2. Jordan Re-Opens Air Space
King Abdullah’s abrupt resistance to Jordan’s engagement in the US offensive against Iraq melted away this week under the influence of American guarantees topped up by Israeli assurances. This is reported from DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Washington and Amman.
Amid sighs of relief in Washington and Jerusalem, the king this week lifted the restrictions he had clamped down on the movements of American troops in the kingdom, their use of Jordanian bases as launching pads to invade Iraq and attack the western bases from which Scud missiles were fired against Israeli in 1991 and, best of all, renewed permission for US warplanes to reach Iraq via Jordanian airspace.
The Jordanian king also gave the nod for Israeli air force planes to fly across the kingdom if their flights were first coordinated with the US and Jordanian authorities.
US plans to occupy western Iraq in the first stage of the anti-Saddam offensive depend heavily on American troops having the use of bases in Jordan. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources note that while the capture of Baghdad and Saddam’s power base of Tikrit would be feasible without bases in Turkey, it would be seriously jeopardized if Iraqi forces were not first flushed out of western Iraq. Those troops, especially the ones stationed at the H2 and H3 base complexes, are armed with a large quantity of long-range surface-to-surface missiles, some with chemical or biological warheads. They could inflict grave damage to the American advance on Baghdad and Tirkit if they remained to the rear of that advance.
Abdullah’s change of heart was effected by a promise of American guarantees for the protection of the kingdom. On Thursday, January 23, those guarantees were formalized by a request lodged by Jordan in Washington for the sale of an air defense system “to tighten control over Jordanian airspace” and “protection against foreign intervention”.
Jordan’s towns teem with Iraqi intelligence agents. They often work hand in glove with subversive Palestinian and Islamic extremist elements to stir up unrest against the throne. At the outset of the war against Iraq, they would most certainly redouble their efforts to undermine Abdullah’s rule.
The monarch was also influenced by certain assurances delivered by special envoys from his close neighbor Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, no doubt with Washington’s intercession. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Washington and Jerusalem report that Israel reiterated its guarantee to defend Hashemite rule in Jordan, as mandated in the peace treaty both countries signed in 1994 and reinforced in secret bilateral military and intelligence pacts.
Abdullah made a new and surprising request.
He informed Israel and the United States that, as soon as the threat from Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction has passed, he would like permission to deliver a personal message of peace and conciliation between the Arab nation and the Jewish State over Israeli Television. The responses in Jerusalem and Washington are not known, but are unlikely to be forthcoming ahead of Israel’s general election next Tuesday, January 28.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s political sources interpret the Jordanian monarch’s request as an attempt to position himself as the senior Arab arbiter of the destiny of the Palestinians when Saddam goes, his passing further weakening his long-time ally, Yasser Arafat.
Abdullah cherishes hopes of reclaiming Jordan’s past authority over the West Bank and Arab Jerusalem which his father, Hussein, forfeited by losing the 1967 war.