Jordan’s anti-ISIS Syria air strikes send a message home

Sunday 19/02/2017
A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace shows Jordanian King Abdullah II meeting with members of his cabinet in Amman, on December 21st, 2016. (AFP)

Amman - The significance of the re­cent air strikes by the Jor­danian Royal Air Force on Islamic State (ISIS) targets in southern Syria extends far beyond being just another mili­tary action, analysts said.
Analysts said the air strikes sig­nify Jordan’s determination to fight terrorism anytime and against any targets that form a threat against its territories, especially after Jor­dan faced several terrorist attacks in the last year through ISIS-affiliated sleeper cells and lone wolves.
The air strikes, which involved the use of unmanned aerial vehicles also called drones, coincided with the second anniversary of the death of Jordanian fighter pilot Muath al- Kasasbeh, who was burned alive by ISIS militants in Syria in 2015.
Petra, the official Jordanian news agency, said the Jordanian Royal Air Force destroyed ammunition ware­houses, a structure designated to booby-trapping vehicles and ISIS barracks in southern Syria.
Petra quoted the Jordanian mili­tary as saying the air strikes were dedicated to the memory of those who died in the line of duty in the war against terrorism. The state­ment added that the strikes were a continuation of Jordan’s efforts to eliminate ISIS and to “show the khawarij [outlaws of Islam] that they will be targeted constantly un­til they are eradicated”.
Political analyst Fahd al-Khitan said Jordan’s air strikes were part of the international coalition fighting ISIS but not all strikes were made public.
“This recent strike was an­nounced to the public as a way of sending a message that Jordan will not forget the killing of one of its own and in this case it is Muath al- Kasasbeh, the pilot who was cap­tured and killed,” he said.
“The operation, which was suc­cessful against ISIS targets, will always remind the terrorist group that Jordan has this urge to take revenge and that the kingdom will do anything to protect itself and its people,” Khitan said.
Jordan developed a great hate against ISIS in 2016 due to several attacks, he said.
“The world feels proud of Jordan as a Muslim country that is fighting terrorism and the kingdom has al­ways said that ISIS does not belong to the Muslim community because Islam is a religion of peace and Jor­dan carries a huge responsibility towards protecting Islam and Mus­lims everywhere,” he said.
Khitan said during King Abdullah II’s recent trip to the United States, discussions with US President Don­ald Trump included ways to boost the strategic partnership and com­bat terrorism.
King Abdullah also met US na­tional security officials to talk about regional developments and the US administration’s anti-terrorism strategy. This was a sign that Jordan plays a key part in the international coalition in fighting terrorism, Khi­tan said.
While in Washington, King Abdul­lah stressed that Islam was a beauti­ful gift, saying: “We need to renew our global neighbourhood”, focus­ing on “what unites us, not what di­vides us… and standing together to get the job done.
“Among its many beautiful gifts, Islam, as with other faiths, com­mands mercy and tolerance, calls on us to honour the dignity of every person, forbids coercion in religion, and demands respect for the houses of God.”
King Abdullah recently met the families of soldiers and security personnel who died fighting terror­ist groups. He said terrorist acts that targeted Jordan have united Jorda­nians and made them stronger in facing terrorist groups and anyone who threatens the country’s safety and stability.
The king established a fund to support the families of those sol­diers and security personnel killed in the line of duty.
Retired brigadier Mahmoud Erd­issat said ISIS militants had taken refuge in southern Syria near the Jordanian border and the recent pre-emptive strike helped secure the kingdom from ISIS attacks.
Jordan has been on its highest level of alert with weapons pointed towards the other side of Yarmouk river where villages are under the control of the Khaled bin al-Waleed Brigade, an affiliate of ISIS. Jordan said that with the US-led coali­tion forces campaign against ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa, more militants will try to come clos­er to the Jordanian borders, which creates a serious threat to the coun­try’s security.
Analysts said 2016 was a difficult year for Jordan, especially in that ISIS attacked the Rukban refugee camp on the Jordanian-Syrian bor­der through sleeper cells in Irbid and Kerak.
In 2015, Jordan carried out 56 air strikes on ISIS targets in revenge for Kasasbeh’s assassination.
Retired major-general Ibrahim Khawaldeh said the latest air strike was an important aspect of the kingdom’s fight against terrorism and that it sends the right message that Jordan will secure its borders in any way possible.
Military experts said there were three objectives for the latest at­tacks: Directing pre-emptive strikes against ISIS, helping establish safe areas and control of the Syrian re­gime on the Syrian side of the bor­der with Jordan instead of ISIS.
Mamoum Abu Nouwar, a retired brigadier, said ISIS was expanding dangerously in southern Syria and Jordan needed to stop such threats by undertaking such air strikes.