TEL AVIV – Israeli and Jordanian F-16s confronted Russian warplanes in January, warning them to stay away from the two countries’ shared border, King Abdullah of Jordan told U.S. lawmakers.
According to a report by the Middle East Eye on Abdullah’s briefing to members of Congress on January 11, Russian warplanes were observing Israeli defense measures in the Golan Heights, which borders Syria.
Abdullah, a U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State, also met with Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We saw the Russians fly down, but they were met with Israeli and Jordanian F-16s, both together in Israeli and Jordanian airspace. The Russians were shocked and understood they cannot mess with us,” the king said to the American lawmakers, according to a leaked memo.
Following Russia’s deployment of military aircraft to assist Syrian President Bashar Assad, Israel and Jordan discussed ways to keep the Russians in check. Abdullah said IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reached out to him and asked him to speak to the Russians. The king also met with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen in Amman.
“We discussed an idea on how to keep the Russians in their place,” Abdullah said, adding that Amman spoke to Moscow “on behalf of Israel” about its operations in southern Syria.
Abdullah also charged Israel with “looking the other way” in regard to the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front’s presence on its border with Syria, because they consider the Sunni group “as an opposition to Hezbollah,” the Guardian quoted the king saying. Hezbollah is a key ally of the Assad regime and an avowed enemy of Israel.
Abdullah said Jordan is attempting to eliminate al-Nusra Front’s presence along its border with Syria, while at the same time assisting the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose fighters are trained in Jordan.
“We told Russia that we want to liquidate Nusra,” Abdullah said. “Russia asked that we give them their positions to hit them, but we refused, so we don’t give them a reason to hit the FSA there.”
The IDF refused to comment on the report.