Middle east

Did Iran Arm a Muslim Brotherhood Cell Linked to Hamas to Carry out Attacks in Jordan?

A prominent official within the Muslim Brotherhood confirms that such activities were not sanctioned by the group's leadership and that the smuggling of weapons into the West Bank was not intended for operations in Jordan

Two informed Jordanian sources reveal that Jordan thwarted a suspected Iranian-backed plot to smuggle weapons into the kingdom, allied with the United States, to aid opponents of the royal rule in carrying out sabotage activities, indicating the level of tension between the two countries, especially after the Gaza war.

The sources state that weapons, sent by Iranian-backed factions in Syria, were destined for a cell linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, with ties to the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). They further add that the weapons were intercepted when members of the cell, Jordanians of Palestinian origin, were arrested in late March.

These revelations come amid heightened tensions in the Middle East due to the war waged by Israel in Gaza against Hamas. Hamas is part of the “Axis of Resistance” against Israel, led by Tehran and comprising several allied factions.

The Jordanian sources requested anonymity and declined to specify the sabotage activities planned, noting that investigations are ongoing.

They assert that the plot aimed to destabilize Jordan, which could become a regional flashpoint in the Gaza crisis, as it hosts a US military base and shares borders with Israel, Syria, and Iraq, where factions allied with Iran are present.

The weapons seized during the March operation were not specified, but the sources indicate that security forces have thwarted several attempts by Iran and its allied groups to smuggle weapons, including Claymore mines, C-4 explosives, Semtex, Kalashnikov rifles, and 107mm Katyusha rockets.

Most of the clandestine flow of weapons into the kingdom was reportedly directed to the adjacent Palestinian territories in the West Bank occupied by Israel. However, some weapons, including those seized in March, were intended for use in Jordan by a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated cell allied with Hamas.

According to one source familiar with security matters, “They hide these weapons in pits called dead points, pinpoint their locations via GPS, and photograph those locations, then issue orders to their elements to retrieve them from there,” referring to the methods used by smugglers in their operations.

The Muslim Brotherhood operates in several countries, and Hamas emerged from it in the 1980s. The group maintains that it does not advocate violence and has operated legally in Jordan for decades.

Jordanian authorities believe that Iran and its allied groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah are attempting to recruit extremist youth from the Muslim Brotherhood in the kingdom for anti-Israel and anti-US purposes in a bid to expand Tehran’s regional network of allied forces, according to the sources.

A prominent representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan confirmed that some members of the group were arrested in March with weapons but stated that whatever they did was not with the group’s approval, adding that he believes they were smuggling weapons into the West Bank, not for operations in Jordan.

Another representative, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, stated, “There is dialogue between the Brotherhood and the authorities. They (the authorities) know that if there are any mistakes, they did not come from the Muslim Brotherhood but from individuals only and do not reflect the policy of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Another leader in the group, also requesting anonymity, said that the cell members who were arrested were recruited by Hamas Deputy Political Bureau Chief Saleh al-Arouri, who orchestrated Hamas operations in the West Bank from his exile in Lebanon. Al-Arouri was killed in a drone strike in Beirut in January, widely believed to have been carried out by Israel.

Officials from the Jordanian government and the US Department of Defense declined to comment, while attempts to reach the Iranian Foreign Ministry were unsuccessful. Israeli officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry have yet to respond to requests for comment.

Last year, Jordan said it thwarted many attempts by infiltrators linked to Iran-backed groups in Syria, who the kingdom said crossed its borders with rocket launchers and explosives, managing to smuggle some weapons without detection. Tehran has denied involvement in such attempts.

Jordan’s King Abdullah walks a tightrope, with most of Jordan’s 11 million inhabitants being of Palestinian origin, as the country has hosted millions of Palestinian refugees fleeing their homeland in the turbulent years following the establishment of Israel. The Gaza crisis has put King Abdullah in a difficult position as he seeks to balance support for the Palestinian cause with maintaining an old alliance with Washington and continuous recognition of Israel.

The war has sparked widespread public anger, with protesters calling for cutting ties with Israel, and street protests erupted last week.

After Jordan’s participation last month in US-led efforts to help Israel shoot down a barrage of drones and rockets launched by Iran, critics posted doctored images on social media of King Abdullah wrapped in the Israeli flag with comments like “traitor” and “the West’s puppet.” Jordanian journalist Bassem Badareen noted that the mismatch between the government’s stance and public opinion in Jordan was more evident than ever following the drone downing.

Badareen mentioned a sense of frustration and dissatisfaction because Jordan has always skillfully maintained neutrality towards all countries in the region, but by intervening in shooting down drones, it became part of the American front.

Two Jordanian politicians, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, argue that King Abdullah’s fear is that any tension with the Muslim Brotherhood might also pose a danger. The group enjoys wide popular support in the country. Jordanian authorities have not publicly announced the alleged weapons smuggling plot and arrests.

One of the informed Jordanian sources familiar with the alleged plot stated that intelligence officials summoned ten prominent figures in the Muslim Brotherhood to inform them that they had arrested a cell that was acting as a bridge between their movement and Hamas.

Retired Brigadier General Saud al-Sharafat of the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate believes Jordan’s decision to participate with Western powers in shooting down Iranian drones targeting Israel partly stems from officials’ fears of being drawn into Iran’s strategic conflict with Israel.

He added that Iranians have instructions to recruit Jordanians and penetrate the Jordanian scene through agents, indicating that those efforts target all sectors of society.

According to many officials and diplomats in the region, the unprecedented attack on an American base in Jordan in January, carried out by pro-Iranian groups in Iraq, provided another incentive for Jordan to participate. This attack resulted in the death of three American soldiers and injured 40 others, claiming to support Hamas in its war against Israel.

A diplomat close to Tehran said that Iran’s ambition to establish a foothold for an allied group in Jordan dates back to Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards assassinated by the United States in 2020. He added that, given Jordan’s strong relations with the United States and the West, Soleimani believed that establishing an allied group in Jordan capable of fighting Israel was of paramount importance for expanding Tehran’s strategic influence in the region.

The animosity between Iran and Jordan dates back to 2004, after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, when King Abdullah accused Tehran of attempting to form a “Shiite crescent” to expand its influence in the region. King Abdullah defended the decision to shoot down drones, saying it was in self-defense and not for Israel, and asserted that his country would not be a battleground for any party. Jordanian politicians also indicated that the army’s intervention was also aimed at sending a signal to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Jordan is an essential buffer zone for the region’s security.

Jordan supports the establishment of a Palestinian state. Some right-wing politicians in Israel envision that Jordan could become a substitute for a Palestinian state, but King Abdullah has repeatedly warned that there is no such thing as the Jordanian option. Marwan Muasher, former Jordanian Foreign Minister and current Vice President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based research organization, says that the official position is that the two-state solution benefits not only the Palestinians but also Jordan because it would establish a Palestinian state on Palestinian land rather than creating a state on Jordanian territory.

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