The Middle East woke up Friday, July 24, to two new full-fledged wars launched by Jordan and Turkey for cutting down the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as is forces advanced on their borders. The United States and Israel are involved in both campaigns. Jordanian armored, commando and air forces are already operating deep inside Iraq, while Friday morning, Turkey conducted its first cross-border air strike against ISIS targets in Syria. Clashes between Turkish troops and Islamic fighters erupted at several points along the border. Both governments also conducted mass arrests of suspected Islamists. The Jordanian police picked up ISIS adherents, while 5,000 Turkish police detained 250 Islamist and outlawed Kurdish PKK suspects in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Saniurta. Jordan Friday shut down its only border crossing with Iraq.
Earlier this week, Turkey permitted US warplanes to us the Incirlik air base in the south for bombing missions against ISIS, and Israel handed over to Jordan 16 Cobra combat helicopters and assured Jordan of air force cover for its anti-ISIS operation.
Read more about this new chapter in the war on ISIS in the debkafile report of Thursday, July 23.
In the first publicized Israeli military hardware transaction with an Arab nation, Israel has handed over “around 16 Cobra” combat helicopters in support of Jordan’s war on the Islamic State. This was confirmed Thursday, July 23, by a US official close to the transfer. It was also the first time US-Jordanian-Israeli military cooperation in the struggle against ISIS was publicly disclosed.
“These choppers are for border security,” said the unnamed US official. debkafile’s military and counter-terror sources disclose that the Cobras are needed for a large-scale Jordanian aerial-commando operation launched in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, which borders on the Hashemite Kingdom. This operation is designed to carve out a security belt tens of kilometers deep inside Iraq as a barrier against Islamic State’s encroachment.
Amman approached Washington for combat helicopters to back the operation and was told that the US is short of these items and would turn Israel to pitch in. The US first provided mechanical overhauls for the aircraft before they were incorporated free of charge in Jordan's existing Cobra fleet.
The transfer was announced while US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was touring the Middle East. He arrived in Amman Tuesday, July 21,after talks in Israel, and visited Baghdad unannounced Thursday, July 23 for an update on the war on ISIS
The mounting Islamist threat to Jordan is coming now from two directions – the Iraqi province of Anbar and Syria. ISIS forces have grabbed positions in southern Syria near the intersection of the Jordanian, Iraqi and Syrian borders. They have also moved up to the eastern Syrian town of Abu Kamal on the Iraqi border and, since mid-May, have gradually detached small groups from the captured central Syrian town of Palmyra and quietly built up positions in the south near Jabal Druze.
This buildup has been tracked by US, Jordanian and Israeli surveillance.
The Islamist domestic threat to the Hashemite Kingdom is no less acute. Jihadist sleeper cells have been planted in Jordan ready to strike strategic targets for a reign of terror to coincide with the onset of external Islamic State attacks staged from Iraq and Syria.
Our military sources report that US-Israeli-Jordanian cooperation is channeled through the US Central Command Forward-Jordan from its headquarters north of Amman. It is staffed by US, British, Jordanian, Saudi and Israeli officers working together to defeat ISIS.