Jordan is a seething cauldron ready to explode. And the leader of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Georgetown-educated King Abdullah, knows it.
He knows it well.
The Jordanians recently prevented a huge terror attack. How recently, we don’t exactly know. Details are being kept under wraps. But we do know that 11 people, all members of an al Qaida cell, have been arrested.
Jordanian media is labeling the suspects clearly as Islamic radicals and militants whose objective it is to disrupt, destabilize, and destroy Jordan. These terrorists were planning to attack Western targets. They were going after Western diplomatic missions, Western-style shopping malls, and shopping areas in Jordan that are popular with Westerners.
This is the same organization that perpetrated the horrific simultaneous attacks that ripped through Amman in November 2005. In those attacks three Western hotels in the capital city were bombed, 60 people were killed, and more than 300 were wounded. The organization responsible for the attacks is an al Qaida affiliate and it wants to oust all non-Muslim leadership and eliminate all Western influence from the Arab world.
From the information we do have, it appears that this time the group was trying to recreate the Benghazi attack in Libya. There, they stormed the United States consulate, killing U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. embassy personnel. And, according to official media, this attack was to be a simultaneous action.
One group of the now-apprehended terrorists was planning to shoot rockets at the United States and British embassies in Jordan. The area around the embassies is populated by foreigners, and any of the buildings in the neighborhood would have made a good target. At the same time, another terrorist team was going to attack the shopping centers and stores. These also are places where local Jordanians shop. Those locals, too, are targets for these terrorists, because they are Jordanians who desire to assimilate into Western culture.
This arrest was an extremely important act. It both saved the lives of many people and kept the relationship between the West and Jordan very strong.
There are many Jordanians who are loyal to the Hashemite monarchy. Their loyalty stems from tradition, and from the relative ease with which they live their lives under this dictatorship. Those who want to oust King Abdullah couch their discontent in terms of democracy and democratic ideals, but they are by no means democratic.
The Muslim Brotherhood is out to get the king. They already have issued him several deadlines by which they want him to institute reforms and liberalize his government. If not, they threaten, the Brotherhood will take to the streets and create riots like those that toppled Mubarak in Egypt. In response to these unveiled threats the king has reshuffled his cabinet and instituted several changes – but not enough to make the Islamists happy.
King Abdullah also has reinstituted subsidies on food staples – and not in response to Muslim Brotherhood pressure. Tensions with the Islamists arose at the same time that Jordan was trying to take charge of its economy, which would have meant tightening their proverbial belt for several years.
So far, there only have been some marches in protest of the Abdullah government. There also have been some altercations and violence, even shootings. But neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor al Qaida want democratization in Jordan. What they really want is to oust the monarchy and to replace it with a Muslim leadership. Reforms and cries for liberalization are a smokescreen covering their real intentions.
For them, “Muslim” is not defined by religion. For them, “Muslim” defines a way of life. In the West, we are confused. We think, of course, that King Abdullah is Muslim. But in the eyes of the radicals trying to oust him, the Western-educated Abdullah is an assimilationist.
Because he is an assimilationist, Abdullah, the son of Hussein and an American-born mother, along with leaders like him and Jordanians like him and people from all over the Arab and Muslim world like him, is a heretic. And as heretics, all of these people can and must be annihilated. The true believer, aka the radical, believes that modern assimilationists are destroying Islam.
Jordan is not the only country targeted by these terrorists. There have been calls for other attacks from other sources against Western symbols across the Arabic and Islamic world. The loudest announcements have come repeatedly from Ayman Zawahiri, the new leader of Al Qaida, the man who is filing the sandals of Osama bin Laden.
What almost happened in Jordan, however, is a new style of attack. Zawahiri’s plan is to have his al Qaida cells select smaller targets across the Arabic and Muslim world, not carry out simultaneous attacks against embassies and shopping malls. The Zawahiri plan is much harder, if not entirely impossible, to protect against.
Detecting, infiltrating, and stopping attacks requires very good local intelligence. Preventing attacks against embassies requires extremely strong defenses at Western diplomatic missions. But soft targets, like civilian targets, are harder to prevent. So are hotels and shopping malls. Terrorists have been very successful at attacking soft targets.
Al Qaida has embraced a new style of terror. Other radical extremist Muslim terrorists are incorporating the al Qaida model with their own. Jordan has been a testing ground. Luckily, this time, the test failed. But the cauldron still is boiling.