Israeli officials have been holding talks in Jordan with Syrian opposition officials “in advance of a possible Israeli-U.S. operation in Syria to protect the Golan Heights,” Western intelligence sources reported Tuesday, Jan. 1. There was no further information about this operation or how rebel commanders were involved in military plans “to protect the Golan Heights.”
Altogether, the goings-on on the Israeli and Jordanian borders with Syria are in deep hush. But European intelligence sources, some of them French and Russian, reveal nightly clashes taking place between US, Jordanian, Israeli special forces and Syrian rebels, on the one hand, and Syrian special forces, on the other. debkafile’s military sources disclose what they are fighting for:
1. Each of the four is jockeying both for control of the buffer strips along those borders and for keeping their opposite numbers from establishing intelligence-gathering posts there. US forces, the IDF and the Jordanian army have a major tactical interest in keeping Syrian observation posts from settling in the border sectors, where they would be in position to mark out military and civilian targets if the Syrian conflict spilled over.
2. The Assad regime has two special interests in gaining a foothold in Jordan’s border area.
The first is to block the path of Syrian rebels heading back into the country and joining the various warfronts. At least five military facilities in Jordan are training special units of the Syrian opposition. They are managed by American, British, French, Czech and Polish military instructors. They are imparting tactics for capturing Syrian military chemical weapons caches and combating Syrian units armed with chemical or biological weapons.
Some of the rebel trainees return to Syria when they graduate; others are attached to units standing by in Jordan in case the Syrian conflict slides into hostilities with Israel and Jordan.
The second is back-up for the spy and sabotage networks the Assad government is running in Jordan’s refugee camps – just as they are in Turkey. Jordan houses some 60,000 Syrian refugees, most of them in the big Zaatari camp on the Syrian border. To facilitate communication with its undercover networks and the free passage of information, instructions and funds, Syria needs control over both sides of the common border.
Monday, Jordan imposed a blackout on the capture of four Syrian soldiers in the zone between the two countries. The security spokesman in Amman revealed only that they were unarmed and being interrogated – but not whether they were entering the kingdom or on their way out. Earlier that day, a senior Jordanian military spokesman warned of an attempt to expand the Syrian war into Jordan. He did not attribute the attempt to any party.
Military sources in Moscow are more forthcoming about happenings on Syria’s southern borders. Tuesday, Jan. 1, those sources reported that the Syrian army had repulsed a Syrian rebel assault from Jordan. They added that “Syrian border police had also seized a large pile of weapons, some of them Israeli-made, designated for the Free Syrian Army in the southern city of Deraa.
3. Extensive preparations are secretly afoot by US special forces, the IDF and the Turkish and Jordanian armies ready for President Bashar Assad to hand down the order to his army chiefs to launch a chemical war offensive on the military concentrations of Syrian rebels and their allies in the lands neighboring on Syria. Jordan’s training facilities for rebels are seen as likely to be Assad’s initial targets. Western military sources explain that, for this purpose, the Syrian ruler requires maximum control of Jordan’s borders, including the section abutting the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.
The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported that, when Israel officials met Syrian opposition commanders in Jordan this week, they asked for help to locate the remains of Eli Cohen, one of Israel’s most celebrated spies. He was caught and publicly hanged on May 18, 1965 after an epic career. For years, Cohen, posing as a wealthy Arab businessman, gained the confidence of Syrian officials at the highest levels of government and managed to obtain its secret war and political plans.