With ISIS advancements, nearby Jordan must be concerned, analysts say
Around 2,400 Jordanians are serving alongside Islamist militants in Syria, an analyst says
With Iraq's major cities falling like dominoes to militants under the black banners of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and with al-Qaeda's affiliate turning from a "virtual" to a "real" state, nearby Jordan has to be concerned, analysts argued, citing primarily the considerable number of Jordanians fighting alongside the Islamist militia which also has its supporters in the security-concerned kingdom.
On the nature of threat the ISIS is posing to Jordan, analysts and experts in Islamist groups explained that Jordan is geographically and historically part of the Levant, the region over which ISIS aspires to establish its envisioned Islamic state.
In anticipation of a widespread of radical groups in neighboring countries as witnessed in Iraq now and before that in Syria, analysts added that Jordan has adopted a set of measures, both legally and militarily, to counter any security spillover from the northern and eastern terrorism-fertile Syria and Iraq.
In remarks to Al Arabiya News, Taylor Luck, Amman-based political analyst specialized in jihadist movements, said, “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."
According to Luck, Jordan has been eyeing wearily the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra gains in southern Syria in recent weeks, and has tightened security measures along the country’s 370-kilometer shared borders with Syria.
"Since late April, Jordanian authorities have imposed a new security campaign along its borders – no longer allowing unidentified persons to cross through its borders for fear that ISIL supporters-even Jordanians- may enter the country- actively engaging militarily with suspected jihadists attempting to enter the country, having estimated to have killed 12 jihadists and injured 40 others in spate clashes over the past two months," he said.
Luck expected Jordan to adopt a similar approach to its eastern borders with Iraq in the wake of the ISIS's siege of Mosul, Takrit and other cities.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a well-informed Jordanian security source told Al Arabiya News that Jordan has recently deployed around 40,000 army personnel on the eastern and northeastern borders with Iraq and Syria to blockade any entry of ISIS and Al Nusra fighters to its territories.
As part of its new security approach, Luck said Jordan has launched a new crackdown on the country’s hard-line Salafist movement - said to be the country’s largest recruiter of jihadist fighters – arresting over 100 and referring over 40 members to the country’s state security court since the beginning of the year.
“Jordan is taking a two-track approach in its response to the ISIL threat- arrest supporters before they can reach Iraq and Syria, and prevent those already fighting from returning back home.”
Some 2,400 Jordanians are currently serving alongside Islamist militants in Syria- over half of whom have gone to the ranks of the ISIS, Luck says, quoting estimates from Jordanian salafist leaders.
Some days following the endorsement of a new anti-terrorism law by Jordan’s Lower House of Parliament in April, Jordan has embarked on a security campaign in southern city of Maan, believed to be the stronghold of Salafists recruiting people to fight along side Al Nusra and ISIL in Syria.
A key article in the amended law broadens the definition of “terrorist acts” to include “joining or attempting to join”, the “direct and indirect funding” of and “attempting to recruit” for “any armed group or terrorist organization in the Kingdom and abroad”.
For Majed al-Leftawi, lawyer for the convicted Salafi Jihadist Abu Mohammad Al Magdesi and expert in Salafist groups, Jordan for ISIS is part of the Levant which is the militia's ultimate region of an Islamic state.
Asked how the ISIS's advancement in Iraq's cities would threaten Jordan, al-Leftawi said, "the issue is developing hour-by-hour in Iraq with ISIS advancing over a city after a city there. Jordan's concern over ISIS advancements is stemmed from the considerable number of supporters the group enjoys in the kingdom, be those prison or at homes."
Giving priority to a new wave of Iraqi refugee influx to Jordan over security concerns, a high-ranking Jordanian official, who preferred to remain unnamed, said that "all in place to prevent a security spillover from Iraq but the expectation of a large numbers of Iraqis feeling violence westward to Jordan is Amman's major concern now."
Andrew Harper, UNHCR's Representative to Jordan was quoted on local press Thursday as expressing the UN refugee agency's readiness to deal with any refugee influx from Iraq, affirming that no increase in the number of Iraqis coming to Jordan has been witnessed recently.
"Once we receive Iraqi refugees fleeing violence in their country to Jordan, we are ready to receive them the way of course decided by the Jordanian government."
Jordan, which is home now to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees, had received around 500,000 Iraqis after the 2003 invasion, thousands of them are still residing in Amman.