Damned if You Do…
The recent bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad highlights the dilemma facing US-allied regimes in the Middle East and the Muslim World at large. Last week’s attack reminded Jordan of the fine line it treads between safeguarding its place on America’s winning roster and reassuring its populace that it has not abandoned its Iraqi brethren across the border.
Whatever the intention, 17 Iraqis were killed and dozens injured in a car bomb explosion outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad yesterday. No wonder the Jordan Times described the incident not only as a ‘terrorist attack against Jordan’ but also as an assault on the ‘interests, security and stability of Iraq itself and its people.‘
Nobody claimed responsibility for the blast. US Military and Defense Department officials have been quick to invoke ‘foreign fighters and terrorist groups’ operating within Iraq as possible suspects. While highlighting the ambiguity and lack of information surrounding the attack, Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz told Reuters yesterday, ‘I think the one organization that we have confidence that we know is in Iraq and in the Baghdad area, is Ansar al-Islam.’ According to New York Times writer Michael Gordon, the latter is a group of ‘foreign militants who appear to see Iraq as a new arena for pursuing their jihad against America.’ Coming from ‘Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other countries,’ these ‘Qaeda-like’ fighters have ‘infiltrated Iraq from Syria.’
Jordanian officials seem to have jumped on the same bandwagon. Leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz quotes a ‘senior Jordanian source’ saying ‘maybe it [the embassy attack] was Al-Qaeda, wanting to take revenge against Jordan’s relentless campaign against their [members] in the past year.’ In the same breath, however, Jordanian ministers have re-iterated their commitment to humanitarian relief in Iraq as well as to the ‘welfare of the Iraqi people,’ prompting the Jordan Times to ask, ‘ what did Jordan do to deserve such an action?’
The answer is equally mired in confusion and speculation. Last week members of Saddam Hussein’s family, including his daughters, received asylum in Jordan and currently reside in one of King Abdullah’s palaces. This angered opponents of Saddam’s regime who seek punishment for the former dictator and his cronies. BBC reporter Matthew Price tells us that ‘a leading newspaper here [in Iraq] accused Jordan of being a silent accessory to the crimes carried out by the former president.’ At the same time, Jordan’s clandestine allowance of the US’s use of its territory for military bases during the war, sparked resentment among Iraqis who supported Saddam Hussein against an American invasion. Thus, Jordan finds itself in a no-win situation. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.