Some analysts warn of dire repercussions of Jordan’s role in fighting ISIL.
by Areej Abuqudairi, Al Jazeera
Amman: Jordan has confirmed it took part in air strikes launched against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) inside Syrian territory in the early hours of September 23.
Mohammad al-Momani, the Jordanian information minister and government spokesperson, said that his country was among four other Arab countries that participated in the air strikes.
“We aimed at attacking terrorists in their home to protect our stability, peace, and the independence of our land. Our country faces real threats by extremism,” he told Al Jazeera Arabic. He added that the operation will continue during the coming hours.
A statement issued by the Jordanian armed forces said the operation was aimed at putting an end to the infiltration and the shooting at military bases on the eastern and northern borders with Syria.
The Jordanian Armed Forces confirmed that air force participated in the attacks.
“Jordanian air force planes destroyed some selected targets of terrorist groups which had been sending their members to carry out destructive activities in Jordan,” said the statement.
“Unfortunately, attempts to penetrate the border increased in the past two months,” the statement said.
Al Jazeera contacted the armed forces to clarify who the “terrorist groups” were and the exact number of the targets and locations, but they refused to comment.
“There are no more details to add to the report,” said a senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Although Jordan had previously announced that it joined the US-led alliance against ISIL, overt participation in the military air strikes came as a surprise to most Jordanians.
The attacks come only one day after statements by the Jordanian Interior Minister Hussein al-Majali about “sleeping cells” in Jordan that aim to “target the kingdom”.
Majali confirmed the kingdom’s full commitment to the international alliance against ISIL.
Last week, Momani told Al Jazeera that Jordan was still examining how it would participate in fighting ISIL: “We will announce at the right time what Jordan’s role [in fighting ISIL] will be.”
Political analyst Hassan Abu Hanieh told Al Jazeera that he attributes this to “possible dramatic developments such as the advances made in northern Syria, which pushed thousands of Kurds into Turkey”.
“Jordan probably feared an attack on its land by ISIL,” Abu Hanieh added.
Other analysts said the government has been working for days to prepare the Jordanian public to accept this type of military intervention against ISIL.
“Jordanian officials repeatedly talked about the threat of terrorist groups which the country is coming under in the past weeks in order to sway public opinion to support any Jordanian role against ISIL,” a Jordanian politician told Al Jazeera.
In response to the attacks, Mohammed al-Shalbi, a leading figure of Jordan’s Salafist movement, told Al Jazeera that: “ISIL has been advised not to target Jordan but now it is a different story as the group will be in self defence mode and will seek revenge.”
Other commentators harshly criticised the move.
“Assisting foreigners in any military activities is condemned by all popular forces and it goes against Jordan’s real interests,” said Zaki Beni Arsheed, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. “There is no interest for Jordan to transfer the Syrian conflict into the country.”
Two days ago, Jordan announced the arrest of 11 ISIL supporters and that it foiled their “attempt to carry out terrorist attacks in the country”.
In recent weeks, Jordan intensified arrests of ISIL supporters. According to Musa Abdullat, a lawyer advocating for political prisoners, in the past month, “Jordan has arrested more than 70 men accused of using the internet to promote terrorist ideas or rallying in support of the Islamic State.”
This move has been viewed by analyst Mohammed Abu Rumman as “a pre-emptive strike” against the pro-ISIL elements in Jordan. The Jordanian participation in targeting ISIL, he added, is rather symbolic.
“The most crucial role played by Amman is on the logistical and intelligence fronts,” Abu Rumman told Al Jazeera.