Jordan Wary of Infiltration By Pro-Assad Sleeper Cells

Article Summary
The Jordanian authorities fear that pro-Assad sleeper cells are infiltrating the country amid the flows of Syrian refugees, and have already foiled several attempts to smuggle weapons into Jordan. King Abdullah II denied rumors of possible US pressure on the Jordanian regime to take covert actions against Assad, reports Tamer al-Samadi.

Some of the dialogue taking place in Jordan’s decision-making circles reflect the extent of the kingdom’s concern over the possibility of Bashar al-Assad-loyalist cells infiltrating Jordanian cities. Infiltration of this nature may lead to acts of sabotage against sensitive strategic facilities or to the assassination of Jordanian and Syrian personalities. Assad-loyalist cells might be motivated to carry out such acts by the fact that the kingdom has welcomed tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Another topic of discussion has been Amman's possibly covert role in Syria.

Sources close to the Jordanian leadership told Al-Hayat that Jordan is concerned about the potentially large flow of Syrian refugees through Jordanian airports. They said that the refugees may enter Jordan through several different transit countries.

Some fear another scenario. Jordanian authorities worry that supporters of the Syrian regime may enter the country among the waves of refugees. They assert that some of these individuals’ mission may be to “provide support for sleeper cells that have been assigned to disturb the peace in the country.”

Some Syrian citizens who were stuck in Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport recently complained that Jordanian authorities prevented them from entering the country, asking them to return to where they came from.

However, Jordan’s foreign minister Nasser Judeh said, “Some individuals were inspected at the airport or at the land border. The decision to deny them entry into Jordan was based on security reasons.”

Official sources told Al-Hayat that what is known within state apparatuses as the “strategic security cell,” which is composed of senior security officials, “has managed to capture a number of persons who were implanted among the refugees in the northern areas to carry out acts of sabotage.”

The sources said that the security forces “captured elements who first claimed to be affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. Investigations revealed that these people were in fact planted by the Syrian regime with the mission of tracking down scores of Syrian Army dissidents who fled to Jordan.”

According to the sources, dozens of suspects have been arrested and returned to Syria after subjecting them to intensive investigations.

One member of the opposition Syrian National Council, Abdel Salam al-Bitar, confirmed this news. He told Al-Hayat that Jordan “fears reprisals from groups that are affiliated with the Syrian security forces.”

“We have received information that Jordan has returned a number of suspicious elements to Syria,” he said.

The Jordanian security services previously foiled attempts to smuggle weapons from Syria into Jordan. The operation caught the attention of the authorities after a young Jordanian man died in a military prison. He had been arrested alongside a number of Syrians who were attempting to smuggle weapons into Jordan.

According to researcher and political analyst Maher Abu-Tayr, the Syrian Embassy in Amman is “continuously involved in security activities.”

“The embassy collects information on Jordan and monitors Syrians who have fled their country. Most of the ambassadors who come to Jordan from Damascus are from the Syrian security institution,” he said.

Abu-Tayr cites officials he describes as "highly informed" as having said that the Syrian intelligence apparatus “has developed an action plan to be implemented in certain countries, namely Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar and Turkey. It has also sent several cells to various countries as a preliminary step.”

Samih al-Ma’aytah, minister of state for media and communications affairs and spokesman for the Jordanian government, told Al-Hayat that there is a “security concern in Jordan” due to the continued flow of Syrians into the kingdom. He says: “It is normal for us to protect our citizens and the tens of thousands of our Syrian brothers who have taken refuge here.”

Ma’aytah denies that any political decision was made to prevent Syrians from taking refuge in Jordan. However, he emphasizes “the Kingdom’s right to take all necessary measures to maintain its security and stability.”

On the other hand, there have been reports that the US has proposed a new scenario to Jordanian officials. US authorities have allegedly proposed that Jordan “adopt a covert role against the Assad regime, similar to the decision adopted by the Jordanian decision-making circle regarding the war on Iraq in 2003.”

Muhammad Abu-Rumman, a researcher at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, said that Jordan “refuses to be a spear in the face of the Syrian regime.”

He added that a solution to the Syrian crisis will “provide the main exit from the economic crisis affecting the kingdom.”

The Jordanian government vehemently denies any military plans against Syria. During a recent visit to Bahrain, Jordan's King Abdullah II stressed the need to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria. 

Found in: terrorism, syrian refugees, syrian national council, syrian embassy, syrian crisis, syrian, sleeper cells, security, refugees, jordan, infiltration, free syrian army, covert activities, bashar al-assad

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