With Russia pulling troops out of Syria in order to fight the war in Ukraine, Iran is eagerly filling the void – a prospect that concerns at least two of Syria’s neighbors: Israel and Jordan. 

King Abdullah of Jordan warned that Tehran is taking advantage of the Russian military’s distraction. 

“The presence of the Russians in the south in Syria was a source of calm because they were making sure we could deconflict,” Abdullah said during an interview on the Hoover Institution’s broadcast, Battlegrounds. “That vacuum will be filled by the Iranians and their proxies, so, unfortunately, we are looking at maybe an escalation of problems on our borders.”

With its sights set elsewhere now, the Russian military is not the stabilizing force that it has been in the region since its involvement in shoring up Bashar al-Assad’s regime during the Syrian Civil War. 

“I know that gap is being filled by the Iranians and that, quite possibly, will create more insecurities in the region,” the king continued. 

Moreover, negotiations with Iran are not bearing positive fruit, Abdullah noted. 

“Obviously we want every one to be part of a new Middle East and more forward,” Abdullah said, however he questioned how “tactical” and “strategic” talks with Iran have been. 

“Do the politics, the negotiations that are going on between Saudi 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,” he said. 

This comes as things are getting dicey for Israel in Syria as well. Last week, Russian forces reportedly fired anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli Air Force jets for the first time during alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria. Israel is believed to run frequent airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria, something that the Russians have allowed.

However, the alleged use of anti-aircraft missiles could signal a dangerous shift in Russia’s policy toward Israel in Syria and a potential threat to Israel’s future bombing campaigns in the country.

SECOND MEETING WITH BIDEN IN DC IN LESS THAN A YEAR

The king spoke with H.R. McMaster during his official visit to the U.S. where he met with President Joe Biden at a time of heightened tensions in Jerusalem stemming from violence at the al-Aqsa compound and the death of an Al Jazeera reporter during an Israeli raid.

The two met at the White House for a private meeting last Friday. In a statement, the White House said that Biden expressed “unwavering” U.S. support of Jordan and the current leadership, plus he “affirmed his strong support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and cited the need to preserve the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.”

“The President also recognized the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” the statement continued. 

This is Abdullah’s second visit to the White House since Biden took office. He was the first Arab leader to meet with Biden last year and returned less than a year later.

The king, accompanied by Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, also met with members of Congress and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the regional implications of the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“Jordan is a valued leader in a difficult neighborhood and a powerful partner for stability and security in the region,” Austin said. “I look forward to our discussion and to finding ways to deepening this great partnership.”

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