Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned the Obama administration in an urgent message that US air strikes alone won’t stop the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq and Syria and, what is more, they leave his kingdom next door exposed to the Islamist peril. ISIS would at present have no difficulty in invading southern Jordan, where the army is thin on the ground, and seizing local towns and villages whose inhabitants are already sympathetic to the extremist group. The bulk of the Jordanian army is concentrated in the north on the Syrian border. Even a limited Islamist incursion in the south would also pose a threat to northern Saudi Arabia, the king pointed out.
Abdullah offered the view that the US Delta Special Forces operation in eastern Syria Saturday was designed less to be an effective assault on ISIS’s core strength and more as a pallliative to minimize the Islamist peril facing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf emirates.
debkafile’s Washington sources report that US officials refused to heed Abdullah’s warning and tried to play it down, in the same way as Secretary John Kerry tried Monday, May 18, to de-emphasize to the ISIS conquest of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province.
At a news conference in Seoul, Kerry dismissed the Islamists’ feat as a “target of opportunity” and expressed confidence that, in the coming days, the loss “can be reversed.”
The Secretary of State’s words were unlikely to scare the Islamists, who had caused more than 500 deaths in the battle for the town and witnessed panicky Iraqi soldiers fleeing Ramadi in Humvees and tanks.
Baghdad, only 110 km southeast of Ramadi, has more reason to be frightened, in the absence of any sizeable Iraqi military strength in the area for standing in the enemy’s path to the capital.
The Baghdad government tried announcing that substantial military reinforcements had been ordered to set out and halt the Islamists’ advance. This was just whistling in the dark. In the last two days, the remnants of the Iraqi army have gone to pieces – just like in the early days of the ISIS offensive, when the troops fled Mosul and Falujah. They are running away from any possible engagement with the Islamist enemy.
The Baghdad-sourced reports that Shiite paramilitaries were preparing to deploy to Iraq's western province of Anbar after Islamic State militants overran Ramadi were likewise no more than an attempt to boost morale. Sending armed Shiites into the Ramadi area of Anbar would make no sense, because its overwhelmingly Sunni population would line up behind fellow-Sunni Islamist State conquerors rather than help the Shiite militias to fight them.
Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, who arrived precipitately in Baghdad Monday, shortly after Ramadi’s fall, faces this difficulty. Our military sources expect him to focus on a desperate effort to deploy Shiite militias as an obstacle in ISIS’s path to Baghdad, now that the road is clear of defenders all the way from Ramadi.
In Amman, King Abdullah Sunday made a clean sweep of senior security officials, firing the Minister of Interior, the head of internal security (Muhabarat) and a number of high police officers. They were accused officially of using excessive violence to disperse demonstrations in the southern town of Maan.
The real reason for their dismissal, debkafile’s counter-terror sources disclose, is the decline of these officials’ authority in the Maan district, in the face of the rising influence of extremist groups identified with Al Qaeda and ISIS, in particular.