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Jordan at Risk
Jordan Strengthens Its Internal Defenses

Under looming threat from the Syrian Civil War in general and ISIS in particular, Jordan has launched a major security crackdown. The Financial Times reports:

[A]t least 60 people [have been] arrested for suspected jihadi activities in a crackdown by the security forces after a US-led bombing campaign against Isis began last month. The security forces have also put pressure on clerics, educators and others to denounce the radical Islamist group.

The security campaign is part of a two-pronged war that Jordan has launched as a key Arab member of the US-led anti-Isis coalition. Amman has put its airfields, training centres, and assets of its powerful state security service at the coalition’s disposal. Jordanian jets have carried out at least two air strikes against Syria.

For the kingdom, which borders Syria and Iraq and is home to 1.4m Syrian refugees and 250,000 Iraqis, the stakes could not be higher. Its leaders want to fight what they describe as a small but potentially dangerous internal threat from radical Islamists while highlighting their role as an essential ally to the US, which supplies the country with more than $1bn of aid a year.

Jordan has not shied away from working with the lesser of two evils in its hour of need:

Last month Jordanian officials dropped terrorism charges against Abu Qatada, a radical Islamist preacher after he denounced Isis from prison, calling the group “heretics” and “dogs”.

In June they also released from prison Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, another Salafi ideologue who also attacked Isis – although since his release he has also described the US-led war as a “crusader campaign”.

Although it flies mostly under the radar of the media, of all the imperiled nations in the Middle East, Jordan may be one of the most important. Since its creation (by a drunk Winston Churchill, as one apocryphal tale has it) in the aftermath of World War I, Jordan has served as a vital buffer state in the Middle East. While the country is not in immediate danger of collapse, it is roiled by high unemployment, subject to a minority dynasty seated none-too-securely on the backs of a resentful majority, and struggling mightily to absorb part of the human deluge from the Syrian Civil War. (The fourth-largest city in Jordan right now is a Syrian refugee camp.) A destabilization of this buffer zone would put Saudi Arabia, Israel, and an already-rickety Lebanon several steps closer to the fire—and make a far-larger war that much more likely.

If you are watching the Middle East, remember to keep one eye on Amman.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Jordan’s king is an example of what is needed in much of the Muslim world, an authoritarian leader who is not an evil monster (such as Saddam was in Iraq), AND one who can (so far) keep a lid on Islamic wildfire which otherwise tends to go out of control when unchecked in Muslim countries. If he had to take a vote on whether to align with the USA against ISIL, you can imagine the chaos.

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