Jordan edges towards confrontation with ISIS
AMMAN - A suicide bombing that killed seven Jordanian border guards and wounded 13 security officials, the second terror attack in three weeks, pushed Jordan closer to direct confrontation with the Islamic State (ISIS).
Jordanian officials say the country is being targeted because of the important role it plays in the US-led coalition fighting the terror group in Iraq and Syria. Jordan’s pro- Western rulers regularly denounce ISIS and militant Islam as they try to block the long-running wars from spilling over into the small, vulnerable kingdom.
The June 21st attack on the remote border area of Rukban, where fleeing refugees are held for security screening, came as ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq are under intense military pressure.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the suicide bombing but Jordanian security officials said it “bore ISIS’s hallmark”.
Analysts said for ISIS to challenge Jordan so directly signals that the group wants to drag Amman deeper into the savage conflict. “The message shouldn’t be taken lightly,” observed retired army general Asef al-Khalidi, now a military analyst.
“The terrorists want to engage. They came to our door and made a big bang. They killed our children. They spilled precious Jordanian blood,” he said.
It was significant that the June 21st bombing, like a June 6th attack in which three Jordanian intelligence personnel were killed, targeted Jordan’s military.
The kingdom boasts that its security forces, trained by the British, French and the United States, and its US-funded intelligence service, make up the country’s “strongest shield”.
Rukban is near where the Iraqi, Syrian and Jordanian borders meet. There are more than 50,000 Syrian refugees stranded in a nearby holding camp just inside Syria as they await security screening. Jordan’s King Hussein warned in February that ISIS infiltrators are hidden among the refugees.
Jordan has resisted pressure to allow those refugees into its UN-run camps before proper security vetting. The refugees often face steady sources of food and water in the camp and their only hope is Jordan.
The attack raised questions how a heavily secured military outpost, staffed by various security units and monitored by sophisticated movement-detecting radar, could have been infiltrated by a lone suicide bomber speeding in a pick-up truck across the desert. The attack was the first on the northern Jordanian-Syrian border since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.
Jordan’s anger over the border attack and its outrage at ISIS recalls the February 1st, 2015, release of an ISIS video showing the gruesome murder of a Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot. That prompted Jordan to extend its air strikes against the group to Iraq as well.