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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Jordan has the refugees and you might expect at least a thank you America: Jordanian Opposition to Fight Against Islamic State Grows More Vocal - Militants’ Threat to Kill Pilot Enrages Region Where His Tribe is Based

From The Wall Street Journal (on Tuesday of this week):

AMMAN, Jordan—Jordan’s effort to win the freedom of a pilot captured by Islamic State is exposing growing opposition here to the government’s involvement in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the extremist group.

Calls for Jordan to withdraw from the coalition mounted last week after Islamic State threatened to kill the pilot unless the government released an imprisoned Iraqi woman. Some Jordanians say they’ve already paid too high a price to support America’s military operations in the region.

For more than a decade, the pro-Western Arab monarchy has been a linchpin of American military might in the Mideast, hosting U.S. forces that staged the Iraq invasion in 2003 and last year joining the international coalition conducting airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“It is not Jordan’s duty to fight Islamic State in Syria and Iraq,” said Oudeh al-Hamaydeh, a former intelligence official in Amman who retired late last year. “The government didn’t succeed in tackling the root causes that encourage Jordanians to become extremists, like poverty, corruption and the lack of opportunities. Why should we fight terrorism abroad, while we have not dealt with the reasons at home?”

Government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani and other officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

The monarchy is facing political tension from a traditional stronghold of support: the tribes in southern Jordan, which fill the majority of the military’s ranks. Bedouins guard the king’s palace and have long been considered the kingdom’s most loyal subjects.

In addition to the rising opposition to Jordan’s role in the coalition, extremism persists in the country. One senior official estimates 1,500 Jordanians are fighting with extremist groups in Syria such as Islamic State. But analysts say the number is higher—making the country one of the largest contributors.

“While the government is trying to create the impression that it is working for Jordan’s interests, people don’t believe it,” Mr. Hamaydeh said. “People believe that Jordan has already been paid for taking part in the coalition,” he added, referring to the increased amounts of American aid Jordan receives whenever it supports U.S. military campaigns in the region.

U.S. aid to Jordan has risen steadily since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011 and the CIA began training moderate Syrian rebels at Jordanian bases. American aid to Jordan last year reached $1 billion, when rebel training was ramped up. That was one of the largest packages since 1991, only surpassed by the $1.1 billion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The monarchy has had to contend with growing sympathy for extremist groups in rural Jordan over the past decade, which some attribute to rising unemployment and political marginalization. Such concerns have rocked the city of Zarqa, an hour’s drive from Amman.

Zarqa is the birthplace of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Islamic State’s precursor al Qaeda in Iraq. He was killed by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2006.

The captive pilot, First Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh, was seized by Islamic State militants in December when his plane went down over northern Syria shortly after a bombing mission. The threats to kill him enraged many in Jordan’s south—the pilot hails from one of the largest tribes in the southern city of Karak. The Kasasbeh family has vocally criticized the monarchy—highly unusual in Jordan, where such dissent can mean jail time. The pilot’s father said last week that the fight against Islamic State “is not our war.”

“While the government is trying to create the impression that it is working for Jordan’s interests, people don’t believe it,” Mr. Hamaydeh said. “People believe that Jordan has already been paid for taking part in the coalition,” he added, referring to the increased amounts of American aid Jordan receives whenever it supports U.S. military campaigns in the region.

U.S. aid to Jordan has risen steadily since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011 and the CIA began training moderate Syrian rebels at Jordanian bases. American aid to Jordan last year reached $1 billion, when rebel training was ramped up. That was one of the largest packages since 1991, only surpassed by the $1.1 billion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The monarchy has had to contend with growing sympathy for extremist groups in rural Jordan over the past decade, which some attribute to rising unemployment and political marginalization. Such concerns have rocked the city of Zarqa, an hour’s drive from Amman.

Zarqa is the birthplace of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Islamic State’s precursor al Qaeda in Iraq. He was killed by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2006.

The captive pilot, First Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh, was seized by Islamic State militants in December when his plane went down over northern Syria shortly after a bombing mission. The threats to kill him enraged many in Jordan’s south—the pilot hails from one of the largest tribes in the southern city of Karak. The Kasasbeh family has vocally criticized the monarchy—highly unusual in Jordan, where such dissent can mean jail time. The pilot’s father said last week that the fight against Islamic State “is not our war.”

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