Op-Ed: MUST READ: Next Goal for ISIS - Jordan. And Then?
Ma'an is a Bedouin village in the southern part of Jordan that has always been a headache for the country's rulers. The population is strongly fundamentalist and includes a significant number of Salafists.
Street demonstrations that ended violently have been held there in the past, once brought on by food prices, once by the price of fuel, and once because the monarchy did not treat village leaders with enough respect. In time, Ma'an became Jordan's baromemter, an indicator of underlying currents of opinion in the country.
On the 2th of June, in the middle of a Friday afternoon, Ma'an was the scene of a pro-ISIL ("The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant", known as ISIS, but more accurately translated ISIL) demonstration where black flags waved and the signs had an unmistakable message (my additions in parentheses, M.K.).
"Today is Support an Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham Day", "Ma'an is Jordan's Fallujah", "We support an Islamic State", "We congratulate the Islamic people for the conquests of Omar (Be Akhattab, the second Caliph, conqueror of al-Sham) that Allah chose to form an Islamic state in Iraq and al-Sham" were some of them.
Loud and hysterical shouts of "Allah akbar", "To Jihad", "there is none save Allah and the Shiites are his foes", "He who fights for Jihad is loved by Allah", "The Sunnis are Allah's beloved", "Allah is our god and not theirs (the Shiites')", "The Shiite god is Satan", "Death is better than humiliation", "With blood and spirit will we redeem you, Islam", "Jihad is our way", "Jihad state forever", "O Shiite rulers, we are coming for you", were heard at the demonstration and to serve as proof of its serious intentions, shots were fired in the air.
The most important aspect of the protest was that almost all those present did not hide their faces, meaning that they have no fear of the Jordanian government, its police or its secret service. The demonstrators were well aware that they were being photographed by various people and that the photos could be used to identify and apprehend them and they didn't care. And when there fear of the state is no more, anything can happen.
ISIL has never concealed its intentions regarding Jordan, created, as were Iraq and Syria, by European colonialism, and therefore deserving to be eliminated. The name of the organization expresses is goals, because "al-Sham" is the Levant, and that area includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.
In order to make its plans for Jordan obvious, the organization expanded its control in Iraq westward, up to the border between Iraq and Jordan, also conquering the border town of Turayvil. Its successes in Iraq and Syria awaken the "Jihadist adrenaline" in the marginal populations of Jordan and the demonstration in Ma'an expresses what is well-known: ISIS success draws the masses, especially those on the fringes of society, those who want to belong to something successful at last. And if this successful thing brings an end to a suppressive regime, it is an even more worthy group to join.
The Leader and the Controversy
The man who is seen as the leader of the Salafist Jihad movement in Jordan is Assem Barqawi, better known as Abu Mohammad al-Maqdesi,(the Jerusalemite). He was born in the villaeof Burqa near Shechem on July 3, 1959 (next week is his birthday!) and studied Islam in Mosul and Medina. He published a book in which he claimed that the Saudi regime had no legal basis. He is the spiritual mentor of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, who founded "al-Qaeda in the Land of the Rivers" in 2004. The latter is the organization that turned into ISIL ("The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant"). Barqawi spent periods of his life in Pakistan and Afghanistan, met the heads and leaders of al-Qaeda there. The Jordanian government sentenced him to a long prison term and his followers receive their orders from his cell.
There are those in the Jihadist Salafist movement in Jordan that claim that al-Makdesi supports an "Islamic state" takeover of Iraq, but does not want to expand the organization's efforts to Jordan. Another prominent activist, Mohammad Shalabi, aka Abu Sayyaf ("owner of the swords"), who criticized the Ma'an protest and claimed that it "is suspicious (i.e. a governmental conspiracy to destroy the Jihadist movement)" and that only about twenty or thirty people, including five youth (therefore irresponsible) whose "heads were turned by someone" participated in it - and that "it does not represent the Salafist stresm nor does it serve its goals."
Abu Sayyaf, however, does not hide his support for ISIL and the massacre of Shiites that the organization is carrying out in Iraq, mainly on government soldiers. Regarding Jordan, the situation is different, as – according to him – some of the Salafist Jihad people in Jordan support ISIL and some "Jibhat Al-nasura" and as is known, the two Salafist organizations are fighting Assad in Syria but also one another.
The arguments in Jordan will disappear, however, when ISIS begins its armed struggle against that country. This will begin when the group of fighters whose language is the Jordanian desert dialect infiltrates from Iraq into Jordan, appears before the cameras with masked faces and proclaims the "Biya" – the oath of fealty – to the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and then begins to attack Jordanian army patrols, military roadblocks, small army outposts and civilian cars.
Methods of Action
The organizations methods are well known: its forces get their strength from a few dozen 4x4 fast moving vehicles, upon which are mounted heavy machine guns. Some of the fighters have RPG's and some light weapons, usually Saar AK-47 rifles ("Kalashnikovs"). Of late, their arms have been enriched with a significant amount of deadly and state-of-the-art American weapons, straight from the Iraqi army arsenals and taken in battle. This large and destructive armed force attacks an outpost, roadblock or patrol by surprise, creating a situation in which it has the tactical advantage because of the number of its fighters, its mobility and the element of surprise.
The organization takes the trouble to video and photograph its battles and their outcomes, especially the mass murder of soldiers and civilians it captures, this in order to spread panic among its opponents. Its militants' faces are generally covered with keffiyahs, so that no one will be able to identify them in the future and see to it that they pay for their acts. The frightening photos that the organization disseminated are a main reason the Iraqi armed forces, meant to defend the city, fled Mosul and left the city to the mercies of ISIL.
In Jordan, ISIL is being watched, and more than a few people are waiting impatiently for the west (Iraqi) and northern (Syrian) strong-blowing winds of Jihad, to sweep the Jordanian desert, still under the rule of the Hashemite family brought there by the British ninety years ago, who created the "Transjordanian Emirate" for them. This eventually beame the Jordanian Kingdom, despite the fact that "the kingdom belongs only to Allah and he has no co-rulers (Koran Chap. 2, verse 25)".
Even if there is opposition to ISIL in Jordan today, it is probable that when the organization begins to move its activities to the country, this opposition will disappear – especially if the anti-Jordanian Jihad has some successes. These successes will "convince" local tribes and individuals to join the organization, exactly as occurred in Syria and Iraq, some out of fear and some out of the desire to be part of the victory.
It is clear to all that Jordan is not going to be the final destination for ISIL, but will serve as a jumping off point for the continuation of Jihad against additional illegitimate creations of Western colonialism and the Sykes-Picot agreement, namely Israel and Saudi Arabia.
A clear and razor-sharp choice will then face Israel and the West, in all its gravity: on the one hand, there will be those who say that the Jordanian business is not ours and that if the Hashemites are destined to fall, we have no way of saving them, certainly not at the price of IDF soldiers' blood – and so we must wait until the Jihadists reach Israel's borders and finish them off properly. In addition, if a new country takes the place of Jordan, we can claim that it is a Palestinian State and that there is no need for another in Judea and Samaria, since there already is one in Gaza as well.
On the other hand, it is quite possible that the world – and the USA in particular – will come to the aid of the Hashemite Kingdom, so that it too does not fall into Jihadist hands. In that case the Man in the White House will expect Israel to take part in the operation, because afer all, for Israel, the Jordanian regime still serves as a kind of shield against Jihadist east winds that arise in Iraq - and possibly in Iran at a future date. Can Israel remain with its arms folded if and when its friends in the USA, and maybe Europe, come to the aid of the Hashemite Kingdom?
Another thing is clear as day during these hot summer months – in Jordan as well as on our side of the river – there is going to be a battlefield between the IDF and the Jihad coming from the east, unless it is stopped east of the Jordan Valley. If anyone thinks that a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria will protect Israel from attack, it falls upon him to prove that before he tells Israel to leave the Jordan Valley. Will the Palestinian forces, armed and trained by the Americans ("Dayton's Forces") be stronger and more motivated than the Iraqi army that was also armed and trained by the USA?
What is happening today in Syria and Iraq - and that may spill over into Jordan - proves to Israel once again the truth of the Arabic saying:" Your back can be scratched only by your own fingernail."
In Hebrew that thought is found in a well known saying of our Talmudic sages in Ethics of the Fathers: "If I am not for myself, who is for me". I rest my case.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly attuned to Arab media and politics in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.