Tag Archives: Jordan

ISIS burns Jordan pilot alive

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has published video images allegedly showing the burning of Jordanian pilot of Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured by the militant group in December after his fighter jet crashed, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The head of the Jordanian armed forces informed the pilot’s family that he has been killed, Reuters reported, quoting a family member.

ISIS had demanded the Jordanian government release Sajida al-Rishawi, a prisoner on death row for terror-related crimes, as part of a swap deal for the release of Kassasbeh.







link to the video.


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Islamic State support grows in Jordan

Backers of Mideast’s most extremist group are laying low after surprise show of strength in protests last summer

In this photo taken Oct. 27, 2014, a poster with a picture of a late Jordanian Salafi Jihadi, who was killed by Syrian government forces while fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, and Arabic that reads "the martyr Jihadi sheikh Osama Kreishan, Abu Abdullah, martyred in Syria Friday, Jan. 3, 2014," is posted on the wall of his family house, in the city of Ma'an, Jordan. (Photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser)

In this photo taken Oct. 27, 2014, a poster with a picture of a late Jordanian Salafi Jihadi, who was killed by Syrian government forces while fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, and Arabic that reads “the martyr Jihadi sheikh Osama Kreishan, Abu Abdullah, martyred in Syria Friday, Jan. 3, 2014,” is posted on the wall of his family house, in the city of Ma’an, Jordan. (Photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser)
MAAN, Jordan (AP) — Local authorities quickly stripped away public signs of support for the Islamic State group in this desert town. Black flags have been removed from rooftops. Graffiti proclaiming the extremists’ imminent victory have been whitewashed.

But supporters of the Middle East’s most radical extremist group are only laying low after their surprise show of strength in protests last summer. Despite government efforts, support for the Islamic State group is growing in Maan and elsewhere in Jordan, one of the West’s key allies in the region, say Islamic State activists, members of rival groups and experts on political Islam.

One of the leading Islamic State group activists in Maan said he and others are still working to build their base.

“In homes, at work, in mosques, in the streets, we reach out to people to call them to the real Islam,” the 40-year-old blacksmith, Abu Abdullah, told The Associated Press. Like other Islamic State group supporters interviewed by the AP, he spoke on condition he be identified only by his nickname for fear of troubles with authorities.

Militants like Abu Abdullah talk confidently of eventually having enough numbers to make their takeover of Jordan inevitable.

That may be overconfidence. Hardcore supporters of the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” likely number in the thousands in a nation of 6.5 million. The government says the threat is overblown. But extremists do have momentum, attracting followers with promises of radical change and an ostensibly more just society at a time when many Jordanians can’t find jobs, struggle with rising prices or feel abandoned by the pro-Western ruling elite.

The war in Syria gives them a cause and battlefield experience. Up to 2,000 Jordanians are fighting in rebel ranks in Syria and Iraq, most of them with extremist factions, and several hundred have been killed, according to Hassan Abu Haniyeh, an expert on Islamic movements, and Marwan Shehadeh, a scholar who was once part of the ultraconservative Salafi movement.

Over the summer, jihadi Salafi marches were held in Maan, Zarqa and several other cities, with protesters raising black banners and chanting slogans in support of the Islamic State group.

Given the poverty and anger at perceived government neglect, such protests could easily erupt again and spread, warned Maan’s mayor, Majed al-Sharari.

“My expectation is that because of this pressure, there will be a huge explosion in Jordan,” he said. “I don’t expect 2015 to pass peacefully. The signs are there.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II called the fight against the Islamic State group and extremists “a third world war by other means.”

“This is our war. This is a war inside of Islam,” he said in an interview with CBS News on Friday ahead of White House talks with President Barack Obama. “We have to own up it. We have to take the lead.”

In this photo taken Oct. 29, 2014, Salafi cleric Mohammed al-Shalabi, 48, widely known as Abu Sayyaf, talks during an interview with the Associated Press at a furniture store, owned by the head of Abu Sayyaf's clan, in the city of Ma'an, Jordan. (Photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser)

Support for the Islamic State group runs strongest among jihadi Salafis. The jihadi Salafi movement backs the waging of violence — holy war, as they portray it — to bring about rule by the strict version of Islamic Shariah law that they contend is the only acceptable interpretation.

Experts estimate that the number of Jordan’s jihadi Salafis has doubled since the 2011 outbreak of the Arab Spring uprisings, to at least 9,000 hardcore members.

They are part of the broader movement of Salafis, who number in the tens of thousands around Jordan. The vast majority in the movement opposes the jihadi branch and says preaching, not violence, is the way to spread their vision of Islam.

While they used to be focused in a few towns, “now you find jihadists everywhere in the kingdom,” said Abu Haniyeh. They have increasingly turned to support for the Islamic State group since Jordan became part of a U.S.-led coalition waging airstrikes against the group in Syria and Iraq, he said.

They are also drawing from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, once the region’s most influential political Islamic movement. In Maan, jihadi Salafis are surpassing the Brotherhood in membership, said Ibrahim al-Hmeidi, a local school supervisor.

“There is a tangible increase in the number of supporters in the street,” said Morad Adeili, spokesman of the Jordan branch of the Brotherhood. “People lost hope, particularly the young, and they feel the Salafi ideology and enterprise will give them what they want.”

In this photo taken Oct. 29, 2014, a Jordanian boy sits on the sidewalk by painted-over graffiti depicting the flag of the Islamic State group with Arabic that reads "their is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet, the Islamic state is staying," in the city of Ma'an, Jordan,(Photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser)

Maan, a tribal town of 60,000 in the deserts of southern Jordan, embodies the challenges. Unemployment in the province was 15 percent in 2013, compared to 12.6 percent nationally. Unemployment among those in their 20s is believed to be close to 30 percent.

Maan “has been marginalized for a long time by successive governments and there is real economic suffering,” said the mayor, al-Sharari. “All we hear are promises and talk, but no real steps.”

Dozens of Maan residents have gone to Syria or Iraq to fight in jihadi groups and at least 18 have been killed, according to Abu Abdullah, the Islamic State activist.

The show of IS support in Maan erupted in late June and early July, as Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in the territory his group controls in Iraq and Syria. Pro-IS banners were hung from a two-story bank building in Maan that had been torched by rioters in April. “The Islamic caliphate is scoring victories,” read one sign.

The announcement had jihadi Salafis in Maan at the time buzzing with excitement.

“The caliphate has become a reality on the ground and it will come here, sooner or later,” said Abu Mohammed, who volunteers at the Sabeel Center, a local charity run by Salafis.

Another volunteer, 30-year-old Abu Ramez, said he hoped a caliphate will bring social justice. “We have two classes, the large poor one and the small rich one. Therefore, people support IS.”

By late October, the flags were gone and most of the slogans whitewashed, under orders from the mayor.

But Abu Abdullah is undiscouraged. He said he expects Jordan to come under the control of the Islamic State group soon, with or without a fight.

“We are waiting for this moment,” he said, sporting an untrimmed black beard, black headscarf and robe ending above the ankle, typical garb for Salafis.

Salafis are deeply intertwined in the conservative town and with its tribes, which hold powerful influence.

On a recent morning, for example, Mohammed al-Shalabi, a leading jihadi Salafi preacher widely known as Abu Sayyaf, had a casual get-together with senior tribal members to socialize and chat about the upcoming wedding of Abu Sayyaf’s eldest son. They met at a furniture store owned by the head of Abu Sayyaf’s clan.

The town’s hundreds of Salafis are embraced by other members of their tribes, said Fayez Bazaya, one of the tribal leaders who attended. “When they (Salafis) face a problem, of course the tribe stands against the outsider.”

Since the summer, the government has been reining in the pro-Islamic State fringe.

More than 120 have been arrested for support of the group the past three months. At least 16 have been sentenced to prison, including a man sentenced last week to three years in prison for “spreading terrorist ideology” by posting pro-Islamic State slogans on the Internet.

In the tough new climate, the Brotherhood also appears to be a target. Its deputy leader in Jordan was detained last months amid allegations he had harmed Jordan’s relations with a friendly nation, a spokesman for the group said.

The flow of volunteer fighters to Syria and Iraq has also slowed because of tighter border restrictions, said Abu Abdullah.

Government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani dismissed talk of a threat to Jordan’s stability.

“There is a huge exaggeration on the phenomena of extremism in Jordan,” he said. “We are talking about a small phenomenon that is under control.”

He acknowledged economic problems in Maan and other provincial towns but said the “mass majority of Jordanians don’t associate with fundamentalism as an ideology and with terrorism in general.”

After the rapid Islamic State gains in Iraq over the summer, there has been speculation it might target Jordan next, either through cross-border attacks or by trying to destabilize it from within. But the group also must take into account the likely strong response the US would marshal to protect its ally.

Shehadeh said that for now, IS supporters see Jordan as “a land of logistical support and preaching, and it is not the land of the fight yet.”

Abu Sayyaf said it’s not the time for the Salafis to make their move. “The Salafis can change the country when they have power,” he said. “When they are weak, they cannot.”

As Jordan faces terrorist threats, IDF sets up new Jordan Valley battalion

ISIS and the Future of Jordan

Steven Horowitz

The map of the Arab Middle East has collapsed. The post-Ottoman state as represented by Syria and Iraq has ceased to act as two unified entities and instead has fragmented into warring tribes of sectarian and ethnic composition. Political Islam has replaced Arab nationalism. The borders of Sykes-Picot have been erased as masses of Sunni Arabs now cling to the pre-modern delusion of an expansive Caliphate. The authoritarian Arab secular republic, built on the sands of societal security through a state-centered development model, has shattered in a sea of debt. Arab society has become endangered by complete anarchy. The medieval Sunni-Shia split has once again come to the forefront of Arab culture as any hope of empowerment in economics and politics wanes. Only the oil producing states have produced a reasonable economy, but for how long?

With the advent of the shale oil revolution and the vast increase in Chinese solar photovoltaics, demand for conventional oil will continue to drop. As the sun replaces coal for electricity, cleaner natural gas will become freed up for surface transportation. The world (or great portions of it) has become riveted by the fear of man-made climate change. Arab society has become frozen and unable to adapt. The Arab dictators and absolute monarchs have failed to understand either the global environmental crisis or the failure of their outdated and corrupt crony economic model. Entire Arab populations have suffered from low economic output in conjunction with a complete absence of political enfranchisement. The rich Arabs were blinded by the riches of their own oil. But the vast majority of Arabs were poor. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia when a frustrated street vendor (tired of official corruption and bribes) decided on an extreme protest (public suicide) to overcome his humiliation. But since those heady days of late 2010 and early 2011, the promising spring has turned toward winter, as peaceful protest has morphed into a vicious Islamic regional war.

Jihad has now become the calling card of the Arab world. The Arab kings and monarchs (mostly all allied with the US) have bankrolled political Islam as a kind of ideological replacement for the original hope of the Arab Spring. Democratic pluralism and economic opportunity have been replaced by one form of jihad or another. The last thing these absolute rulers wanted was genuine democracy in the Middle East. But political Islam and jihad run great risks for the entire region. Enter ISIS. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has now become an expansive enterprise encompassing frustrated Sunni political grievances and the inability of the authoritarian Arab state to deliver economic progress throughout society. Meanwhile Arab dictators, like Assad of Syria, have used this extreme Islamic threat to continue to prop-up their own one-party and morally corrupt state. Assad uses his regime as a kind of cynical existential life raft for those outside the narrow ISIS constellation.

These are indeed uncertain times in the Levant and throughout the entire Middle East. Yet the left-wing political forces in Europe (Sweden and the UK, so far) continue to harangue tiny, little Israel to make grave concessions of precious strategic geography. Israel simply cannot afford to do such a thing. The concept of “land for peace” never held complete sway on the Israeli political scene. And over the years, and for good reason, this concept has now become totally eclipsed by issues of security and the uncertainty of the future of the Arab world, especially Jordan. The so-called two-state solution has always envisioned a pro-Israel Jordanian king on the throne in Amman. The friendly, Western leaning, UK and American supported Hashemite dynasty has always been considered a linchpin in the formation of a demilitarized West Bank Palestinian state. But with the future of the Middle East in doubt, the falsity of this “solution” has come under much greater scrutiny. ISIS is now poised on the road to the Jordanian capital as its control of Iraq’s Anbar Province has become near complete.

Although the European left blames Israel for the breakdown of the latest round of Palestinian negotiations, much greater considerations than either settlements or refugees caused the stalemate. The very uncertainty of the region has meant that no Israeli government could ever sign on to a deal which called for a withdrawal from such a strategic territory as the West Bank. When the Oslo process started, the permanence of the Levant was considered a given. This, of course, is no longer true. The greatest of all ironies is that when the Israel-Palestinian negotiations broke down, it was only two months later that ISIS catapulted on to the scene with its dramatic defeat of the Iraqi Army. No intelligence agency in either Europe or North America even anticipated such a turn of events. From the very beginning of the Kerry mission of peace (a quixotic enterprise if there ever was one), events on the ground in the Middle East assured that the negotiations would accomplish next to nothing. The very fact of the Arab Spring has rendered the idea of a West Bank Palestinian state to be an anachronism. Now with political Islam on the ascendancy, the anachronism has only grown deeper.

When the crowds began to form in Tunis, Cairo and Damascus, the very future of monarchy in Jordan came into question. If the Arab world had continued toward democracy, the majority population east of the Jordan River (Palestinian by numbers and identity) could have begun the process of the overthrow of the Hashemite dynasty. This is the inconvenient truth of the two-state solution concept. The largest Palestinian community in the world is in Jordan, just a stone’s throw from the West Bank. They cannot be taken for granted. In the final analysis, there are at least four, perhaps five, civil wars going on in the dysfunctional Arab Levant. There’s the war between ISIS and the Shia, ISIS and the so-called Syrian moderates, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, the moderates and Assad, and Fatah vs. Hamas (and potentially either Palestinian faction vs. the East Bank king). One way or another the future prospects of an authoritarian, minority-ruled Jordanian monarchy appears shakier and shakier. In this kind of environment, Israel would be suicidal to sign a “peace deal” with the Palestinians which would require “land for peace”.

Without regional stability, there can be no peace between Arab and Jew. Throughout this entire conflict, Israel has been ready to make peace. This has been true from 1937 on to the present day. However, now things have changed so dramatically that all the old concepts and paradigms have been called into question. The West Bank Palestinian state idea is dead. It has been surpassed by one of two potential outcomes: either an advancing political Islam hell-bent on the destruction of Israel or a democratic pluralism where majorities rule but not at the expense of minorities. There are no other choices (except Iranian domination, of course). But the left-wing in Israel cannot accept this reality. They continue to cling onto the old idea of the West Bank Palestinian state which in these two contexts could only mean a “Greater Palestine”. This is not a way to win an election. Concessions to the crazy machinations of ISIS and Hamas or to the false whims of the Europeans do not make for a winning political platform. What is needed by all political actors in Israel (including the national camp) is a new peace plan and an entirely new blueprint for the region. This will require an alternative narrative with an inspirational vision of the future. Without such a vision, Israel will continue to be isolated by its enemies in both Europe and the Middle East.

The Jewish people around the world await an Israeli leadership that can accomplish in the diplomatic sphere, what has been established so brilliantly in the political, economic and military realms. If Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot craft the appropriate pathway toward the center, then perhaps the task should be taken up by the Israeli left (if they can finally adapt to the new reality). However it goes, some politician must find the realism necessary to move in the only direction available to achieve success, toward a peace plan with a certainty of security. This must be true both across the river and across the region. Either way, without new ideas, both the Israel left and the Israeli right will continue to be pressured by the vast majority of the international community. This will be far worse for the left, but in the end, all of Israel will suffer from the slings and arrows of another round of left-wing European injustice aimed directly at the survival of the Jewish state.

Israel is the future of the Jewish people. It must have peace, but not a phony peace that will leave it defenseless. What is needed is a real peace, a peace that the whole world can appreciate and understand. There is a way forward, and it includes: A democratic Jordan; shared-rule for the disputed territories and Jerusalem; a region free of weapons of mass destruction; a region free of conventional hegemony; and finally, a region free of foreign interference not codified into international law through UN treaty. Let the old ideas die before they slowly kill us.

Jordan: Al-Qaeda cleric denounces IS caliphate

AMMAN — A Jordanian jihadist ideologist and Al-Qaeda cleric on Wednesday denounced the declaration of a “caliphate” by Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria, warning against more bloodshed.

“Can every Muslim and weak person find refuge in this caliphate? Or would it be like a sharp sword against all opponents?” Issam Barqawi, known as Abu Mohammed Al-Maqdessi, wrote on Facebook and on jihadist websites.

On Sunday, militants previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), declared a “caliphate”, an Islamic form of government last seen under the Ottoman Empire, straddling parts of Iraq and Syria.

The militants, who renaming themselves the Islamic State (IS), already control large swathes of territory in north and east Syria, and this month captured vast stretches of northern and western Iraq. “What would the fate be of other Islamist fighters in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere?” asked Maqdessi, who was freed on July 16 after serving a jail sentence for recruiting fighters for the Taliban.

Once mentor to Iraq’s now slain Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, before the two fell out over ideological differences, Maqdessi warned against “Muslims who kill other Muslims”.

“Do not think you can silence the voice of justice by shouting, making threats, aggression and having no manners,” he said.

Experts say the declaration of the caliphate is a direct challenge to Al-Qaeda and could spark a contest for the leadership of the global group.

Jordan’s jihadist movement is generally dominated by anti-IS groups that support Al-Qaeda and its Syrian ally, Al-Nusra Front.

The offensive in Iraq has also sparked fears in Amman that the Sunni militants will try to take their fight to the kingdom.

On Monday, King Abdullah appealed for international support to help Jordan deal with regional turmoil after the caliphate was declared.

Rebel groups in Syria seek aid

Rebel groups from northern and eastern Syria on Wednesday demanded aid from the country’s exiled opposition to allow them to fight against the Islamic State. “We, the leaders of the brigades and battalions… give the National Coalition, the (opposition) interim government, the (rebel) Supreme Military Council and all the leading bodies of the Syrian revolution a week to send reinforcements and complete aid,” the statement said.

“Should our call not be heard, we will lay down our weapons and pull out our fighters,” it added.

“Our popular revolution (against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad)… is today under threat because of the (Islamic State), especially after it announced a caliphate,” said the statement.

IS first appeared in Syria’s war in late spring 2013. It has since taken control of Raqa in northern Syria, much of Deir Ezzor in the east, and parts of Aleppo province. — Agencies

ISIS reaches border of Saudi Arabia

The brief statement by the Saudi Royal Court reflects the heightened state of alert in the entire region. The Extremists have reached the border. Al-Qaed is a stone’s thrown from three countries: Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. ISIS, the most extreme faction of al-Qaeda, is mobilizing its forces to face Assad’s regime and recently, Maliki’s government. ISIS has built an army of thousands of suicide bombers of different nationalities, all of whom are prepared to return to their countries and start a world war.

Similar to what happened in Syria, what is now happening in Iraq is a genuine revolution against a sectarian, repugnant rule. Al-Qaeda became involved in this revolution under many banners: ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham. They claimed supporting the oppressed people until they took they stage with their extraordinary global capabilities. The group exploited the anger of millions of Sunni people around the world, from Indonesia to Britain, and made them cheer to its achievements. Today, ISIS is the star of the box office. as my colleague Youssef al-Dini said.

In order to understand the unprecedented and rapid developments, we should be aware that we have two rivals which we cannot take sides with: Assad and Maliki’s sectarian governments on one side, and ISIS and its terrorist affiliates on the other.
Turkey, which was at first confused between Syrian nationalists and Islamist extremists, has finally decided to close its borders to Islamic terrorist groups, declaring that they are now threatening its security and not the Assad regime. Jordan and Saudi Arabia had from the beginning distinguished the moderate national Free Syrian Army from the terrorist ISIS and al-Nusra Front, despite the fact that all three of them are against the Assad’s regime.

Limiting the solution to military action against ISIS will not succeed, as evidenced by its failure since 2001

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
How can we put together the rivals Assad, Maliki, ISIS and al-Nusra all in one basket? In fact, if it weren’t for Assad and Maliki, ISIS and the al-Nusra Front would not have existed. Most of their leaders were detained in Syrian and Iraqi prisons and then were released by the regimes who believed that their release would shuffle the cards. Indeed, the cards were shuffled: Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia announced their readiness to fight these terrorist groups.

Collective activity

There is no doubt that all regional and international concerned countries are aware of what is happening. We will surely witness vital collective activity on the international military and political levels. It is most likely that this will lead to a military and security camp that will wage a larger-scale war against terrorism. Nevertheless, the problem is still a political one, as each state perceives the danger from a different angle. They are all against these terrorist organizations, but each of them believes in different solutions. The United States has two competing visions: the first calls for dealing with Iran, and therefore continues to support Assad and Maliki. Meanwhile, European and Gulf countries believe in the change, and believe that without a strong centralized regime that is acceptable in Syria and Iraq, it would be impossible to eliminate extremist groups. Therefore, a political solution must be imposed in Syria and Iraq; Sunnis should be mobilized to cooperate and fight against the extremists.

The Gulf countries believe that fighting against al-Qaeda will only succeed through the cooperation of the Sunni people of Syria and Iraq, as it will ensure the eradication of these terrorist groups. It will stop the international diaspora of Sunnis from sympathizing with this group and its ideology. However, the policies of Assad’s and Maliki’s sectarian governments have triggered this chaos. Therefore, the solution lies in a strong central government in Baghdad and Damascus with American, Western and regional support. This will most probably be accepted by the Russians.

Limiting the solution to military action against ISIS will not succeed, as evidenced by its failure since 2001. ISIS will bspread thanks to the chaos and sectarian governments that want to export their problems to the world so that they can extend their existence.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 27, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.