An study about Jordan bombings

Summary:The hotel bombings in Jordan on 9 November underlined the pro-Western kingdom’s vulnerability to terrorist attack. But the bombers miscalculated if they hoped that the atrocity would undermine King Abdullah’s regime. United in revulsion at the carnage, Jordanians rallied around their king. The terrorist threat to Jordan is not new, and such attacks will not divert King Abdullah from his underlying policies. He has given priority to an IMF-directed economic reform programme, placing in abeyance progress towards democratisation. As yet, few tangible results have been achieved, other than a widening gulf between the rich and the poor. A failure to bridge this wealth gap could prove a much greater threat to Jordan’s stability than terrorism.

Analysis: The terrorist bombings of three hotels in Amman in November 2005, in which some 60 people died, came as no great surprise to the Jordanian authorities. The question had always been when, not if. ‘I’ll be quite honest with you. We’re in a state of war’, King Abdullah warned in mid-2004. ‘I hate to say it, but we’re picking up terrorist groups [at a rate of] one every two weeks’. The threat, he predicted, would ‘probably be with us at least for the next couple of years’.[1]

As a US- and UK-allied state that has made peace with Israel and has supported, albeit discretely, the Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jordan is a tempting target for the militants. The problem dates back to the early 1990s when an estimated one thousand Jordanians who had fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan returned home. They included Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the al-Qaeda organisation in Iraq, which claimed responsibility for the Amman bombings. The years since have been punctuated by actual or attempted terrorist attacks. Prior to the Amman bombings, the latest incident had been in August this year, when Islamist militants thought to be linked to al-Zarqawi fired three Katyusha rockets from the outskirts of the southern port town of Aqaba. One narrowly missed a US warship but killed a Jordanian soldier on the quayside. The second landed near a military hospital while the third was fired into the nearly Israeli town of Eilat, causing minimal damage.

Devastating though the Amman bombings were, however, they posed no threat to the regime’s stability. In the following days Jordanians took to the streets in their thousands to express their revulsion at the atrocity and to declare their support for the monarchy. If the terrorists’ intention was to destabilise Jordan, they manifestly failed: politically, the attack backfired spectacularly, prompting a closing of ranks between Jordanians and their king.

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