Undoubtedly the decision centre in Jordan has been keeping a close eye on the developments in Daraa, after ISIS exposed, the first time, their presence in some areas there, hence the confrontations with the “Southern Front” that is a Jordan affiliate, on whose side fought Al Nusra front and the “Ahrar al Sham” movement, in the western Daraa countryside.
Prime among ISIS affiliated factions are; “Shahid Al Yarmouk” brigade, who pledged allegiance to ISIS last year in the contexts of competition with Nusra, to eventually transform in in ISIS’ilk. Second are the “Al Muthanna Islamic” battalion; a faction known to be “salafi-jihadi”, even though they recently seem to be siding with ISIS not Nusra.
Should the confrontations had taken place recently —as well the rising indicators to ISIS’ spread in the southern regions, over the last few months; post the Russian intervention, they would have comprised a considerable concern to Jordan, but these factors today are less influential to the Jordanian national interests, because the Southern Front has reconsolidated and other factions have clutched again to the initiative, with the recession of Russian support post the announcement of Putin’s withdrawal of forces from Syria.
The threat of a monumental surge for ISIS was bound by the intensification of Russia’s intervention, the Jordan-Russia agreement on the cease-fire in the south, which pushed friends of Syria to suspend their support of the Southern Front, in a time during which fundamental shifts in international (American and European) strategies towards the Syrian crisis took place, with the receding weight of moderate opposition on one hand, and the prioritisation of countering ISIS over toppling the Assad regime, on the other.
These international and regional shifts reflected in Daraa clearly, weakening the fabric of the Southern Front —the Syrian FA’s largest faction in the southern regions with Arab and Jordanian sponsorship, threatening its dismantlement. This, followed by the Regime’s break of truce, and the Russians’ failures to commit to their guarantees, as the Syrian Army regained control over the village of Sheikh Miskeen, all gave way to sizeable, valid fears and considerable ambiguity and uncertainty towards the situation in Daraa.
The Syrian military campaign reflected on Jordan in three potential spheres; one, the near dismantlement of the Southern Front to be substituted by ISIS (as previously discussed); second, the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees; and third, confrontations resituating closer, and within direct proximity, to Jordanian borders with Syria.
The implications of Russia break of commitment left the decision makers in Amman quite bedazzled as to what can be done; for there is no intention to come into direct confrontations with the Russians, while in the meantime “staying out of it” in Daraa will not bring about fruitful results, as the “security cushions” approach —previously relied on to absorb and contain the security percussions of the conflict in the south, has been torn to shreds.
The recession of Russian support and the enforcement of the cease-fire in Daraa (bound by the progress of the Geneva talks) have both served the interests of Jordan, granting the Country time to revaluate the folding phase. The rise of ISIS, as well, served Jordan’s view on the situation in Syria, as the Kingdom has been strongly proponent to enabling moderate factions against the Organisation, which is why the apparition of ISIS in the western countryside of Daraa is supposedly benefitial rather than disadvantageous!
Why? Because it reaffirms the important and primary role of Jordan in support of the Southern Front, to confront ISIS, and it brings the decision makers, here, to sit at the tables there in the near future, when deliberations on the Syrian situation take place; for what happens in Daraa is of direct implication to Jordan’s national security!
Even though the two ISIS affiliate factions are not to be taken lightly, the social fabric still rejects ISIS, and Jordan’s return to the table will be decisive; Daraa is once more a Jordanian red line; decision makers in Jordan, this time, go beyond the “cushions” approach, adopted earlier, to consider “Daraa indispensable to Jordan’s National Security”.