Middle East Muddle
Jordanians Preparing to Enter Syria?

Jordan is getting ready to set up a buffer zone in war-torn Syria to prevent jihadi conquest of the area along its border—and may perhaps do more. The Financial Times reports:

The main aim of the operation will be to create a safe area on Jordan’s border, stretching across the southern Syrian provinces of Deraa and Suwayda, and including the city of Deraa, where the Syrian uprising began in 2011, according to people familiar with the plans. […]
People familiar with the situation say that Jordan is also considering a militarised zone that will segregate the buffer area from Syrian regime forces to the North. It will be manned by existing fighters in the anti-Assad rebel southern brigades, reinforced with a brigade of troops currently being trained in Jordan. The Jordanian military — one of the most capable in the Middle East — will provide support.

The plans are backed by key members of the international coalition against Isis, who are expected to provide behind-the-lines military support and advice but it remains unclear whether Washington will sanction the move: many in the Obama administration are hesitant about backing a ground operation in Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkey is also reportedly considering its own buffer zone in Syria along its shared border—though that plan seems less about keeping away the jihadis than keeping the Kurds down. As of Monday, the U.S. Department of State says it sees no proof that either Jordan or Turkey is in the process of setting up such zones of control.

As Assad collapses and ISIS gathers strength, however, more and more countries are being sucked into the Syrian war. And though Washington may be “reluctant” to get involved, others aren’t—for “key members of the international coalition” willing to supply military backup, read: Saudi Arabia. With the Saudis pouring billions into arming Lebanon, bombing Houthis in Yemen, and now, perhaps, helping to reinforce the Jordanian border, they’re taking the lead in the Middle East while Washington romances Tehran on nukes. Whatever emerges from the battles in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, the region’s new status quo won’t be stamped “made in the U.S.”—for better or for worse.

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