Syria is on the brink of becoming “a black hole sucking in jihadis from around the world”, warned a senior Jordanian official in Amman this week.
The official, who could not be named due to the sensitivity of his position, said: “Naturally, we in Jordan wish to see the civil war ending as soon as possible, but we have warned other governments that if we do not ensure that the forces controlling Syria after Assad goes include representation of all groups and minorities in the country, including Allawites [the minority to which President Bashar al-Assad and most of Syria’s current leadership belongs], we will see a jihadist chaos.”
Many of the groups currently beating back the forces still loyal to Assad are believed to have links to al-Qaeda, such as the Al-Nusra front, which recently captured a number of military bases and was added last week to the US State Department list of terror groups. Another radical group is the Salafist Ahrar al-Sham, which is now in control of some parts of southern Damascus, including the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee district. Most of the fighters in these groups are from outside Syria and operate independently of the Free Syrian Army. Despite calls by the Jordanian and Western governments to monitor arms shipments to the rebels, they have obtained advanced missiles sent by Gulf states via the Turkish border.
Syria’s neighbours are concerned that, once Assad falls, the jihadists could direct their efforts to other countries in the region. Jordanian security services uncovered earlier this month plans by Jordanian-born jihadists to attack Western targets in the kingdom.
At a funeral of a Salafist fighter in Jordan this week, Abed Shehade, a Salafist leader, said: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be prepared, the army of Mohammed is coming for you. The bearers of explosives in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are coming, and the battle will be between us.”
So far, a number of shells and bullets have hit Israeli territory near the Golan border but, in all cases, they were fired by Syrian army units fighting rebels. In recent months, Israel has reinforced the border defences and added troops in the adjacent