Tag Archives: Jordan

Jordan bolsters defense on Iraq border

A member of the Iraqi security forces takes position during a patrol looking for militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, June 23, 2014.

A member of the Iraqi security forces takes position during a patrol looking for militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, June 23, 2014.

Reuters – Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Jordan beefed up its border defenses with Iraq on Sunday after Sunni gunmen seized territory close to its border in Anbar province and appeared to have also taken control of the only land crossing with its large eastern neighbor, officials and witnesses said.

Two officials said the border crossing almost 575 km (357 miles) from the Iraqi capital and nearly 320 km (199 miles) from Amman was effectively closed after Sunni gunmen took control of the crossing.

A Jordanian minister earlier told Reuters traffic had halted and there were signs of chaos at the crossing that serves as a major artery for passenger and trade flows between the two countries.

“The last traffic was around 7:30 pm (1630 GMT) and border officials are saying the situation is not normal on the other side of the border,” Minister of State for Media and Communication Mohammad al-Momani said.

Earlier, Iraqi Sunni gunmen had seized control of the town of Rutba, just 90 miles (145 km) east of the border with Jordan.

An army source confirmed that army units had been put in a state of alert in recent days along the 181-km (112-mile) border with Iraq, redeploying in some areas as part of steps to ward off “any potential or perceived security threats”.

Truck drivers who arrived in Jordan before traffic halted after crossing the border said Sunni tribal militants were now running and manning checkpoints along large stretches of the Baghad-Amman highway that runs through the crossing.

A security source who requested anonymity said the border crossing on the Iraqi side had fallen earlier in the day to local Sunni tribal gunmen who permitted customs officials to continue to run it administratively until later on Sunday.

U.S. ally Jordan was expected to formally close the border to traffic as soon as the Iraqi government formally announces its loss of control over the crucial trade and passenger crossing, he added.

On Sunday, militants overran a second frontier post on the Syrian border, extending two weeks of swift territorial gains as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pursues the goal of its own caliphate straddling both countries.

ISIL thrust east from a newly captured Iraqi-Syrian border post on Sunday, taking three towns in Iraq’s western Anbar province after seizing the frontier crossing near the town of Qaim on Saturday, witnesses and security sources said. They seized a second, al-Waleed, on Sunday. The gains have helped ISIL secure supply lines to Syria, where it has exploited the chaos of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad to seize territory.

The loss of the Iraqi border crossing with Jordan was not seen as an immediate security threat to the kingdom although some were unnerved by the prospect of al Qaeda-affiliated groups along the border with Iraq, another official said.

It was difficult to see security-conscious Jordan, which has almost cut off any flow of militants across its heavily sealed northern border with Syria, allowing itself to become a launching pad or supply route for Islamist jihadists into Iraq, he added.

Jordan, grappling with the mounting impact of the grinding conflict in neighboring Syria, is one of the closest U.S. allies in the Middle

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Foreign jihadis in Syria pledge their own 9/11

Patrick Cockburn  Sunday 4 May 2014

World View: Ambitious al-Qa’ida-type groups now control – or are free to operate in – an enormous area

It is only a matter of time before jihadis in al-Qa’ida-type groups that have taken over much of eastern Syria and western Iraq have a violent impact on the world outside these two countries. The road is open wide to new attacks along the lines of 9/11 and 7/7, and it may be too late to close it.

Those who doubt that these are the jihadis’ long-term intentions should have a look at a chilling but fascinating video posted recently by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq. It shows a group of foreign fighters burning their passports to emphasise their permanent commitment to jihad. Many of the passports thrown into the flames have grass-green covers and are Saudi; others are dark blue and must be Jordanian. Some of the fighters show their faces while others are masked. As each one destroys his passport, sometimes tearing it in half before throwing it into the fire, he makes a declaration of faith and a promise to fight against the ruler of the country from which he comes.

A Canadian makes a short speech in English before switching to Arabic, saying: “It is a message to Canada, to all American powers. We are coming and we will destroy you.” A Jordanian says: “I say to the tyrant of Jordan: we are the descendants of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [the Jordanian founder of al-Qa’ida in Iraq killed by US aircraft in 2006] and we are coming to kill you.” A Saudi, an Egyptian and a Chechen make similar threats.

The film is professionally made, and was probably shot somewhere in northern or eastern Syria. It is worth looking at carefully, and keeping in mind that these are not an isolated band hiding in desert wastes or mountain caves. Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the official affiliate of al-Qa’ida, now control, or can easily operate in, a great swathe of territory from the Tigris to the Mediterranean, and from the Jordanian border to southern Turkey.

Threats, such as those made by the group burning their passports, are creating something near panic among Iraq’s neighbours, who were slow to take on board last year that Syrian armed opposition had come to be dominated by al-Qa’ida or its clones. A report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), “The Rising Cost of Turkey’s Syrian Quagmire”, published last week, cites a Turkish official saying: “The armed al-Qa’ida element will be a problem for the Turks. As a secular country, we do not fit with their ideology. What happens if they can’t get what they want in Syria? They will blame Turkey and attack it.” Bear in mind that the thousands of foreign jihadis who have poured into Syria and Iraq mostly got there by crossing the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border. The head of an influential Turkish think tank is quoted by ICG as saying that “When Turkey starts arresting them [jihadis], which it will do, we know what will happen. There will be bombs all over Turkey.”

Jordan is also showing signs of extreme nervousness over support being given to the Syrian armed opposition, just across its border in southern Syria. American, Saudi and Jordanian intelligence have been working on creating a “southern front” around Daraa, the southern city where the Syrian revolt began, a front supposedly made up of moderate, secular fighters, who are both anti-Assad and anti-jihadi. This is deceptive, since an important force in such operations would be Jabhat al-Nusra which, on this front, is reportedly acting in coordination with a Jordanian, Saudi and US intelligence joint operations room in Amman.

But the Jordanians have got cold feet over the idea of a southern offensive launched from their territory. They are no longer as confident as they were in 2011 and 2012 that President Assad is bound to lose. They worry about an estimated 2,000 Jordanian jihadis in Syria, and what happens when they return to Jordan. There was a mysterious Jordanian airforce attack destroying vehicles entering Jordan from Syria on 16 April in which the Syrian government denied any involvement. The Jordanians also forbade an opposition offensive at Daraa timed to coincide with a rebel assault in Aleppo.

Even the US State Department‘s annual report on terrorism, issued last week, has noted that al-Qa’ida-type groups are getting stronger. Its image of al-Qa’ida in the past has been along the lines of a bureaucratic entity somewhat similar to the State Department itself. It therefore takes heart from the belief that because of organisational and leadership losses “AQ’s core leadership has been degraded, limiting its ability to conduct attacks.” The word “core” is useful here since it can mean either “a central command” or simply “at the centre of”. In practice, al-Qa’ida since 2001 has primarily been an ideology and a method of operating, not a cohesive organisation. The State Department has finally noted this, speaking of “the rise of increasingly aggressive and autonomous AQ affiliates and like-minded groups”.

In reality, the situation is worse than the State Department admits, since over the last year Isis has taken over much of Sunni Iraq. It levies taxes in cities such as Mosul and Tikrit and has substantial control in Fallujah and along the Euphrates valley, through western Iraq and eastern Syria up to the Turkish border. It has captured the Fallujah dam on the Euphrates, and can flood or deny water to areas further south; at Baiji on the Tigris, north of Baghdad, it has blown up an oil pipeline, polluting the river which had been used, after treatment, to supply drinking water to Baghdad. On the western outskirts of Baghdad at Abu Ghraib, Isis has held a military parade and the famous prison was hastily evacuated. A comforting theory explaining the surge in Isis’s strength in Iraq is that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki exaggerated its power to frighten Shia voters before last Wednesday’s parliamentary election. He thereby diverted attention from his administration’s appalling record of corruption and incompetence by focusing on the danger of a Sunni counter-revolution. The outcome of the election will show if this strategy had worked.

Unfortunately, all the signs are that the political and military incapacity of the Iraqi government is all too real. Its armed forces are said in Baghdad to have suffered 5,000 casualties including 1,000 dead in fighting in Anbar province in the last four months. Whole battalions are reported to have melted away because the men were not being paid, or they have not received supplies of food and ammunition. According to one report, even the job of army divisional commander can be bought for $1m with the assumption that whoever takes the job can show a profit by making $50,000 a month through protection money and levies on vehicles passing checkpoints.

After the election the government may try to repeat the US strategy of successfully using the Sunni tribes against al-Qa’ida groups such as Isis. The difficulty is that for the moment Sunni communities hate the Iraqi army and security forces more than they do al-Qa’ida.

The Independent.

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The Middle East’s Snowstorm, Viewed From Space

Heavy rain and snow hit the region—from Lebanon down to Egypt.

We’ve seen the amazing photos of the uncharacteristically early and intense snowstorm that blanketed the Middle East last week (and if you haven’t, head on over to In Focus), but sometimes you just can’t beat the view from 440 miles above Earth’s surface. On Monday, NASA released the image below, taken by Terra, a more than 11,000-pound satellite roughly the size of a small school bus.

The satellite, the agency notes, took the image of the snow on Sunday, after clouds over the region dissipated. The “snow is confined to higher elevations in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank, and Jordan,” NASA writes, though some “lower-elevation desert regions in Syria are also snowy.” Lower elevations near the coast have instead received heavy rain, resulting in deadly flooding. “The floods are not visible at this scale, but tan and green plumes of sediment are visible along the Mediterranean Sea coast,” the agency adds.

A zoomed-out map, showing more of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Mediterranean Sea, gives you a sense of just how far the wintery weather reached:

via The Middle East’s Snowstorm, Viewed From Space – Uri Friedman – The Atlantic.

الجيش السوري يستعيد بلدة استراتيجية

استعادت القوات النظامية السورية السيطرة على بلدة حتيتة التركمان القريبة من طريق مطار دمشق الدولي والتي تشكل صلة وصل بين معاقل مقاتلي المعارضة في الغوطة الشرقية والغوطة الغربية، حسبما أفاد مصدر عسكري سوري مساء الخميس

وقال المصدر إن “المعارك بدأت يوم أمس للسيطرة على حتيتة التركمان وتم اليوم انجاز العمل بشكل تام حيث تم طرد المسلحين منها بشكل كامل”.

وذكرت لجان التنسيق المحلية أن 43 شخصا قتلوا في مختلف أنحاء سوريا الخميس.

وتدور في دمشق وريفها، اشتباكات مستمرة بين الجيش السوري ومقاتلي المعارضة. وبينما تسيطر المعارضة على مناطق واسعة في ريف دمشق الشرقي، لاتزال الحكومة تبسط سيطرتها على العاصمة ومعظم الريف الغربي.

وتحدثت المعارضة السورية عن اشتباكات عنيفة بين القوات الحكومية والجيش الحر على الجبهة الجنوبية من حي القابون شرقي العاصمة.

وشهد ريف دمشق قصفا براجمات الصواريخ على معضمية الشام وزملكا وحزة و عين ترما، حسبما أفاد ناشطون. كما استهدف الجيش الحر مقرا للقوات الحكومية في منطقة الشرق وبلدة السبينة.

وفي ريف إدلب، شنت القوات الحكومية قصفا مدفعيا على مدينة سراقب. وذكر ناشطو المعارضة أن عددا من الجرحى سقطوا جراء القسف بالمدفعية على مدينة انخل بمحافظة درعا. 

كما تعرض محيط مشفى الكندي في حلب لاشتباكات عنيفة بين الجيش الحر والقوات الحكومية.

الجيش السوري يستعيد بلدة استراتيجية – أخبار سكاي نيوز عربية.