Is the chaos in Iraq crossing over the border into Jordan? Before the Iraq invasion, King Abdullah of Jordan tried to warn the White House this might happen.
From the memory hole courtesy of His Majesty’s web site, an interview with King Abdullah of Jordan from August 2002, conducted by Glenn Kessler & Peter Slevin of The Washington Post.
Abdullah, speaking in an interview in his suite at the Four Seasons hotel, said an invasion of Iraq could splinter the country and spread across the Middle East. He commented as the Senate held its first hearings on the wisdom of a military campaign to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Abdullah said a reluctance by allies to confront the Bush administration over Iraq may have left U.S. policymakers falsely believing that there is little opposition to a war. Many also may have believed that the prospect of war was far in the distance, though Abdullah said â€œall of the sudden this thing is moving to the horizon much closer than we believed.â€
â€œIn all the years I have seen in the international community, everybody is saying this is a bad idea,â€ he said. â€œIf it seems America says we want to hit Baghdad, that’s not what Jordanians think, or the British, the French, the Russians, the Chinese and everybody else.â€
While Blair is frequently seen as a close partner of President Bush, Abdullah said, â€œBlair has tremendous concerns about how this would unravel.â€
Abdullah dismissed the assertion of some U.S. officials that the rise of a democratic Iraq would lead to better prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. â€œIn an ideal world, that could be a possibility,â€ he said. â€œLife being as it is, and so uncertain, very few people are convinced that that attitude would happen so easily. Our concern is exactly the opposite, that a miscalculation in Iraq would throw the whole area into turmoil.â€
This wasn’t the first time King Abdullah had expressed misgivings about invading Iraq. A quickie google turned up a March 2002 CNN article in which the King told the Dick
that a U.S.-led military campaign against Iraq would be disastrous for the region and would undermine the broader coalition in the war on terrorism.
During a weekend meeting with an Iraqi official, King Abdullah said a U.S. military confrontation with Iraq would be a “catastrophe” for the region.
On the other hand, here are remarks by President Bush to King Abdullah from May 2004:
The fall of Saddam Hussein removed a source of instability and intimidation from the heart of the Middle East. All of Iraq’s neighbors, including Jordan, are safer now. And the emergence of a peaceful, prosperous, and free Iraq will contribute to Jordan’s security and prosperity.
Hmm, who turned out to be right? …
Note to lurking righties who always need everything explained to them multiple times: Nobody, including King Abdullah, is opposed to a peaceful, prosperous, and free Iraq. Nor does anyone deny that a peaceful, prosperous, and free Iraq would contribute to the security and prosperity of the Middle East. What King Abdullah said–and it appears he had a clue–is that a U.S. invasion of Iraq had little chance of resulting in a peaceful, prosperous, and free Iraq and a big chance of making the Middle East even more unstable than it already was.
Some background: Abu Musab Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s bombings in Jordan. This is from an article just posted on the Time magazine web site:
Zarqawi, born Ahmad Nazzal Fadil al Khalayilah (his nom de guerre is an adaptation of Zarqa, his industrial hometown in northern Jordan) has been engaged in a long-running struggle with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Their duel began immediately after Abdullah ascended the throne in 1999, when he freed the Jordanian militant from prison in a general amnesty. Zarqawi, 39, had been jailed in the early 1990s on sedition charges after joining an Islamic fundamentalist group. He repaid Abdullah’s royal gesture by starting a relentless terrorism campaign against Jordanian monarchy. In turn, Abdullah has stood firm against Islamic extremism and sought to bring Zarqawi to justice, cooperating ever more closely with the Bush administration’s War on Terrorism.
In hindsight, we might say that King Abdullah made a mistake letting Zarqawi go. But not as big a mistake as the Bushies, who passed up at least three chances to terminate Zarqawi before the invasion of Iraq.
The Amman attacks fit a now-familiar pattern of terrorism that began after the U.S. war in Iraq in 2003: simultaneous blasts against Western targets hit housing and office compounds in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and 2004, hotels in Morocco in May 2003, and tourist resorts in Egypt in October 2004 and July 2005. In each case, the targets were in Arab countries led by pro-American governments.
But Zarqawi had his sights on Jordan long before the Iraq war. Jordanian officials accuse him of directing the so-called Millennium Plot to hit tourist sites, including the Radisson Hotel in Amman, on New Year’s Eve 1999. Last year, a Jordanian court sentenced Zarqawi to death for instigating the assassination of an American diplomat in 2002. In 2004, Jordanian officials said they foiled a chemical bomb attack directed by Zarqawi that could have killed up to 20,000 people; he is currently standing trial in absentia for the plot.
Here’s the most alarming part:
Wednesday’s attacks suggest that Abdullah’s worst fears about the Iraq war may be coming to pass. Though the King has been a staunch ally in the War on Terrorism, and provided key logistical support in the Iraq invasion, he strongly opposed the war on grounds that a conflict could further destabilize the Middle East.
The signs that the insurgency in Iraq was spilling on to Jordanian territory became apparent right after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, when Zarqawi’s men launched a massive bomb attack on the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad. Just over two months ago, Zarqawi claimed credit for shoulder-fired rocket attacks on U.S. warships in Jordan’s port of Aqaba. The shots missed their targets, killed two bystanders and served as a warning that more Zarqawi attacks may be on the way.
Worse from Jordan’s perspective, large numbers of young Jordanian men have gone to Iraq to join Zarqawi’s cause, raising the concern of another generation of young Zarqawis.
This is from yesterday’s Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: … I want to bring in former CIA officer, Bob Baer, who joins us by phone. Mr. Baer, what do you make of this? We are looking at the earmarks of this in the early going here, three hotels hit simultaneously in the tourist areas of Amman, suicides apparently involved.
ROBERT BAER, FMR. CIA OFFICER: Well, Chris, I think to say first, that General Downing has hit the nail on the head, and I would like to even go farther in that what we are seeing is the chaos in Iraq slopping over the border into Jordan. Jordan has a long border with Iraq; weapons can come across very easily.
You have a majority population is Palestinian. They are very proinsurgency in Iraq. And you also have a strong Hamas and Islamic Jihad presence, which uses suicide bombings. In addition to Zarqawi, and until we can stabilize Iraq, I bet you we are going to be seeing more of this in the future.
MATTHEWS: How does that work? … Is it out of towners, the foreigners, or is it the Iraqis?
BAER: Itâ€˜s both. Itâ€˜s both support coming out of Saudi Arabia, from the fundamentalists, the Salafists. It is Sunni fundamentalists in general, who can foresee re-emergence of caliphate, which would include Syria, Lebanon, Anbar Province in Iraq, probably Baghdad and Jordan, and these people are after power.
They think that this is a domino, and you can bring down these capitals one after another, and they would especially like to go after King Abdullah. His mother is English. He is western educated. Jordan is a very sophisticated, westernized country.
BAER: And they want to bring it down. And that would be a huge feather in their cap, the fundamentalists.
If you continue reading the transcript, you run into some commentary I’ve seen elsewhere–that al Qaeda and the Iraq insurgency are not seeing eye to eye these days. Al Qaeda does not want a Shia-Sunni war, which is where the Iraq insurgency might be heading. This is a development that bears watching.
Close to the end of the transcript are remarks by Michael Scheuer and Rand Beers:
MATTHEWS: …Michael Scheuer served as chief of the CIAâ€˜s bin Laden unit. He also wrote the book, Imperial Hubris, why the West is losing the war on terror.
Rand Beers served as a special assistant to President Bush on combating terrorism. He was also a member of the national security council during the Clinton administration.
Gentlemen, Michael and then Rand, what does this tell us about where we stand in the world, the war in Iraq, itâ€˜s relevance to this, et cetera?
MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER COVERT CIA OFFICER: By invading Iraq, weâ€˜ve basically signed the death warrant of Jordan and much of the Levant. bin Laden, itâ€˜s another example, Chris, of no one reading what bin Laden said. bin Laden prizes contiguity about all things. An area where he can operate from safe haven into another country.
MATTHEWS: Now his save haven is war-torn Iraq?
SCHEUER: Exactly right, sir. We created his bastion to get to an area heâ€˜s never been able to work against, which is the Levant, Israel, Egypt. He now has safe haven to operate from there.
MATTHEWS: He couldnâ€˜t operate from his home country of Jordan. He couldnâ€˜t attack Jordan from within?
SCHEUER: Well, al-Zarqawi could have. But for bin Laden, what we are seeing is al Qaeda move forces to Iraq to be able to move in against the Jordanians, against the Syrians, and eventually into Lebanon and into Israel.
MATTHEWS: What is the goal of the bombings tonight as you understand it? Why did people do it, who apparently committed suicide to do so, what drove them to that, whatâ€˜s their mission?
SCHEUER: Well, part of it was to destabilize Jordan. Part of it was to finish the job they failed to do in 2000. You remember, the Radisson was in the Millennium attack, was a target. And so itâ€˜s meant to further the spread of the Jihad.
Itâ€˜s a very nice operation. Thereâ€˜s going to be tremendous casualties there, and once again, the president and the secretary of defense will whistle past the graveyard saying this is, al Qaedaâ€˜s back is broken, this is some kind of a new organization out there.
MATTHEWS: Is this meant, this attack on Jordan, meant to make life in Jordan so unstable that people say, we might as well try something new?
RAND BEERS, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFFER: Well, itâ€˜s certainly designed to do as much to destabilize the current government there as possible.
MATTHEWS: What does destabilize mean?
BEERS: What it means, is basically force the government to use its security forces to go after cells there, and in so doing, create a sense of repression.
MATTHEWS: It makes them feel like an occupying force.
BEERS: Thatâ€˜s right.
MATTHEWS: And thatâ€˜s what the terrorists want to achieve, to make the Hashemite government, King Abdullah, seem like a Western power put on top of them.
BEERS: Thatâ€˜s right. And taking the longstanding relationship with Jordan, with the United States, this makes them an extension of the United States in the eyes of al Qaeda, have been for some time. Thatâ€˜s why Zarqawi started there. Thatâ€˜s why he was involved in some attacks there. Thatâ€˜s why he has had a cell structure there that preexisted what he did in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Michael, just to think outside the box, would we be better off with Saddam Hussein still running tyrannically that country of Iraq, right next door to Jordan? Would Jordan be more secure in that environment?
SCHEUER: No doubt about it, sir.
MATTHEWS: No doubt?
SCHEUER: Thereâ€˜d be … many fewer dead Americans, and we would have many more resources available to annihilate al Qaeda, which is what we have to do. Without a doubt, in the war against al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein was one of our best allies.
MATTHEWS: How so?
SCHEUER: He was not going to permit Iraq to become a base, as it is today, for Sunni fundamentalists.
MATTHEWS: Why did he let them come in for that training, that chemical training, whatever the hell they did up north?
SCHEUER: They didnâ€˜t control the area, so that was in the no-fly zone. They were in an area that was in Kurdistan.
SCHEUER: And they were Shia.
MATTHEWS: Do you buy this argument that if had we not gone into Iraq, Jordan would be safer to live in right now?
BEERS: Oh, I think in near term, thatâ€˜s absolutely true. You canâ€˜t dispute that.
MATTHEWS: And these fellows, who were just on trial who nowâ€”I shouldnâ€˜t call them fellows, like they are pals of mine. These guys who are the terrorists are under down in Australia now, saying the reason they went to the plan, at least, to blow up areas and use their explosives, was they are anger about the war in Iraq. Do you believe that thatâ€˜s the true motive?
BEERS: I think that that was certainly a large part of it, and I would say, letâ€˜s remember what people have said recently. The spokesman for al Qaeda, a guy named Gadahn, who is an American citizen, said that there would be attacks in Australia and at Los Angeles. If you go back and you think about the original Radisson plot, the original Radisson plot in the millennium was also what Rassam was doing coming into the United States when we caught him at the border.
MATTHEWS: From Canada.
BEERS: From Canada. He was going to LAX. So I have to say here, we had better pull up our socks and be looking very carefully within our own borders at this time.
MATTHEWS: You think this is a sign of something to come here …
BEERS: Well, we do know …
MATTHEWS: … what was happening Jordan tonight?
BEERS: Well, we do know that they come back to the scene of operations that they failed to complete. They have come back to the scene with the Radisson. That was partly …
MATTHEWS: They came back to the scene of the World Trade Center, 1993, back in 2001.
BEERS: Right. Thatâ€˜s right. They did the Cole after the missed the Fitzgerald in Aden, so we know that there is this pattern of coming back for failed operations.
SCHEUER: I think what youâ€˜re seeing too, Chris, is we havenâ€˜t heard from bin Laden for a year. The last time we heard him, and he said thatâ€˜s the end of it, I am not warning you anymore. I think the next time we see Osama bin Laden is after thereâ€˜s an attack in the United States.
Juan Cole has more.