12. Jordan and the Second U.S.-Iraq War
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12 Jordan and the Second U.S.-Iraq War The years after the Hashimite succession from Hussein to Abdullah were an especially tumultuous and violent period, even in the context of Middle East politics. The early years of the new century saw the collapse of the peace process, an increase in Jihadist terrorism, and U.S. wars against both Afghanistan and Iraq. This chapter provides an analysis of Jordan’s foreign policy and its alignment decisions, as the regime responded to a severe challenge to the security of the region, the kingdom, and the Abdullah II regime: the second U.S. war against Iraq. In September 2000, following the failure of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David, a second intifada began as Palestinians rose up against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. A year later, on September 11, 2001, al-Qa'ida terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into the Twin Towers of New York City and the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. A fourth plane was also hijacked but crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. All told, almost 3,000 people died in the attacks. Closer to home, Jordanian intelligence services charged that al-Qa'ida had also intended to attack Jordan at that time, and to assassinate the king and his family.1 Within months, U.S. military forces began bombing Afghanistan, attacking both al-Qa'ida forces as well as those of the Taliban regime ruling Afghanistan . In contrast to its later stance on the U.S.-Iraq war, the Hashimite regime supported the U.S. war on the Taliban and al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan. Jordan’s former Prime Minister Fayez Tarawnah noted the impact of the September 11, 2001, attacks for Jordan: September 11th changed much. The king felt that that was beyond inhumane . He was concerned also with the image of Islam and of the Arabs, and of human tragedy. Emotionally and politically, we stood with the United States. The king was often on US television . . . He made clear he and Jordan were definitely with the US in the international war on terrorism. We did not field troops in Afghanistan but Jordan and the Second U.S.-Iraq War / 185 did send field hospitals, to make clear our support and our stance. There was no controversy about it. We had never recognized the Taliban regime anyway and had suffered from the “Afghani Arabs.”2 But as the Palestinian uprising and the war in Afghanistan continued (even after the fall of the Taliban regime), the United States government threatened to invade Iraq. The Bush administration had invoked the nebulous phrase “War on Terror ” to justify a wide range of military operations, from Afghanistan to Iraq, with additional threats of military action against Iran, North Korea, and Syria. While Afghanistan had provided shelter for al-Qa'ida militants, Iraq was a secular socialist dictatorship with a long history of hostility toward Islamist movements of any kind. Still, despite most available evidence, the U.S. administration insisted that invading Iraq would be part of the “War on Terror,” even as critics charged that the invasion would undermine efforts to combat global Islamist terrorism. Administration officials argued that Iraq was linked to al-Qa'ida in some way, and continually invoked the horrific memories of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, despite the absence of Iraqi involvement in those attacks. The U.S. charges against Saddam Hussein’s regime changed over time. Originally the Bush administration insisted that Iraq possessed an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and that Saddam’s regime constituted a direct threat to the United States. The focus later shifted to the person of Saddam Hussein and to the idea of regime change in Baghdad, and even holding a new democratic Iraq up as a model for the rest of the region to follow. Thus, following one relatively placid year in office, the Abdullah regime in Jordan was thereafter buffeted between a series of regional crises, each of which directly affected the regime: violence in Israel and Palestine, al-Qa'ida terrorism, a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and then the threat of war on Iraq (and hence on Jordan’s eastern border) as well. For Jordanian policymakers, however, the wars on Afghanistan and on Iraq were very different. Former Foreign Minister Kamel Abu Jaber summarized the Hashimite regime’s view, noting that: The Afghan war was an altogether different situation. The Taliban were a pre-primitive political order. It was...


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