Is Iran seeking to foment chaos in Jordan?

Former Pentagon official to ‘Post’: To many, news that an Iranian operative was arrested came as a surprise, but it shouldn’t have.

July 8, 2015 20:11
2 minute read.
Protesters hold up pictures of Jordanian King Abdullah and pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh

Protesters hold up pictures of Jordanian King Abdullah and pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh with national flags. (photo credit: REUTERS)

With Iran controlling two Arab states bordering Jordan, the kingdom has become a suitable target for expanding influence and unrest in the Arab world.

Gaining a foothold in Jordan would give the Iranian-led Shi’ite axis another border from which to target Israel. Iranian-funded proxies are already present in Israel’s North, in Lebanon and Syria, and in Gaza to the south.

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Jordanian media reported this week that the country’s security forces had arrested an Iranian operative allegedly planning a terrorist attack in the kingdom.

A source at the Iranian Foreign Ministry strongly denied the report that appeared in Jordanian newspaper Al-Rai on Monday, calling it “baseless,” according to the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency.

The Shi’ite-led Iraqi government to Jordan’s east and the Iranian-allied regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to the north provide launching pads for covert operations in the kingdom.

However, Prof. Hillel Frisch of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that “the timing in publicizing terrorist plots is almost invariably a political decision.”

“Jordan’s decision to announce Iranian involvement in a terrorist plot on the eve of the final deadline negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran is a stellar example of how politics influences such decisions,” asserted Frisch. “Jordan’s message is crystal-clear: [US] President [Barack] Obama and Secretary of State [John] Kerry are completely wrong to think that by engaging Iran, the regime will transform into a status-quo state.”

For Jordan and other Arab states (besides Syria and Oman), any agreement with Iran over the nuclear issue and the withdrawal of sanctions will only embolden the Iranian regime in its efforts to destabilize the region, he said.

When it comes to Iran, he added, the message from Amman and other Arab states is the same as from Jerusalem.

“Four years into the war in Syria, Jordan is between the anvil and the hammer, targeted today by both Sunni and Shi’ite extremists,” David Schenker, who formerly worked on Middle East matters for the Pentagon, told the Post on Tuesday.

“To many, news that an Iranian operative was arrested came as a surprise, but it shouldn’t have,” said Schenker, now director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Back in March, continued Schenker, Qassem Soleimani – the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, an overseas arm of the Revolutionary Guards – publicly stated his country’s interest in promoting the Islamic Revolution in the pro-West kingdom.

“The Jordanian parliament responded by demanding an apology from Tehran. That apology was not forthcoming,” Schenker said.

“Iran today controls four Arab capitals,” he noted. “On the eve of the nuclear deal – which promises to free up billions of dollars for the theocracy to pursue its militant regional agenda – no Sunni Muslim state is secure from Iranian subversion.”

He added that “regrettably, what occurred in Jordan is likely a harbinger of things to come.”

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