Category Archives: Jordan

WHO REALLY SUPPORTS ISIS?

BLOG 313 August 1, 2016

A new concern about the jihadi threat has alarmed the public in Jordan. An assault at the Syrian-Jordanian border checkpoint killed seven Jordanian soldiers in June. Then an attack on Jordan’s General Intelligence Service in the Baq’a Palestinian refugee camp near Amman killed five members of the security force. The deaths resulted in a crack down on even an appearance of sympathy with the incursion.

Jordan’s Muslim population are Sunnis. In the past, more than 2,000 Jordanian youth left for Syria and joined the Islamic State radicals. Of course, with high levels of unemployment and poverty, the lure for young men to join the ISIS fighters is strong. I met many of these young people when my two of my sons taught at different times as professors at the University of Amman. I watched heavily veiled young women coming into the campus to study a wide range of subjects. One of my sons also lectured in their medical college. I found that Jordanian young people take their education, their futures, and their faith quit seriously. Their sympathies run deep for the Sunni minority in Iraq and the Sunni elements fighting the Alawi ruler Bashar Assad and the Iranian supported Shi’ite regime.

But the big question across the entire region is what do everyday Arabs really think about ISIS.

Political science professors from prestigious universities as well as the director of the Arab Barometer ran an in-depth investigation and study of this question in five Arab countries. They added several important questions to the standard battery of Arab Barometer surveys to find exactly how the ISIS campaign and agenda is sitting with the Arab public.

The results are unexpected and surprising.

The highest percent agreeing with the Islamic State are 6.4% in Palestinians territories. However, in Jordan only .4% agree. Interestingly enough, 1% in Jordan agree that the ISIS tactics are compatible with Islam while the highest agreement came with the Palestinians at 8.9%. These numbers for agreement with ISIS are remarkably low.

In the five Arab countries surveyed, the tactics of ISIS using extreme violence compared with Islamic teaching had almost no support. The exception is Tunisia. This country has also sent the largest number of fighters to join ISIS.

However, when ISIS’s stated goals were published, a reduction followed in the number of young, poorly educated man who approved of these goals. The realization that ISIS is fighting and combating Shiite influence had a major effect on reducing support for their cause. Support for radical Islam diminished as men in the five Arab countries realized that the goals of ISIS were not relevant for their own societies.

The Arab Barometer results suggest that ISIS influence is far more limited that the media has generally indicated. Possibly, their days could be numbered. When information on their jihadist violence and brutality is available and the goals of ISIS are fully known, the extremist appear to be running out of gas.

Could be.

Who actually supports ISIS? A rather small crowd.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Arabs, Jordan, middle east

AND WHAT ABOUT THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATIONS?

            The good readers of my Middle East Blogs will remember my skepticism about whether the current negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians will go anywhere. The fundamental reason is the Palestinians resolutely refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist. Arafat’s killing of a possible treaty that ended up starting the second Intifada was based this on fact. Time has not changed the Palestinian position. Secondly, Israel will not negotiate their security. These two facts must change for any progress to be made. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong but –

            Almost nothing has appeared in the media to tell the world where the negotiations are going. The minuscule leaks have not been positive. The outsiders must struggle to get any sense of what is happening.

Let’s take another look at other dimensions that make an agreement difficult to achieve. One issue is that many Arabs have decided that no agreement is coming and have thrown in the towel by joining the Israeli state. They have recognized that attempts at settlement of old Palestinian property claims after the Arabs started the 1948 war aren’t going to happen. They have concluded a better life is possible only by starting where they are now and going forward.

Here’s another problem. The issue of the Jordan Valley farming area that borders Jordan and runs down to Jericho is seen by the local 60,000 Palestinians as the bread basket of their future country. The 8,600 acres of farm land is held at the mercy of the Israeli control of water that allows Arabs running water once every three days. The Palestinians must store every drop in bottles and cisterns. They fear the Israeli Likud Party’s position that maintains Israel should annex the land permanently.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu believes the strip is vital to Israel’s security. If left without military oversight, the strip would be a natural corridor for the shipment of missiles and weapons into the hands of Israel’s enemies. Israeli’s also point to the mismanagement of the Palestinian Authority which the Arab residents of the area often complain about. The P.A. is known for being dysfunctional and in many cases corrupt and open to bribery.

Israeli settlers have now moved into the area and figured out how to make date palms a financially success crop. Some young Israelis have moved back because of cheap housing and community living. They are certainly opposed to the government negotiating their settlements.

How can these diametrically opposed positions be reconciled?  At this point, the Israeli’s have the upper hand because of their military strength. However, the Palestinians are fiercely resistant. The end result is a gigantic elephant sitting in the middle of the negotiating room.

Just another reason for why progress has not appeared on the horizon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel, Jordan, middle east, Palestinians

THE MIDDLE EASTERN DRUG OF CHOICE: VIOLENCE

            Anyone following events across the Middle East cannot avoid the constant theme that runs through every story. Violence never stops.

            After the seemingly endless war George Bush visited on Iraq, the proclamation was that we have now planted democracy. Really? This week a bomb exploded in a Sunni Mosque in Baghdad killing at least 13 people. Another attack at a funeral northeast of Baghdad killed three more people. Near evening a blast at the Khalid bin al-Walid mosque wounded 35 people. The fact is that Iraq has been experiencing the worst violence it has seen in some time. Of course, these are all Sunni mosques. The attackers were possibly Shiite militia. Sunni extremists and remnants of Al Qada just as frequently target the Shittes. The wars between the two Islamic factions only feed on the violence

Though unreported, Israel airplanes attacked a storage of antiship cruise missiles that Russia had sold to the Syrian government. On July 5, near Latakia (Syrian’s principal port city) the Israelis made an airstrike on Russia’s Yakhont missiles stored in a warehouse. Though the Israeli government will not discuss the attack, it is the third attack inside Syria this year. Pre-emptive strikes are never commented on by Israel.  However, they are prompted by concern that missiles will be transferred to Hezbollah. In January, Israel attacked a convoy carrying Russian made SA-17 missiles that were intended for Hezbollah. Of course, Iran sends weapons to Syria by flying through Iraq’s airspace.  My, my, who would have thoughts that Iraq would allow such a thing.

Of course, the drug of choice is violence.

Meanwhile the United States maintains warplanes and antimissile batteries in Jordan. American F-16s and Patriot missies are supposed kept in Jordan at the request of Jordanian military. We also know the CIA has been training Syrian rebels in a covert program to put more pressure on the Syrian government. Could it be possible that the United States also prefers violence as their drug of choice?

Of course, the specter standing in the shadows is Vladimir Putin. Russia is suppling all the weapons that keep the Assad Syrian government in the war against their own people. Russia’s economy directly prospers by the Syrian conflict. That old KGB agent Putin certainly understands how Russia can profit from violence.

Let us not forget Egypt where the military just deposed President Morsi. Of course Morsi was attempting to impose Islamic authoritarianism on the country. But even to this hour, his followers are confronting the Egyptian military and the bodies continue to be stacked up in the streets. Egypt can tall us a great deal about violence.

My point is basic. Violence only spawns violence and the Middle East is caught in a downward spiral. All attempts to stop the killing must be pursued with diligence. Lives are precious and talk is cheap. Forget the clowns; send in the peace doves. It’s time for action that counts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, middle east, Violence

EXPLORING THE JORDANIAN SITUATION FURTHER

In my last blog, I suggested that there were a number of  reasons for President Obama’s visit to Jordan. While little has been in the news about this country, things are not good for the monarchy. As noted earlier, I first visited Jordan in the late ‘60s when the country was poorly developed. Even good hotels were lacking. Over the decades, I have watched the country develop and new stability return. With the death of King Hussein and the exit of Queen Nor to America, the power shifted to his son King Abdullah. The country seemed on an even keel and life appeared stable. However, income remained low and many people struggled.

With two sons who taught at the University of Amman and my own visits there, I saw students eager to gain a good education and develop a successful life style. Tourists came and went as well as many going to Petra to see the caves and ancient treasury where caravans once stopped. This tranquility was shaken as the “Arab Spring” brought turmoil to the entire region. Like a giant earthquake, the uprisings brought nations like Egypt and Syria to their knees. People would no longer accept the conditions of poverty or near poverty they lived in.

Such economic earthquakes reach into every level of life and are always an invitation to extremists to rush into the streets with radical promises of  improvement through upheaval. Egypt continues to struggle with this problem. Certainly the Al-Qaeda extremists found multiple opportunities to attempt to depose various governments. These tremors were certainly felt in Jordan.

While little has been published about Jordanian politics, much has transpired. King Abdullah recently met with President Vladimir Putin. The London-based Al-Quid Al-Arabi  newspaper suggested this could signal a major shift in how Jordan relates to Syria. The same article reported that Putin discussed establishing  Russian weapon factories in Jordan. These reports indicate the Jordanians are attempting to get the media to suggest that the upraising in Syria is led by Islamist fundamentalists whose objective is next to topple Jordan in order to attack Israel. Of course, there are radical Islamist terrorist fighting in Syria, but Syrian Christians are highly involved as well as well as combatants opposing oppression. It is known that Jordan’s intelligence agency has been cooperating with Syrian intelligence. Moreover, Jordan has supplied the Assad regime with diesel fuel and drinking water. Of course, many refugees have fled into Jordan, but Abdullah has returned rebel opposition to the Syria government. In addition, allegations suggest the King Abdullah has been trying to influence Western media’s reporting by offering journalists gifts.

Not a good situation!

The point is that attempts to distort reporting is an old trick of tyrannical regimes. If this strategy is proven true, it will highly discredit the entire Hashemite government. History suggests that Jordan has always been late in making up their mind about what to do and then ending up on the wrong side. They lost the West Bank area because at the last minute they jumped into the Yom Kippur War after saying they were staying out.

We can conclude that President Obama’s visit was highly important for reasons we have not yet discovered. Let’s hope King Abdullah doesn’t try to buy time by making foolish gambles.

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt, Jordan, middle east, Syria