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Is Jordan Next?

The “Emir” of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sent a message to King Abdullah II of Jordan warning that ISIL will move to topple him if he implements any security measures to stop the flow of volunteers wishing to join the organization or members in logistical missions across the borders between Jordan and Iraq. The Emir, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, reminded the King that ISIL controls the other side of his kingdom’s borders with Iraq, and Al Baghdadi expects to see Jordan moving rapidly to implement Islamic laws.

The message, which was revealed by a Jordanian diplomat in a European capital, was sent within three days of the sudden fall of Mosul.  The king responded by holding an open meeting with his security officials and giving statements to the effect that Amman will retaliate firmly to any security threats.  But ISIL’s reply came only 48 hours after the statements of Abdullah II and his aides. And the answer was not in words alone.  Large demonstrations filled the roads of several Southern towns and villages around Ma’an and Alkark raising the black flag of ISIL.  Some Jordanian reports indicated that the security forces are following “suspicious activities” in the Jordanian Aghwar, which is the valley of the Jordan River.

With ISIL controlling the border crossings between Iraq and Jordan, infiltrating the Kingdom is only a matter of time.  If this were to occur, it will directly threaten Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Some Salafi Jihadi organizations inside Jordan have enough means to assist members of ISIL in settling in Southern towns inside Jordan, and this will play an important role in facilitating any future operations planned by ISIL.

Internationally, there is an attempt to reduce the regional and international sense of urgency and high alert status following the ISIL campaign that swept Central Iraq out from Baghdad’s control. This “lulling” attempt takes different forms. The most common is the line that the Sunni forces in Iraq are mainly tribal and Ba’athist and that those tribal leaders will get rid of ISIL once Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is moved from his post.  While the tribal leaders and senior Ba’athist elements maybe sincere in saying what they say, it is very questionable that they would ever be able to deliver on what they promise, particularly if enough time passes for ISIL to implant its roots further and to use the military equipment and money it got from its recent campaign.

ISIL has a powerful propaganda arm. Their ability to brainwash tribal youth should not be underestimated. We have seen tribal youth in South and West Jordan joining the Jihadists in defiance of their tribal elders.  In certain areas adjacent to Ramadi in Iraq, the same thing was detected.  Furthermore, the ISIL’s newly-gained ability to blackmail neighboring countries like Jordan may appear to bear fruit to both the Ba’athists and the tribal forces in Iraq in the future.  There is the real risk that, at some point, the non-ISIL forces in Central Iraq will find it either difficult or unattractive to get rid of ISIL. The longer this situation in Iraq remains, the more threatening ISIL and its operations will be to neighboring countries, and the more doubtful the chances of uprooting ISIL from their position in Iraq will become.

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