Cliff May

AMMAN – The terrorist army formerly known as ISIS has conquered about a third of Syria and much of western Iraq. What are these jihadists going to do next? Assuming they can’t go to Disneyland -- and, trust me, that’s high on their bucket list -- Baghdad would doubtless be their destination of choice. But despite a series of bombings last weekend that killed more than two dozen people, the predominately Shia capital is unlikely to fall easily as did such Sunni-majority cities as Mosul. So the question being asked is whether these warriors will turn their lethal attentions toward Jordan.

“I’m well aware of such speculation,” a senior Jordanian government official tells me and a colleague. Like others here, he can speak more candidly if we agree not to quote him by name. He tells us that ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (Arabic for the Levant, an area that includes Jordan), which has now taken to calling itself simply the Islamic State, “is not a problem for the Jordanian military. I’m not worried. Not in the short run.”

He summons a deputy who brings a map on an easel. He indicates the areas in Iraq that the Islamic State now controls. He points out a long stretch of desert that Islamic State forces would have to traverse to reach a major population center within Jordan. “We’d know in advance that they are coming,” he says. “Our officers and troops would have plenty of time for a shower and breakfast before suiting up and heading out to destroy them.”

But if the Islamic State can hold the territory it’s conquered so far, exploit the wealth it’s seized (including oil), continue to get along with its Baathist/Saddamist allies (who know a thing or two about imposing order and authority) and build its military capabilities (attracting volunteer jihadists from just about every corner of the world), could it not then pose a danger to Jordan? “Yes, in the medium- and long-term,” he says, “I am worried.”

I ask if Jordan is getting the support it needs from Washington. He says it is. I ask if Jordan is getting the support it needs from Israel. He is not coy: When it comes to common threats, the Hashemite Kingdom and the Jewish state enjoy extensive military and intelligence cooperation.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.