Jordan has survived the toughest of times in the last five years. It has endured the stresses and strains of regional upheavals and wars. A number of prominent commentators predicted that the country looked vulnerable and might be swept away by the Arab Spring Tsunami.
The Washington-based Atlantic magazine ran a piece in July 2013 titled “In Jordan the Arab Spring Isn’t Over“. It stated -“Jordanians look north to Syria and southwest to Egypt and are frightened by what they see. Brutal civil wars and street clashes have tempered the desire for rapid change”.
However, more than four years later, Jordan remains a haven of stability and common sense in a mad region and in fact the Arab Spring has bypassed the country. The majority of Jordanians prefer Hashemite rule and accept the status quo.
Despite the influx of more than 700,000 Syrian refugees, rising energy costs, and internal unrest instigated by the opportunist Muslim brotherhood, King Abdullah II of Jordan has skilfully managed the turbulence and steered the ship into safe waters.
The Kingdom, a staunch ally of the West, has for decades been a target of radical violent Islamists such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, but also possibly of the Assad regime in Syria. In 2005, al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in three Amman hotels which killed 60 people and wounded dozens, an incident that was dubbed “Jordan’s 9/11”.
In March of this year Jordanian counterterrorism forces raided an ISIS cell at a Palestinian camp in the northern town of Irbid, killing eight militants allegedly planning attacks against civilian and military targets.
In June a General Intelligence outpost in Baqa’, a Palestinian refugee camp north of Amman, was attacked. A suspect believed to be linked to ISIS (Daesh) was arrested. In targeting the General Intelligence Dept the terrorists sent a message that Jordan is not safe. They chose an isolated post close to the camp in the hope of igniting a mini uprising against the monarchy. This had not happened. The people refused to oblige.
Officials in Amman said as well as those killed 14 others were injured when an explosives-laden truck was detonated at an army post near Rukban, on the isolated desert border with Syria. King Abdullah vowed to hit back “with an iron fist” and Jordan closed the border with Syria. Who orchestrated the attack remains unclear.
As part of the anti-ISIS coalition Jordan has become a target for ISIS operations. Jordan began intensifying a campaign of airstrikes against Isis in Syria when one of its pilots was captured by ISIS in December 2014 and burnt alive.
But Daesh/ISIS has so far failed to carry out a spectacular operation inside the country involving huge numbers of causalities as it has done, and is still doing, in Iraq and Syria. ISIS launched military attacks in Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt and expanded its franchise into Libya.
The simple explanation for Daesh’s failure in Jordan is that it has no base of collaborators and there is no collusion and no deals between the Jordanian military and security apparatus and ISIS. This is not the case elsewhere.
Apart from the ever present threat from Al-Qaeda and ISIS, Jordan also remains a target for Syrian plots to destabilize it. According to documents seen by Al-Arabiya in 2012 President Assad and his allies sought to destabilize Jordan by manipulating peaceful demonstrations and turn them violent according to leaked files obtained by Al Arabiya. A Syrian security order asked for assistance for groups inside Jordan that are “primarily” against the Jordanian king and the royal family. The files revealed that the Syrian regime, joined by Russia and Iran, is involved in arming demonstrators in order to “ease the pressure on the Syrian government” and to export the crisis in Syria to the Jordanian Kingdom. Al Arabiya reported that it has verified and authenticated hundreds of these documents and decided to disclose the ones with substantial news value and political relevance.
The Syrian designs and schemes to destabilize Jordan have failed due to the vigilance of the security forces and the support for the monarchy.
King Abdullah has succeeded in navigating through crises and plots as did his father the late King Hussein. For many years Jordan has been viewed as a pillar of stability and common sense in the middle of the world’s most turbulent region. Let us hope it stays that way.