In a pivotal step reflecting the changeability of military and political deals in Israel’s neighborhood, Jordan has almost overnight agreed to establish a shared war room with Russia for the concerted conduct of their operations in Syria. This represents an extreme reversal of Amman’s policy. Until now, Jordan fought against Russia’s protégée Bashar Assad from a joint war room north of Amman called the US Central Command Forward-Jordan, as part of a lineup with the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
But this week Jordan shifted onto a new plane.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources say Jordanian King Abdullah’s decision to team up with Moscow starts a whole new ball game rolling on policy-making and intelligence-sharing. He doesn’t plan to shut down his shared command center with the US and Israel, but the center of gravity of Jordan’s military and intelligence efforts will be redirected to the new center with Russia, representing a major earthquake in those areas.
Amman is working hard to downplay the new partnership, presenting it as designed to foster better coordination between the American and Russian military efforts in Syria and the war on the Islamic State.
That picture is misleading.
With all due respect to the Jordanian monarch, his military and his intelligence services, they are not exactly qualified for the role of coordinator between the two world powers. The US and Russian presidents handle this in person. And in fact, the new Russian-Jordanian war room did come up, according to our Washington and Moscow sources, in the latest telephone conversation between the two presidents on Jan. 13.
Obama then held a quick meeting with King Abdullah at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and asked for an explanation.
For the various rebel militias holding out in large parts of southern Syria, including the Israeli border regions, the new Jordanian-Russian war room is bad news. Hitherto, Jordan provided the rebels with their main pipeline for fighters, weapons and funds from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The US even ran training camps in Jordan for Syrian rebel fighters.
This pipeline is now likely to be shut down or reduced to a minimum.
The Jordanians gloss over their shift, claiming it is designed to force the Syrian rebels of the South to accept a ceasefire and join peace talks with the US and Russia on Syria’s future. That is no more than diplomatic-speak for the real purpose, which is to compel them to give up the fight against Assad, and make way for Moscow to achieve its key objective, which is to restore the Assad regime’s control over the South.
Ever since his major intervention in Syria, Putin has tried to persuade Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to pull the rug from under the Israeli-backed rebels in the South. They are deemed as a necessary buffer for securing Israel's northern border and blocking the reimposition of Assad's authority there..
The content of the exchanges between Putin and Netanyahu has only been shared with tight circles of confidants in Jerusalem and the Kremlin, so little is reliably known about their areas of agreement and dispute.
There is no doubt that the prime minister spoke firmly about Israel’s abiding concern that, once Assad regained control of the South, he would open the door up to the Israeli border and let in his allies and Israel’s arch enemies, Hizballah and the mostly-Iraqi Shiite militias fighting under the command of officers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
By teaming up with Jordan for a joint war room to cover operations in southern Syria, Putin has gone around Netanyahu’s back and acquired a helper for evicting Syrian rebels from southern Syria.