Jordan: Al-Qaeda Hotbed?

The recent incident of the Jordanian suicide bomber who blew himself up at a Central Intelligence Agency base in Khost Province, Afghanistan, took many Jordanians by surprise, especially when they learned through the media about the depth of the cooperation between their government's intelligence service Mukhabarat and the United States in its "War on Terror." The Jordanian intelligence services recruited Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi and put him in touch with the CIA, and Jordan has since been deeply embarrassed by the fact that Balawi turned out to be a double agent.


Jordanians have also recently been made aware of the fact that an increasing number of their nationals have been volunteering to join the Taliban and al-Qaeda to fight against the United States in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Only days after the funeral of Captain Sharif Ali bin Zeid, the Jordanian Mukhabarat agent killed in the Khost attack, which was televised on Jordanian television and attended by King Abdullah II and other high ranking officials, a memorial took place for a Jordanian al-Qaeda member who was recently killed in a U.S. drone attack along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Bearded men poured into a reception hall in the town of Irbid to offer their condolences to his family.

His father was quoted in the Jordanian press saying that he was "proud of him and happy that he died a martyr fighting the Americans."

Most of these al-Qaeda members are known to be from the sprawling towns of Irbid and Zarqa which was the hometown of the late al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

This week, the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups demanded that the Jordanian government drop its pro-America stance. In a statement titled "It Is Not Our War," they wrote, "We demand an end to the policy of what is called cooperation or security coordination with the Zionist enemy or the American intelligence agencies, and the withdrawal of Jordanian forces from Afghanistan."

According to the Associated Press, Zaki Saad, former director of the Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing in Jordan, said that there was so much anger against the government's policies, and the marginalization of mainstream Islamist groups like his own, that it was driving radical young people into the arms of al-Qaeda.

"Balawi is not the first case, and he won't be the last," he said.

Jordan itself has experienced several terror attacks on its territories. In 2005, three suicide attackers detonated nearly simultaneous explosions at hotels in downtown Amman, killing 67 people and wounding more than 150 others. Many experts argue that it was after those attacks that the Jordanian Mukhabarat decided to work closely with the CIA in combating al-Qaeda.

On Thursday a roadside bomb exploded near a convoy of vehicles carrying Israeli diplomats in Jordan near the Jordanian village of Naour, as the convoy was traveling from Amman, the Jordanian capital, to the Allenby Bridge border crossing.

Although, there have been numerous threats against Israeli diplomats and visitors to Jordan since the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994, this incident cannot be treated as an isolated one. Security officials have speculated that this recent attack on the Israeli diplomats might have been the work of a group affiliated with al-Qaeda or a Palestinian group. In either case, this is the second time in less than a month that the Jordanian Mukhabarat suffers from a breach in too many for a small country like Jordan.

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