relevant apparatuses had foiled arms smuggling operations from Syria.
Jordan does not forget its "bitter" experiences with Syrian spy cells in the 1970s, the 1980s and earlier. The Syrian security apparatuses managed back then to carry out bombings in Amman. Moreover, they tried to assassinate the late King Hussein Bin Talal, Prime Minister Mudar Badran and a number of Syrian activists, including Saeed al-Bakri.
[The late Syrian President] Hafez al-Assad perceived Jordan as a supporter of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the '80s, after the kingdom welcomed thousands of refugees fleeing from the first Hama massacre.
A Jordanian minister told Al-Hayat: "We cannot hide our concern over the dramatic developments happening in neighboring Syria. We should be extremely cautious." The minister then added: "Any regime that gets to a critical phase will not give up on its tools.”
The minister, who preferred to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the situation, confirmed "the readiness of Jordan, which hosts tens of thousands of Syrians, to respond to any aggression.”
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh had said earlier that "suspicious Syrian individuals arrived via Queen Alia International Airport at various times and were prevented from entering Jordan in order to preserve the country's security and stability.”
Even more concerning, information leaked from within official circles indicates that there are "suspicious" activities being carried out by the Syrian Embassy in Amman. In particular, they are collecting information on Syrian dissidents and organizing meetings attended by Jordanian figures that are loyal to the Assad regime.
Based on this information, Jordan is monitoring the activity of Syrian diplomats in Jordan. According to Jordanian officials, authorities have refrained from closing the Syrian Embassy in Amman and withdrawing Jordan’s ambassador from Damascus in order to ensure the security of the thousands of Jordanians who are still living in Syria.
Maher Abu Tair, a former adviser to the Jordanian government, told Al-Hayat that “the Syrian regime is threatening the security of the entire region." He added: "The information circulating within the Jordanian decision-making body indicates the existence of Syrian dormant networks. Jordanian intelligence knows full well that there are Jordanian elites who travel to Syria to cooperate with Syrian intelligence.”
According to Abu Tair, the task of these networks "may not be limited to the use of arms, but also to creating chaos in a country witnessing protests demanding reform.”
However, Ibrahim Alloush, a close associate of the Syrian regime in Jordan, denies the involvement of the Syrian regime in any subversive acts on Jordanian territory. Alloush said that the Jordanian regime "did not seem neutral in dealing with the Syrian issue, and has allowed the infiltration of terrorists to kill civilians in Syria.” He noted: "The Syrian regime is not being asked how it is defending itself when it is under terrorist attack.”
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