The Jordanian air force hit ISIS contingents, Monday night, June 23, as they drove into into the kingdom through the Turaibil border crossing which they seized Saturday, debkafile’s military sources report. The jets destroyed 4 Islamist State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) armored personnel carriers, which were already on the move. Also Monday, ISIS completed its capture of the strategic Tal Afar and its environs in northern Iraq, capping its conquest in the last two weeks of Nineveh Province and Mosul, all but one town (Ramadi) of the western Anbar Province, and Iraq’s key border posts in the north, west and southwest.
Jordan called up military reserves Sunday, after discovering that its capital Amman was to be the Islamist organization’s next prey.
Instead of making straight for Baghdad, ISIS turned west and south for what it saw as softer targets, deploying two forces for shooting into Jordan – one from Syria, for which they also captured Al Walid, through which to head into the kingdom from the north; and one pointing from Turaibil (which the Jordanians call Karame) and aiming for the eastern Jordanian towns of Zarqa, Irbid and Amman.
By seizing Turaibil, the Islamists were able to cut off the main Iraqi-Jordanian artery for trade and travel between the two countries. They may have been stopped for now by the Jordanian air strike, espcially if there is a follow-up.
Their capture of the key town of Rutba Saturday is seen by Western military sources tracking the Iraqi conflict as marking out the Islamists’ next target. That force split in two – one heading southwest toward the Saudi Arabia border and the other heading west to Jordan.
Sunday, June 22, the Islamists put on the world web a new site called “ISIS in Saudi Arabia.”
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that the US and Israel have laid on a battery of advanced intelligence-gathering measures in the last few hours, including military satellites, drones and reconnaissance planes for keeping track of the Islamist fighters’ rapid advance.
A 500-km broad expanse of desert separates the Iraqi border from Amman which would be no picnic for the ISIS to navigate without discovery. However, they were counting on al Qaeda cells planted in most Jordanian towns to help them make their way across.
It is important to remember that the US and Israel are both bound by military pacts to defend the throne of the Hashemite King Abdullah II.
As for Iraq’s southwestern neighbor, Saudi Arabia, our sources report that the main topic of conversation between King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Saturday, June 21 at Cairo airport, was the Iraq crisis and the threat the Islamist extremists threat present to the two kingdoms.
The Saudi king made it his business to stop over briefly at Cairo airport on the way to his summer palace in Morocco, and invite the Egyptian president aboard his plane for that conversation. He wanted to hear El-Sisi promise to reward the oil kingdom and Gulf emirates for the generous financial aid they bestowed on him with a pledge of Egyptian military commando units to the rescue in the event of an al Qaeda invasion.
Interestingly, the Saudi monarch’s companion on the royal flight – he also took part in the conversation with El-Sisi – was Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who five months ago was relieved of his posts as Director of General Intelligence and senior strategist of the Saudi campaigns in Syria and Iraq, the first of which failed in its goal to unseat Bashar Assad.
It looked very much as though the king had a change of heart and decided to restore Bandar to his inner circle of advisers under the looming threat of ISIS and its lightening advances in Iraq.
That threat also drove US Secretary of State John Kerry to pay an unannounced visit to Baghdad Monday, June 23, after discussing the Iraqi crisis in Cairo with the Egyptian president.
His arrival was accompanied by further rapid ISIS territorial gains in Iraq and actions to consolidate its grip. After talking to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, Kerry said at the US embassy that US support will be “intense, sustained, and effective” – provided Iraq’s leaders came together to form a government representing the rival sects.
debkafile adds: Kerry canvassed Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders for a consensual candidate to lead a government representing all of Iraq’s sects and communities. He had in mind a Shiite prime minister able to gain the endorsement of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
Secretary Kerry planned to visit Irbil Tuesday for talks on this and on Kurdish military aid against the ISIS offensive with the heads of the autonomous Kurdish region. However the Kurds wanted first to hear what they will get from Baghdad for sending their pershmerga militia to fight the Islamists in northern Iraq. Since Maliki is the object of Kerry’s maneuvers to replace him, he is not ready to offer the Kurds any concessions at this point. So Kerry’s Iraq mission has so far struck a high wall.