In Jordan, ISIS Is Using Terror for a Territorial Grab of the South

By its onslaught on the Crusader castle town of Karak in the southern Jordan, Sunday, Dec. 18, the Islamic State was after much bigger game than just another terrorist attack on a popular tourist site, although 14 people lost their lives, including a Canadian woman, and 40 were injured.
The jihadists carried on fighting Jordanian forces through most of the week for three broad strategic goals, which have so far eluded them.
1. To undermine the authority and prestige of King Abdullah II by staging attacks across his realm.
The king has imposed a blackout on the ISIS offensive after it sent out tentacles from Karak to the northern town of Irbid.
2. A grab for southern Jordan. (See attached map.) If this is attained, the Islamic State will control a large wedge of territory abutting Israel in the west and Saudi Arabia in the south, and be in position to disrupt Jordan’s only outlet to the sea from Aqaba.
3. In control of the South, the terrorist organization would be in place to enlist local Bedouin tribes and use their kinship connections in Israel and Egypt for direct links with the ISIS affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula. Of even greater value, the Islamic State would be able to keep a direct hand in the Middle East arms smuggling networks which operate out of a central hub in Sinai.
This traffic took a severe beating in the recent Israeli and Egyptian aerial bombardments of the convoys and their contraband freight.
For all these reasons, the jihadists are not about to end their onslaught on southern Jordan until they achieve their goals – unless they are routed.
The three major intelligence services guarding the Hashemite Kingdom were undoubtedly caught napping. Jordanian military and general intelligence services, which are responsible for counterterrorism, keep ISIS movements along Jordan’s borders with Iraq and Syria under close surveillance, but missed the hazard gaining ground inside the kingdom.
The American CIA, which maintains a substantial body of agents in Jordan, did not draw conclusions from the ISIS ambush of Nov. 4, which left three Americans dead and the same number injured, at the gate of the Prince Faisal air base outside the southern town of al-Jafr, 106km south of Karak.
That attack should have set off warning signals in the CIA, alerting them to the presence of a covert ISIS network in southern Jordan. That ambush now turns out to have been the opening shot of the current assault.
Israeli intelligence should have done a better job of picking up on the Karak attack, which occurred just 24km from the Israeli border and close to its main highway from the north to the southern Red Sea resort and port of Eilat, which is twin to Jordan’s Aqaba.
The authorities in Amman are doing their best to play down the Karak episode and its impact, claiming it was the work of disaffected local Jordanians. But it is a fact that the jihadist terrorist organization was able to smuggle several groups of terrorists into Jordan from Iraq, and had weapons caches waiting for them on site.
ISIS is reported by DEBKA Weekly’s counterterrorism sources to be in the process of establishing a command center for this offensive at Qatraneh, a desert outpost known as a smuggling outpost, nearly 30km east of Karak, whose inhabitants are heavily armed at all times.
Jordanian forces have so far held back from entering this lawless town.
The original assault on Karak was not limited to the town, but accompanied by simultaneous raids spread out in towns and villages across the kingdom’s southern region. It targeted police stations and patrols as well as highway traffic.
Karak was a key objective. The goal was to trap as many Western tourists as possible inside the medieval hilltop castle and hide them in the ancient underground passages below to which they were led by local guides.
Due to the news blackout ordered by Amman, it is impossible to know what befell the group of tourists or whether Jordanian forces were able to rescue them.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Font Resize
Contrast