Threats against Jordan after the murder of Kasasbeh

The Syrian crisis is more protracted and dangerous for Jordan than the incident of the burning to death of pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. This latter crime was hideously carried out on purpose in order to stir an Arab and international uproar and provoke the Jordanians in general. The crime reflects the intentions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and vision for Jordan, which has been living through the crisis of its northern neighbor, Syria, since the very beginning.

I think Jordan has an important role it hasn’t yet played in Syria. Although it has avoided engaging itself in the struggle, the Syrians have not allowed Jordan to remain distant from the crisis. If the Syrian regime is well-aware that the borders with Jordan are a regional red line and will thus not dare cross them, ISIS thinks Jordan is the best gain it can make.

Jordan is a country with a pure Arab Sunni environment. It neighbors Israel and, geographically speaking, it complements the southern path of ISIS, which is present in southwest Iraq and directly threatens Saudi Arabia. ISIS does not care about attacking areas where Sunnis are a minority or where Sunnis are weak – like Iraqi Shiite provinces or Syrian Alawite ones. It wants to take over areas which it thinks it can subjugate and turn into a reservoir of manpower that supports it on the sectarian level even if they refuse its political system. One can follow up on the path of ISIS from Iraq to Syria to see how the organization thinks and progresses. I don’t want to expand the diagnosis of ISIS’ motives but it’s certain that the organization considers Jordan an enemy more major than the Syrian regime, which opened conduits for it to strike at the opposition Free Syrian Army – an enemy to both sides.

ISIS considers Jordan an enemy more major than the Syrian regime, which opened conduits for it to strike at the opposition Free Syrian Army – an enemy to both sides.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed



Jordan didn’t play its role in the past four years of the Syrian war because of its clear stance against getting involved in the conflict. However, getting involved is not an option when it comes to a neighboring country that can hear the Syrian regime’s shelling of the Syrian towns of Deraa and that hosts more than half a million Syrian refugees – a significant population that is challenging on the financial, political and security levels. At a later point, we may see that Jordanian forces may have to – against their will – get engaged in deciding the situation in Syria and support one party against another. It’s no secret that the opposition FSA gathers in north Jordan, and I mean inside the southern Syrian borders which it almost completely controls. But it’s not yet an armed force that has enough advanced weapons to take over the capital, Damascus, which is only 100 kilometers away from Deraa, or an hour’s drive.

And if Jordan, and the other countries backing the FSA, had previously decided to take the risk of enabling the FSA to conquer Damascus, we may have not reached this complicated and dangerous phase in which terrorist organizations have emerged to become the biggest threat confronting the world. Can Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the rest of the region’s countries tolerate the repercussions of the Syrian crisis along with all these terrorist organizations and the Syrian regime’s criminality for another 10 years? Can one only rely on the northern front, near Turkey, which the Nusra Front, the other terrorist organization, dominates? This makes Jordan an almost single gate.

We saw how it was difficult to liberate a town like Kobane from ISIS fighters and how ISIS threatened the security of the Kurdistan region which had been fortified for two decades. ISIS continues to occupy two big Iraqi cites – Mosul and Kirkuk – and all Iraqi, American and Iranian attempts have failed to liberate them. With all these givens, we cannot underestimate the threat of ISIS and categorize its acts as mere separate terrorist operations as, on the contrary, it’s capable of invading, dominating, settling and expanding. ISIS’ hideous manner of murdering the Jordanian pilot aimed to intimidate the Jordanians and others. The video of his murder has been viewed just enough to instill fear and deliver the message that the arrival of the organization’s fighters alone is enough to terrify civilians – just like what happened in the Iraqi cities they attacked and quickly seized.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015.


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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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