Are Iran and Jordan approaching tensions in their relationship? The Iranian Nour news agency, considered close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), published a report blaming Jordan for assisting U.S. Air Force F-15 combat aircraft to intercept and endanger an Iranian passenger plane. Mahan Air’s Airbus 310 flight #1152 was flying to Beirut’s international airport over Syrian and Lebanese territory. Mahan’s aircraft have been used in the past by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to convey fighters and equipment to conflict areas in the world.
The report, also publicized by the Tansim news agency affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, claimed that Jordan permitted American “warplanes and drones” to take off from the al-Azraq air base in Jordan from where drones were also dispatched to assassinate Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Iraq. Jordan denies the Iranian claims that it was involved in the Soleimani mission.
The Iranian report warned Jordan that “supporting American terrorists means taking part in evil and illegal actions which endanger civilian aviation and could have consequences for Jordan as well.” The Nour agency called on the Iranian Foreign Ministry to summon the Jordanian chargé d ’affairs to file a complaint about Jordan’s role and to seek clarifications on Jordan’s position. Foreign Minister Zarif tweeted, “U.S. illegally occupies territory of another State and then harasses a scheduled civil airliner—endangering innocent civilian passengers—ostensibly to protect its occupation forces. Audacity to compound lawlessness upon lawlessness.”1
Air Mahan claimed that two American fighter planes threatened the flight over Syrian airspace, and the Iranian pilot was forced to take evasive maneuvers after the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) identified a collision course with the American jets. Iran claimed that passengers were lightly injured during the evasive maneuver. The Iranian ambassador, who visited the wounded in the Beirut hospital, termed the incident “a clear example of American terrorist actions in the region.”
Mahan Air claimed that two American combat aircraft harassed the Iranian plane twice, the first time in the Al-Tanf area in Syria near the border with Jordan, and the second time near the Syria-Lebanon border. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command said the jets “conducted a standard visual inspection of the Iranian passenger plane in a routine fashion and from a safe distance.” The spokesman added that the Mahan plane’s flight path could have posed a danger to the U.S. Special Forces base at Tanf, Syria.
Relations between Iran and Jordan are correct, and the accusation against Jordan by some Iranian sources of helping the United States to harass Iranian planes and being involved in Soleimani’s assassination is unusual. Jordan also supports Gulf States’ regional security policies and stands in line with their defense against Iranian attempts to interfere with the Gulf States’ internal issues.
Iranian attempts to operate in Jordanian territory against Israel in the intelligence realm have met with limited success in the face of counterintelligence actions by Israel and Jordan, who fear Iranian attempts to undermine the Kingdom. Iran sees Jordan as a potential front line against Israel, considering Jordan’s long border with Israel and the ability to surround Israel. A year ago, Israel announced that it arrested a Jordanian citizen recruited by Iranian intelligence and sent to Israel to establish a network of agents and informers through ties with Israeli and Palestinian businessmen. The Jordanian citizen received his instructions from Iranian intelligence personnel in Syria and Lebanon.
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