Jordan, Islamic State’s next playground?

Having the longest borders with Israel and housing 12,000 US soldiers, Jordan is a likely target for IS.

Anti-Israel demonstration in Jordan (photo credit: REUTERS)
Anti-Israel demonstration in Jordan
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The US, the UK and Israel openly share great concern over the possibility that Islamic State may soon attempt to destabilize Jordan. Having the longest borders with Israel and housing 12,000 US soldiers, Jordan is a likely target for IS. While the US, UK and Israel seem willing to defend Jordan from IS, that won’t be enough.
First of all, IS is already in Jordan. In July 2014, I reported that an IS flag was already hanging in downtown Ma’an, in southern Jordan, and even provided a photo. On September 2, 2014, Al-Jazeera America also showed a picture of the very same IS flag waving over Ma’an. In addition, fighters affiliated with IS have been engaging Jordanian police since last June, killing several Jordanian police officers. Even the official Jordanian media reported on this.
IS did not stop with Ma’an. The Jordanian news agency All of Jo – whose editor in chief is a retired Jordanian intelligence colonel – reported IS men were parading in Amman waving IS flags “under police protection,” and a few days later, Jordan’s second-most-read newspaper, Al-Arab Al-Yawm, ran a story on “Jordanians parading through cities waving IS flags and carrying weapons.”
The fact that Jordanian government-controlled media themselves are speaking about IS in Jordan shows the problem is already out of control and could potentially escalate.
Nonetheless, Jordan’s government remains in denial. The king’s strongman, Interior Minister Hussein al-Majali, addressed the media on August 10, 2014, claiming that, “There is no IS in Jordan.” A few days later, his own cousin – a Jordanian air force captain – was killed in Syria fighting for IS.
Concerned, the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia offered Jordan the chance to join a NATO collation to fight IS, and the king attended the NATO summit in Wales. Still, the outcome was not what NATO hoped for. Well-informed sources in Jordan confirmed to me that the king refused to take part in the fight against IS. Instead, he wanted the NATO to keep using Jordan as a military base and to utilize Jordan’s intelligence against IS, which has been ongoing for years. NATO on the other hand wanted Jordanian soldiers on the ground fighting IS under NATO aerial support. Reportedly, the king said no.
My sources’ claims are consistent with what Jordan’s royally- appointed prime minister said one day after the NATO summit. Prime Minister Abdullah Nsour told the media, “Jordan is not part of any collations to fight IS and we will not fight wars on behalf of others.” Two days after that, Jordan’s media minister, Muhammad al-Momani, said: “Jordan will not be a part of a coalition to fight IS.”
In short, Jordan’s king does not want to fight IS, nor does he seem to favor any serious NATO action against IS. But why? King Abdullah will have two major problems if NATO gets into a serious fight with IS. The first is that such a war could evolve into a NATO strike on Syria’s Bashar Assad – and if Assad falls, Jordan’s king is likely to follow. That is why the king has been fully collaborating with Assad’s intelligence for more than two years now, as the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi confirmed. Also, that is why the king’s minister of foreign affairs told the counter-IS conference in Saudi Arabia the most important thing was “securing a political solution for Syria” – as in no military strike against Assad.
The second problem is the king’s marriage to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Jordan. The king and the Brotherhood have been in an open partnership since he came to power in 1999. In fact, he did not deny that in his interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg. The king’s minister of political reform said on Al-Jazeera: “The MB is a part of the Hashemite regime.” The Brotherhood is the global spiritual incubator of all Islamist terror groups, and IS’s spiritual mother, al-Qaida, is run by former Brotherhood member Ayman al-Zawahiri. How could the king be against IS while his closest partners, the Muslim Brotherhood, have their global headquarters four miles away from his palace in Amman? While some of the king’s cheerleaders in the West might dismiss all of the above, renowned Palestinian writer Abdul Bari Atwan visited Jordan recently and wrote that Jordan was “too concerned to join the anti-IS coalition,” and “IS could actually spread chaos into Jordan.”
So, what is the king’s strategy? Evidence suggests the answer is that he has none. The king already realizes that he came close to falling to the Arab Spring twice, once in November 2012, when we seculars launched the largest revolution in Jordan’s history, and the second time in September 2013 when President Barack Obama was about to attack Assad and the king and his entire Hashemite clan fled the country. In both cases, Israel did the impossible to bring the king back to Jordan.
Nonetheless, the king knows that Israel may not be able to keep bailing him out forever, and therefore he is just buying time.
For this king, time means big money – a report I am about to publish will show how the king pockets billions of dollars each year – therefore, he most likely wants to spend as much more time as he can in power. To do that his best strategy is non-action. Attacking IS today might result in his immediate ouster, while if he waits until IS attacks, all he has to do is leave the country and watch news of IS in Jordan from the safety of his retirement mansion in Surrey.
The king does not care if his “live another day” tactic ends in trouble for US, Israel, Jordanians and Palestinians, all he cares about is the best arrangement for him personally.
Israel and the US should let Jordan’s king go peacefully and quietly in order to secure a soft and peaceful transition of power in Jordan, but what we see is the king’s cheerleaders in DC and Jerusalem hoping the king will make it for another day. They are acting much like a man who owns an old Rolls Royce and doesn’t want to let go of it, even though it is very expensive to maintain and could die on him at any moment. My advice is to get rid of that troublesome Rolls Royce and trade it in for a brand new Mercedes which will cost you much less to maintain.
Jordan’s king must be shown the door quietly and peacefully, and a new secular leader or leaders must be ushered in, through an interim government, eventually leading into a regime like that of Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Sisi. It is either this is done soon or the price for fixing Jordan is going to be higher than what the US, Israel and Jordanians expect it to be.