analysisIsrael at War

Iran, proxies ‘trying to boost influence in Jordan’

The Shi’ite axis has been busy smuggling weapons to Judea and Samaria via the Hashemite Kingdom, but could it send terror squads via the same route?

The security fence in the tripoint border between Israel, Syria and Jordan in northern Israel, on May 12, 2022. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
The security fence in the tripoint border between Israel, Syria and Jordan in northern Israel, on May 12, 2022. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at: www.patreon.com/yaakovlappin.

The Iranian-led Shi’ite axis has been seeking to flood Judea and Samaria with weapons via neighboring Jordan, but the question of whether the Iranian axis could also try to insert its own terror squads into the area from the east has also recently made headlines in Israel. 

On March 6, Ynet reported that one of the scenarios the defense establishment is preparing for is the infiltration of Iran-backed Shi’ite militia terror cells from Jordan.

Defense sources have recently confirmed to JNS that they have been dealing with a surge of weapons flooding Judea and Samaria, most of them smuggled from the Jordanian border. 

Iran is investing money to get weapons into the hands of terrorists and tries to help direct and carry out attacks, according to one source. 

Meanwhile, the Jordan Valley Regional Council announced on Saturday that, following the discovery of a breach in the border fence, subsequent scans by the Israel Defense Forces found six people who had crossed from Jordan overnight between Friday and Saturday.

Jonathan Spyer, director of research at the Middle East Forum, who has reported extensively in Syria and Iraq and embedded with Iraqi Shi’ite militias during the war against Islamic State, told JNS that from the point of view of physical ability, the scenario of Shi’ite militia infiltration from the east is realistic, but that the scope of such an infiltration would likely be limited. 

“I have seen clear proof from Syrian sources that Iran is able to smuggle drugs and weaponry over the border from Syria into Jordan, and then further along—drugs to the Gulf, weapons to the West Bank,” he stated. 

“This does not translate though into the movement of large numbers of fighters. But in terms of moving small numbers of people, the IRGC  [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] could do it if it wanted to,” he said. The question, he said, is what Iran’s motivation would be for doing so. “What would Iraqi or Syrian fighters bring to the West Bank that Palestinians can’t provide?” he said. “So I think these routes are more likely to be used for smuggling specific weapons types unavailable in the West Bank, such as explosively-formed penetrators, and perhaps specifically-skilled personnel, rather than the movement of large numbers of fighters, which at present probably would not be possible.” 

The Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba organizations are “the best militias the Iranians have other than Lebanese Hezbollah and the Houthis,” said Spyer. 

“Militias recruited by the IRGC from among Syrians exist, but as of now their skills and prowess appear to be very limited by comparison, and they have hardly been used against Israel or against U.S. targets so far,” he said. “It is the Lebanese of course and the Iraqis who are more advanced. The Syrians aren’t there yet, and neither are the Afghans and Pakistanis. The latter are used as cannon fodder in Syria,” he said. 

Furthermore, he said, it is not in Jordan’s interest to allow the movement of large numbers of fighters across its territory.

However, he noted, “When it comes to sealing the border against smuggling and infiltration, the indications are that it is failing significantly in this task.” 

Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the Research and Assessment Division of Israeli Military Intelligence and a senior research fellow at Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy, agrees that Jordan is not likely to allow these militias into its territory.

“I’m not sure how realistic this scenario is now because the Jordanians are prepared, are taking it into consideration, and will want to prevent it,” he said.

But that the idea “could cross the minds of the Iranians and their proxies” is certainly realistic, he added. 

The Iranian axis is “trying constantly to boost influence in Jordan. We had attempted terror attacks and weapons moving from Jordan to the territories. They [the Iranians] know the smuggling routes,” he added. 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly and openly spoken of Tehran’s intentions to boost terrorism in Judea and Samaria. 

In June 2023, during a meeting in Tehran with Ziyad al-Nakhalah, Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Khamenei stated, “The growing power of the resistance groups in the West Bank is the key that can bring the Zionist enemy to its knees, and it is crucial that we continue along this path.”

Kuperwasser noted that Shi’ite militias supported by Iran are already involved in the current war, as they have been firing unmanned aerial vehicles at strategic locations in Israel from Syria and Iraq on a regular basis. 

A new attack route from Jordan “is an operational idea that they are trying to promote, and those responsible [in Israel] must be prepared for this scenario as well,” he added.

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