Bar­bar­ians at Jor­dan’s gate

The Hashemite King­dom is threat­ened by the Is­lamic State — and the Is­lamic Repub­lic

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Clif­ford D. May Clif­ford D. May is pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies.

The ter­ror­ist army for­merly known as ISIS has con­quered about a third of Syria and much of western Iraq. What are these ji­hadists go­ing to do next? As­sum­ing they can’t go to Dis­ney­land — and, trust me, that’s high on their bucket list — Baghdad would doubt­less be their des­ti­na­tion of choice. Still, de­spite a se­ries of bomb­ings last week­end that killed more than two-dozen peo­ple, the pre­dom­i­nantly Shia cap­i­tal is un­likely to fall eas­ily as did such Sunni-ma­jor­ity cities as Mo­sul. So the ques­tion be­ing asked is whether these war­riors will turn their lethal at­ten­tions to­ward Jor­dan.

“I’m well aware of such spec­u­la­tion,” a se­nior Jor­da­nian govern­ment of­fi­cial tells me and a col­league. Like oth­ers here, he can speak more can­didly if we agree not to quote him by name. He tells us that ISIS, the Is­lamic State in Iraq and al Sham (Ara­bic for the Le­vant, an area that in­cludes Jor­dan), which has now taken to calling it­self sim­ply the Is­lamic State, “is not a prob­lem for the Jor­da­nian mil­i­tary. I’m not wor­ried. Not in the short run.”

He sum­mons a deputy who brings a map on an easel. He in­di­cates the ar­eas in Iraq that the Is­lamic State now con­trols. He points out a long stretch of desert that Is­lamic State forces would have to tra­verse to reach a ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­ter within Jor­dan. “We’d know in ad­vance that they are com­ing,” he says. “Our of­fi­cers and troops would have plenty of time for a shower and break­fast be­fore suit­ing up and head­ing out to de­stroy them.”

How­ever, if the Is­lamic State can hold the ter­ri­tory it has con­quered so far, ex­ploit the wealth it has seized (in­clud­ing oil), con­tinue to get along with its Baathist-Sad­damist al­lies (who know a thing or two about im­pos­ing order and au­thor­ity), and build its mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties (at­tract­ing vol­un­teer ji­hadists from just about ev­ery cor­ner of the world), could it not then pose a dan­ger to Jor­dan? “Yes, in the medium- and long-term,” he says, “I am wor­ried.”

I ask if Jor­dan is get­ting the sup­port it needs from Wash­ing­ton. He says it is. I ask if Jor­dan is get­ting the sup­port it needs from Is­rael. He is not coy: When it comes to com­mon threats, the Hashemite King­dom and the Jewish state en­joy ex­ten­sive mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence co­op­er­a­tion.

Of those com­mon threats, the most sig­nif­i­cant is ac­tu­ally not the Is­lamic State. It’s the Is­lamic Repub­lic. Iran is ruled by a so­phis­ti­cated, oil-rich, ter­ror­ist-spon­sor­ing, theo­cratic regime that claims its multi­bil­lion­dol­lar nu­clear pro­gram is for “peace­ful pur­poses only.” Think about that for a nanosec­ond: If Iran only wants to make elec­tric­ity, why are its nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties built un­der moun­tains? Why is Iran si­mul­ta­ne­ously work­ing to de­velop in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles that can reach the United States?

Nu­clear weapons are a means to­ward an end: Supreme leader Ali Khamenei is de­ter­mined to es­tab­lish Iran’s hege­mony over the Mid­dle East start­ing with Iraq (at least its Shia ar­eas, which, ow­ing in large mea­sure to the sec­tar­i­an­ism of Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki, have be­come more Shia than ever), Syria (gov­erned by Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei’s loyal satrap, Bashar As­sad) and Le­banon (dom­i­nated by Hezbol­lah, Iran’s ter­ror­ist for­eign le­gion). Sooner or later, this neo-Per­sian Em­pire will threaten Saudi Ara­bia, the small but ex­traor­di­nar­ily wealthy Arab states of the Per­sian Gulf and, of course, both Jor­dan and Is­rael.

The se­nior of­fi­cial’s ad­vice to Amer­i­cans at­tempt­ing to find a diplomatic so­lu­tion, one in which Tehran would give up its nu­clear weapons pro­gram in ex­change for relief from eco­nomic sanc­tions: “Re­mem­ber that stay­ing in power is the high­est pri­or­ity of Iran’s rulers.”

Other Jor­da­nian officials re­in­force these points. One asks if it’s true that some in the United States view Iran as a “sta­bi­liz­ing force” with whom the U.S. could ally against the Is­lamic State and other Sunni ji­hadist groups in the re­gion. We re­ply that there are those ad­vis­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that an Ira­nian-Amer­i­can rap­proche­ment is both pos­si­ble and de­sir­able. He seems mys­ti­fied by such naivete or ig­no­rance, or what­ever it is.

What about sup­port­ers of ji­hadism in­side Jor­dan? In 2005, al Qaeda-linked sui­cide bomb­ings killed dozens in Am­man. More re­cently, there have been pro-ISIS demon­stra­tions in Ma’an, an im­pov­er­ished city in the south­ern desert.

We are told that only a small mi­nor­ity of Jor­da­ni­ans is sym­pa­thetic to the ji­hadists, and fewer still are ea­ger to kill and be killed to fur­ther their cause. Most Jor­da­ni­ans, they say, have no de­sire to im­port into their neigh­bor­hoods the carnage and des­ti­tu­tion be­ing suf­fered by so many in Syria and Iraq.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees from those con­flicts have been flood­ing into Jor­dan. Their first stop is the camps that sprawl along the king­dom’s north­ern border. How­ever, tens of thou­sands, we are told, have by now moved into Jor­da­nian cities and vil­lages. Most are thought to be grate­ful to King Ab­dul­lah II for giv­ing them safe haven.

The monarch, a di­rect de­scen­dant of the Prophet Muham­mad, be­lieves in the pos­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing a “mod­ern Is­lamic state” whose mis­sion would not be slaugh­ter­ing in­fi­dels and apos­tates, but guar­an­tee­ing “the rule of law, jus­tice, and free­dom of opinion and faith” and up­hold­ing “equal­ity, across the eth­nic and re­li­gious spec­trum.” Progress to­ward this goal would be slow in the best of times. Self-ev­i­dently, these are not the best of times.

Our Jor­da­nian hosts make clear that they are con­fi­dent — though by no means com­pla­cent — about the chal­lenges fac­ing them. They rec­og­nize that seis­mic shifts are un­der­way in the Mid­dle East, and that bar­baric forces are on the rise. Like their qui­etly sup­port­ive Is­raeli neigh­bors, they un­der­stand that wars are sel­dom won by the war-weary. Too many Amer­i­can and Western lead­ers have yet to com­pre­hend that.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY ALEXAN­DER HUNTER/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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