Jordan edges towards confrontation with ISIS

Sunday 26/06/2016
In solidarity with soldiers who were killed on June 21st

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.