Jordan thwarts Iran-led plan to carry out acts of sabotage in kingdom — sources

Weapons allegedly sent by Iranian-backed militias in Syria to a Muslim Brotherhood cell in the kingdom that has links to Hamas

Protesters in the Jordanian capital Amman fly flags of the Muslim Brotherhood as they rally in support of Palestinians amid Israel-Hamas war on January 27, 2023. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)
Protesters in the Jordanian capital Amman fly flags of the Muslim Brotherhood as they rally in support of Palestinians amid Israel-Hamas war on January 27, 2023. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Jordan has foiled a suspected Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons into the kingdom to help opponents of the ruling US-aligned monarchy carry out acts of sabotage, according to two Jordanian sources with knowledge of the matter.

The weapons were sent by Iranian-backed militias in Syria to a cell of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan that has links to the military wing of Palestinian terror group Hamas, the sources told Reuters.

The cache was seized when members of the cell, Jordanians of Palestinian descent, were arrested in late March, they said.

The alleged plot and arrests came at a time of sky-high tensions in the Middle East, with an American-backed Israel at war in Gaza with Hamas, part of Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” network of proxy groups built up over decades to oppose Israel.

The two Jordanian sources, who requested anonymity to discuss security matters, declined to say what acts of sabotage were allegedly planned, citing ongoing investigations and covert operations.

They said the plot’s aim was to destabilize Jordan, a country that could become a regional flashpoint in the Gaza crisis as it hosts a US military base and shares borders with Israel as well as Syria and Iraq, both home to Iranian-backed militias.

The sources did not specify what weapons were seized in the March raid, though they said that in recent months security services have thwarted numerous attempts by Iran and its allied groups to smuggle in arms including Claymore mines, C4 and Semtex explosives, Kalashnikov rifles and 107mm Katyusha rockets.

Most of the clandestine flow of arms into the country has been bound for the neighboring West Bank, according to the Jordanian sources. However, some of the weapons — including those seized in March — were intended for use in Jordan by the Brotherhood cell allied to Hamas terrorists, they said.

Jordanian authorities believe Iran and its allied terror groups like Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are trying to recruit young, radical members of the kingdom’s Brotherhood to their anti-Israel, anti-US cause in a bid to expand Tehran’s regional network of aligned forces, according to the two sources.

A senior representative of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood confirmed that some of its members were arrested in March in possession of weapons, but said whatever they did was not approved by the group and that he suspected they were smuggling arms to the West Bank rather than planning acts in Jordan.

“There is dialogue between the Brotherhood and the authorities. They know if there are mistakes it’s not the MB, only individuals and not MB policy,” said the representative, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Another senior figure in Brotherhood, who also requested anonymity, told Reuters the arrested cell members had been recruited by Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri, who masterminded the Palestinian group’s operations in the West Bank from exile in Lebanon. Arouri was killed by a drone strike in Beirut in January in an attack widely attributed to Israel.

Over the past year, Jordan has said it has foiled many attempts by infiltrators linked to pro-Iranian militias in Syria who it says have crossed its borders with rocket launchers and explosives, adding that some of the weapons managed to get through undetected. Iran has denied being behind such attempts.

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