Jordan's Threat: Iran, Hamas & al-Qaeda
Jordanian Parliament Speaker Abdel Hadi Majali warned that Iran is a threat to Jordanian security, regardless of whether US military strikes take place or not. Citing Iranian involvement in Iraq and their support for Hamas, Majali said, “Iran is threatening Jordan’s security and it is targeting the stability of the country and not ousting its regime. Iran poses a real threat on Jordan. Jordan will be harmed whether Iran was the target of a military operation or not.”
Jordan has long accused Hamas of using Jordanian territory and citizens for terrorist activities, including the capture of weapons stashes and Hamas arrests. Iran has openly supported Hamas, especially since their election victory and dominance in the PA, seeking increased influence in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Today, Jordan is urging President Bush to reject Olmert’s planned Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Jordan fears that the vacuum created would inflame the region and create serious instability within the Hashemite Kingdom, largely comprised of their own Palestinian population. According to an unnamed Bush Administration official, “The bottom line from the Jordanians was: ‘We have enough of a problem with al-Qaeda and Hamas. This makes it worse?’”
It most certainly does. This truth was perhaps best captured at The Belmont Club several weeks ago, where the ironic reality of the potential end of Israeli occupation of the West Bank was noted with biting clarity.
By threatening to hunker down inside his borders, Olmert will effectively turn the Palestinian problem inside out: it is Egypt, Jordan and Syria that must face the prospect of sharing frontiers with a new terrorist-infested state without the protection of Israel-style fence.
While the region has long decried the Israeli occupation as unjust (Jordan less so than Syria and others), the reality is that those regional actors enjoy the benefit of the very Israeli security provided by the occupation and border enforcement. Will, as Caroline Glick offers, the West Bank pullout be a disaster multiples worse for Jordan that the Gaza pullout was for the Sinai & the rest of Egypt? That remains to be seen, but there is certainly just cause for concern.
Consider today’s Jerusalem Issue Brief, The Islamist Threat to Jordan by Nibras Kazimi for fresh context. At length is discussed the growing threat Jordan faces from a dispersing al-Qaeda in Iraq, currently shifting venues from the loss at the hands of Coalition Forces to greener pastures and a more historically populist cause: the Arab-Israeli Palestinian Conflict.
Kazimi highlights the shift of Zarqawi’s group to new key areas: Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, the Sinai (the latter two a symbiotic relationship) and Jordan. While Zarqawi (and others) eye Jordan and likely lust for an Israeli West Bank withdrawal, success for them in Jrdan will not come easily.
The elusiveness of a unifying Jordanian identity now provides a window of opportunity for the jihadists who seek another raison d’etre for Jordan’s borders and history: it is to be the “Land of Mobilization and Fortitude” (Ard al-Hashdi wal-Rabat) - the staging ground for the liberation of Palestine and the destruction of Israel. Therefore, the “usefulness” of Jordan is to provide an opportunity for jihadists such as the Jordanian terrorist, Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi, to transfer the fight from the various battles being waged around the world to what they have traditionally called “The Direction of Delayed Jihad” (Qiblet al-Jihad al-Mu’ejjel) in Palestine. Zarqawi claimed in a recent video release, “We fight in [Iraq] but our eyes are on Jerusalem.”
But for that to happen, the Hashemites and their reasonably secure intelligence and military apparatuses would have to be overthrown, or at least weakened by a campaign of mayhem and chaos to the point at which they lose control over some portion of their territory from which the jihadists can launch attacks on Israel - a strategy followed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) prior to September 1970. By that measure, it appears that the Zarqawi branch of al-Qaeda is aiming to create a ring of chaos around Israel in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and the Sinai, as well as Jordan.
This is definitely cause for concern for Jordan, and they are not being unreasonable in their cautious request to their American allies. But it should also be noted that successful attacks and organization within Jordan has been fleeting. Jordan’s intelligence and counterterrorism services, the Jordanian Mukhabarrat (secret service), are among the most effective in the world, if not the most effective. It is no mistake that Jordan is the one place on the planet that Zarqawi had long ago been tried and sentenced to death (in absentia) for terrorist acts.
Whether regarding Iranian state-sponsored terrorism, Hamas, al-Qaeda or other terrorist organization, Jordan remains at the forefront of the War on Terror and perhaps the most underappreciated ally America has in that fight, in or out of the region.