Jordan has mobilized its military forces along Jordan’s 180 kilometer border with Iraq - deploying rocket launchers, armored personnel carriers and tanks following the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) reportedly taking control of the Trebil crossing between Iraq and Jordan on 23 June.
Other reports said members of this Salafist jihadist group took over a number of Iraqi towns in Anbar - including al-Rutba - 40 kilometers from the Jordan-Iraq border.
Osama Al Sharif reports:
Jordan maintains close ties with the Sunni tribes of Iraq, especially in Anbar. But these tribes provided sanctuary to ISIS founder, Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, who was killed in Iraq in 2006. It is believed that Jordanian intelligence and an anti-terrorist squad helped the Americans locate and liquidate Zarqawi. The spread of ISIS in Anbar will raise red flags in Amman.
Taylor Luck - Amman-based political analyst specialized in jihadist movements - opines:
“Jordan's greatest national security threat currently is neither the Syrian regime or the potential use of chemical weapons - it is the spread of the Islamic State’s ideology and the spillover of the jihadist civil war into Jordan."
Al-Monitor confirms these assessments:
“The quick takeover by ISIS and Sunni rebels of at least three Iraqi governorates in the past two weeks, including the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has created unease in Jordan for a number of reasons. ISIS has in the past threatened the regime and video clips on YouTube by Jordanian members of the organization, vowing to march on the kingdom and burning their passports, have generated concern. No one really knows how many Jordanians have joined this radical Islamist group, but there are estimates that at least 2,000 jihadists have joined Jabhat al-Nusra, which is associated with al-Qaeda, and ISIS to fight in Syria.”
These developments followed Jordan’s King Abdullah’s surprise meeting with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya last week.
Europe Online magazine explains:
“Jordan has a significant community of ethnic Chechens stemming from 19th century emigration from the Russian empire, while Chechens are thought to make up a significant proportion of Islamic State fighters, who are currently spreading unrest in Iraq. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant - currently waging offensives in Syria and Iraq - claims that up to 2,000 fighters in both regions are from the Caucasus. Kadyrov, who has been battling Islamist insurgents in Chechnya and neighboring regions, has in the past vehemently denounced Chechen jihadists in the Middle East.”
Abdullah was obviously concerned about the extent to which Chechens already in Jordan might make common cause with ISIS Chechen militants outside it.
Paul Saunders assesses the help Kadyrov could give Jordan:
“While he likely has extremely limited influence over the extremists fighting in the Middle East, he does have a variety of tools at his disposal that go beyond those normally employed by states. One example has been Kadyrov’s apparent deployment of his pro-Russian Chechen fighters in eastern and southern Ukraine to support pro-Russian forces there; Crimea’s new leaders went so far as to award him a medal "For the Liberation of Crimea," a fact proudly reported on Chechnya’s official news website. In explaining the award, a Crimean official said that “at the request of Chechnya’s leader, the Chechen diaspora supported Crimeans in a difficult time.” Kadyrov may well have very useful channels into Jordan’s Chechen diaspora too.”
Abdullah’s visit to Kazyrov – his “brother and friend” - will not have earned him any brownie points with America or the West.
The US Department of State has described Kazyrov’s rule as "corrupt and brutal" and Western human rights organizations frequently condemn his government’s conduct.
Abdullah is desperately seeking to strengthen the protective umbrella afforded by Israel and the West that has shielded its Hashemite rulers against past PLO, Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood attempts to destabilize Jordan and overthrow the Monarchy.
The Hashemites are long time survivors - having astutely managed to retain 78% of Mandatory Palestine under exclusive Arab sovereignty for the last 92 years.
Jordan has been a safe haven for millions of refugees from past conflicts in Kuwait and Iraq. It currently hosts 599461 registered Syrian refugees – of whom approximately 27% are aged between 0-17.
Osama Al Sharif warns:
“The possible collapse and partition of Iraq will also have grave geopolitical repercussions on Jordan. The creation of a Sunni enclave along Jordan’s eastern borders will have political, economic and social effects on the kingdom. Israel, too, is worried about such a possibility since Jordan has acted as a buffer zone between the Jewish state and Arab heartland. Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on June 23 that Jordan and Israel have increased their security consultations to deal with the latest ISIS advances in Iraq.”
Jordan badly blundered in ignoring Israel’s warning to stay out of the 1967 Six Day War – resulting in Israel capturing the West Bank and east Jerusalem – ending Jordan’s 19 years of uninterrupted occupation since 1948.
Direct negotiations with Israel to redress that fatal decision by redrawing the boundaries between Israel and Jordan within the framework of their 1994 Peace Treaty should now become an increasingly attractive proposition for King Abdullah to seriously consider.
Article 4.5 provides for co-operation in combating terrorism of all kinds
Jordan – facing its looming crisis with ISIS - risks suffering the same political and humanitarian disasters currently embroiling Syria and Iraq.
Israel could be Jordan’s lifeline in preventing this from happening.