Iran and its proxies are filling a vacuum left by Russia in southern Syria, the king of Jordan said in an interview this week, saying that it could result in an escalation of problems at Jordan’s border with Syria.

It comes after reports that Russia was withdrawing its forces from Syria to bolster its forces in Ukraine, according to the Moscow Times.

According to the Friday report in the Dutch press, several military units have been relocated from bases across the country to three unnamed Mediterranean airports, from where they will be transferred to Ukraine.

The report also said that the now-abandoned bases have been transferred to Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards Corps, as well as the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Jerusalem and Moscow have in recent years maintained a so-called deconfliction mechanism that works to prevent Israeli and Russian forces from clashing in Syria. The new development could be problematic for Israel, which has sought to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Israel has waged a years-long campaign of airstrikes aimed at pro-Iranian fighters located there and at preventing the transfer of Iranian-supplied weaponry. 

More than 63,000 Russian military personnel have deployed to Syria, Moscow says. 

Speaking at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Jordan’s King Abdullah II stressed that Russia’s presence in southern Syria was a “source of calm” and warned that Iran and its proxies were filling the vacuum left by Russia as it focuses on Ukraine. “Unfortunately we’re looking at maybe an escalation of problems on our borders.”

When asked about Iran, the king stated that “we want everybody to be part of a new Middle East and to move forward, but we do have security challenges. We’re seeing border attacks on a regular basis and we know who’s behind that.”

“Do the politics, the negotiations that are going on between Saudia Arabia, the Gulf countries, the United States, does that move Iran into a more positive light? I hope so. I’m not seeing it on the ground at the moment,” added the Jordanian king.

Earlier this week, Brigadier General Ahmed Hashem Khalifat, the director of Jordan’s Border Security Directorate, complained that the Syrian Army, Hezbollah and Iran were cooperating with drug smugglers along the Syrian-Jordanian border, according to Al-Ghad.

Khalifat added that, since the beginning of the year, over 19 million Captagon pills, half a million cannabis chunks and five bags of pills, a substantial increase compared to last year.

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