The limitations of Jordan’s war on terror
Jordan’s decisiveness and eagerness to daringly punish ISIS was received with encouragement and praise by millions of people around the world
Following the barbaric burning alive of Moath al-Kasasbeh, Amman has become the center of the world, especially after Jordanian Air Force jets began bombing intensively hideouts belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq just a few hours after the release of the video showing the execution of the now iconic pilot.
Jordan’s decisiveness and eagerness to daringly punish ISIS was received with encouragement and praise by millions of people around the world, especially in countries like the United States, Britain, Japan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Syria where, unlike Jordan, governments have done nothing to avenge the killing of their citizens by ISIS.
It is beyond a doubt that the terrorist group’s brutal execution of al-Kasasbeh was primarily aimed at creating division in Jordan in order to push it to withdraw from the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. But this objective failed, as represented in the solidarity and unity Jordanians have showed and are still showing as well as their support for their government’s anti-terror drive.
Such a beautiful scene was also praised around the world. Solidarity, unity and harmony by the people and government in a region plagued with division and polarization is such a unique scene in the Arab world. For almost 10 days and on, Jordan’s declared war on ISIS has been the focus in commentaries, editorials and op-eds published in major international newspapers. Comments posted on social networks as well as letters to the editors sent to Jordanian newspapers, those faxed or emailed, all praise the Jordanian fearlessness, saying, “Go Jordan Go.” Literally and with no exaggeration, Amman, not Washington, King Abdullah, not President Obama, have been recently the focus of the world, at least in the press and social media networks.
Many observers were expecting Jordan to gradually ease its military campaign against ISIS and tone down its discourse on terror, arguing that the kingdom’s harsh response to the radical organization was rash and taken out of shock and anger. But this never happened. Jordanian jet fighters have since last week been launching non-stop strikes against ISIS posts in Syria and Iraq.
Many observers were expecting Jordan to gradually ease its military campaign against ISIS and tone down its discourse on terror, arguing that the kingdom’s harsh response to the radical organization was rash and taken out of shock and anger.Raed Omari
Not only that, Jordan is now taking the lead in the preparations for the ground operations from Iraq against ISIS, vowing to put the capabilities of the Jordanian army under the disposal of the brotherly Iraqis (But there will be no ground operations from Jordan). Jordan has not even toned down its discourse on ISIS, still vowing to completely “wipe out” the radical organization’s militants.
Despite the White House’s indecisiveness on ISIS so far, Jordan is determined to eradicate the Al-Qaeda-sprung militants, displaying complete accordance in words and deeds in its war against ISIS.
Despite the White House’s indecisiveness on ISIS so far, Jordan is determined to eradicate the Al-Qaeda-sprung militants.Raed Omari
Syria changes its tone
The Syrian government was among the first to notice Jordan’s decisiveness against terror. Very few spotted Damascus’ “flirting” to Amman, expressed coyly and covertly in the recent remarks by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.
Speaking at a news conference in Damascus, Moallen said that Jordan had not responded to a Syrian request to coordinate efforts against ISIS after the killing of al-Kasasbeh. His remarks showed recognition and understanding of Jordan’s anger and determination to fight terror even if in the very heart of the Syrian territory but in coordination with Damascus. But Moallem’s remarks showed how Damascus was trying to flirt to Amman. It was the first time Moallem spoke about Jordan with so little hostility. In Damascus’ official rhetoric, Jordan was always accused of facilitating the entry of radical fighters to Syria through its northern borders but this time it was different. Damascus is offering to help Jordan in the fight against radicalism.
But why this dramatic change in Syria’s official posture toward Jordan? One reason is that Damascus saw the world’s solidarity with Jordan, including from its ally Hezbollah, and could not distance itself from such an international understanding and support for Jordan’s legitimate wrath, at least on moral grounds, if morality, in fact, is a component in the Syrian government’s politics.
The Syrian government nowadays is trying to secure a seat within the international community, promoting itself as fighting terrorism, and that was also part of its offer to Jordan, fully aware of course of Amman’s pivotal diplomatic role in the world and the Security Council.
If Jordan had accepted the offer, Damascus would have seen this as a success in that it would have brought on side one of the major members in the anti-Assad camp.
But the Syrian offer found no takers in Amman. Fully convinced that Jordan had rejected its offer, Syrian government forces, backed by Lebanese group Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guard, began moving en masse to southern Syria in the border region near Jordan to counter any future plans by Jordan to extend its military campaign, particularly amid talk that ground options were being considered by Amman.
What more can Jordan do
Now back to what more Jordan can do in the war against ISIS, apart from air strikes. This is still a matter that is surrounded by much speculation both inside Jordan and in the international press because of Amman’s vow to completely wipe out ISIS.
But it was made clear by the Jordanian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff Gen. Mashal Al Zaben, who said in a recent joint news conference with Iraq’s Defense Minister Khaled Al Obeidi in Baghdad that Amman could respond to any danger “in less than one hour” without resorting to ground operations.
“Jordan does not need to mobilize any military units to the border in the meantime because our borders are 100 percent safe,” he said.
However, al-Zaben noted that Jordan would offer all forms of support for the Iraqi troops now said to be trained and equipped to launch a massive ground operation against ISIS.
However, a ground operation against ISIS hideouts in Iraq and Syria can still be an option for Jordan but not Jordan alone. Jordan can and is willing to provide technical and intelligence assistance, air coverage for advancing ground troops and, maybe Special Forces operations but it is hard to imagine a full Jordanian invasion on the ground, at least for the time being.
For Jordan, the situation is still complicated; it is not only ISIS. From a broader perspective, the war on terror should go through the situation in Syria, the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations, Hezbollah, Israel, Turkey, the Kurds and the Iraqi Arab Sunnis, among others. Such a complicated scene, coupled with inadequate U.S. involvement, is what gave rise to ISIS. But Jordan is determined to eliminate ISIS no matter how and the world has to build on this Jordanian decisiveness because it is a moment that must be seized upon.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2