- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

In the wake of Jordanian security forces’ discovery of a plot by Hamas to smuggle weapons into the country from Syria, Amman has received yet another grim reminder that it is a terrorist target. Jordanian spokesmen said that a group of Hamas fighters arrested last week had received instructions from a Hamas leader in Damascus, and that the perpetrators were prepared to target unspecified “installations and people” inside Jordan. One of those arrested had taken security officials to a location in Northern Jordan near the Syrian border where rocket launchers, TNT and detonators were discovered.

Jordanian officials said the plot was “in the final stages of execution,” and that the perpetrators, acting on the instruction of Hamas’s military wing in Damascus, were planning to carry out a series of attacks, including one directed at an unnamed senior Jordanian official. The suspects were said to have been surveying “strategic spots in Amman and other cities.”

In response, Jordan cancelled the visit of Mahmoud Zahar, the new Palestinian Authority foreign minister and a senior Hamas official. Hamas reacted angrily to the Jordanian charges. A Hamas minister in the PA administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that the Jordanians were little more than lackeys of Washington and Jerusalem. “I advise our brothers in Jordan to stop making cheap lies to justify their disgraceful subservience to Israel and the United States,” he warned.

But the truth is that Jordan exists in a very bad neighborhood, and this would hardly be the first time it has clashed with Hamas or Syria or been attacked by global jihadist networks. For example, al Qaeda in Iraq boss Abu Musab Zarqawi, a native of Jordan, hates King Abdullah II’s Jordanian government for making peace with Israel. Zarqawi is believed to have been behind the Nov. 9 hotel bombings which killed more than 60 people in Amman. Zarqawi was also behind the Oct. 28, 2002, murder of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, and a 2004 plot to attack downtown Amman using chemical weapons. Both Hamas and al Qaeda are offshoots of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni militant group.

There has been very bad blood between Amman and Hamas ever since 1999, when Jordan kicked the group out of the country, and senior Hamas officials like Khaled Meshal were forced to relocate to Damascus. As for Syria, the Assad family has never had much use for the Hashemite kingdom. Bashar Assad’s late father tried to intervene militarily in Jordan’s 1970-71 civil war on behalf of Palestinian radicals seeking to overthrow King Hussein, but was scared off by the prospect of U.S. or Israeli military intervention in support of the monarch. Since that time, Syria has been thought to be behind occasional bombings and assassinations in Jordan. With al Qaeda seeking to infiltrate the West Bank and jihadists challenging the U.S. Army in Western Iraq, the Hashemite kingdom is a friend of the United States that is in a very precarious location indeed.

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