As Washington Prepares for War on Iraq, a Key U.S. Ally Lays Low
By William M.
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, July 15, 2002; 8:40 AM
What's up with
Jordan? Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the Hashemite Kingdom has
methodically increased its military cooperation with the United States,
conducting bilateral exercises, hosting ship visits, even allowing U.S.
aircraft conducting patrols over Iraq to fly from its airbases. But then
September 11 happened, and President Bush declared Iraq's membership in
the "axis of evil," and Jordan has been pretending that it doesn't know
the United States, or at least not militarily.
In the past two
weeks, there have been a slew of stories in the U.S. and British press
speculating about Jordan's role in a new war with Iraq. Minister of
Information and government spokesman Muhammad Adwan responded July 7,
saying that the reports are part of some "propaganda campaign against
"We refuse to
be a launching-pad or arena for any act against our brotherly state Iraq
or to use our soil and airspace to attain this objective," Adwan said.
government denied the existence of any foreign forces on Jordan
territory. Minister of Foreign Affairs Marwan Muasher met with the Iraqi
ambassador last week to reiterate the Jordanian stance against using
force at all against Iraq.
All of the
Since the U.S.
military is currently building up military capabilities in Jordan, and
the use of Jordanian territory as a launching point for operations is
included in compartmented war plans being prepared for Desert Storm II,
there are four possible alternatives:
The first is
that Jordan is lying.
The second is
that the United States is doing exactly what the reports have stated,
but Jordan hasn't been told yet.
The third is
that nothing is happening but the administration is so incompetent, it
has been unable to convince even one of its closest friends to publicly
support its upcoming war.
And then there
is the fourth explanation: What we are seeing in Jordan, what is already
being played out in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and has been par
for the course in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade: that we don’t
really care what Jordan says in public as long as it does what we want
secretly. The core foreign policy of the United States in the war on
terror has now emerged: The United States will ally itself with anyone
who will be a part of the obsessive covert war.
Here is what
kind of friend Jordan is. On September 22, 1999, King Abdullah II of
Jordan became the first monarch ever to fly a U.S. Navy airplane when he
piloted an American HH-6OH helicopter from Aqaba to the deck of the USS
John F. Kennedy in the Red Sea.
pre-September 11 privileges were hardly out of line with those of his
father, King Hussein. Two years earlier, the first modified air defense
fighter version of the U.S. F-16 fighter that was ever sold overseas
touched down at Muafaq Al-Salti Air Base of the Royal Jordanian Air
Force(RJAF). The initial batch of RJAF F-16 pilots received training in
the United States with the Arizona Air National Guard at Tucson,
Arizona. Subsequent groups of pilots and maintenance technicians
followed up for training in the U.S. under the "Peace Falcon" program.
The decision to
select Muafaq Al-Salti to house the F-16s was an easy choice for Jordan.
The newest Jordanian air base has plenty of good facilities and is
centrally located. What is more, the United States knows the base well.
In the mid-1990’s Americans were constant visitors, conducting exercises
and operating combat aircraft, even using Jordan as a testing pad for
the deployment of the new "air expeditionary force" and flying patrols
over no-fly zones in Iraq from Jordan as part of Operation Southern
At the base
that the United States calls Al Azraq, 50 miles east of Amman on the
road to Baghdad, munitions began to be stored for American use in the
mid-1990's as well. Under the pre-September 11 plan, American money has
been spent to upgrade runways, taxiways, and munitions facilities at Al
Azraq and at a second Jordanian base, Al Jafr. Jordan base construction
for bilateral "exercises" is considered the highest priority for U.S.
Central Command in its list of FY 2003 projects submitted to the Joint
Chiefs of Staff.
During the past
decade, U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and special operators
have had a regular series of military exercises and operations with
their Jordanian counterparts. They include: Infinite Acclaim. Infinite
Moonlight. Infinite Shadow. Early Victor. Eagle Resolve. Eager Tiger.
Eager Light. Phoenix Scirocco.
11, some of those operations, such as the large scale Eager Light
exercise scheduled for 2002, have been cancelled. Others have just
disappeared from view.
Foreign Affairs recently Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that
U.S. policy in the war on terrorism is "accepting help from any country,
on a basis comfortable for its government, and allowing that country to
characterize how it is helping (instead of our creating that
characterization for it)..."
In other words,
it doesn't matter who the country (or indeed, in Afghanistan or
Pakistan, who the warlord) is. It doesn't matter how many strings are
attached. It doesn’t matter how much our "allies" publicly deny
cooperation or indeed if they stab the United States in the back. It
doesn’t matter how much this new era of covert action feeds negative and
conspiratorial beliefs in the Arab world of regime or American
To be clear,
this didn't just start in the Bush administration: U.S. sailors were put
in danger in Yemen in 1999 as part of the U.S. covert counter-terrorism
foreign policy objectives there. The visiting Navy vessel and its crew
had no idea the degree to which U.S. intelligence had identified Yemen
as an Al Qaeda center, and the special forces and CIA operators who were
given access to the country obviously failed to fulfill their number one
mission, which is to protect Americans.
Today Jordan is
part of the same CIA/special operations game. Amman is swimming with
Iraqi émigrés and is a center for the external Iraqi "opposition," such
as it is. It is undoubtedly swimming with American operators getting
ready for the big one as well. If the U.S.-Jordan cooperation can’t
survive the light of day, then how does the administration expect to
fight an Iraq war, let alone be successful in the more narrowly focused
war on terrorism?
• William M.
Arkin, the author of ten books and numerous studies on military affairs,
is a consultant to numerous organizations, and a frequent
television and radio commentator. He was an Army intelligence analyst
during the 1970's, a nuclear weapons expert during the Cold War, and
pioneered on-the-ground study of the effects of military operations in
Iraq and Yugoslavia. In 1994, his "The U.S. Military Online: A Directory
for Internet Access to the Department of Defense" was published. His
Dot.Mil column, launched in November 1998, appears every other Monday on
E-mail Arkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
touted to succeed Saddam
Friday July 19, 2002
As US officials
and Iraqi opposition groups squabble over possible successors to Saddam
Hussein, Prince Hassan of neighbouring Jordan is emerging as a surprise
The idea, which has support in the Pentagon and among conservative
thinkers in the US, envisages the prince rising above Iraqi factionalism
as a compromise figurehead, or even as king.
Some argue that
his involvement could also ease tensions in Washington, where the state
department and CIA have been at loggerheads with Congress and the
Pentagon over Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial leader of the
Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella opposition group funded by US
is someone who has not been poisoned by the past 40 years of chaos in
Iraq and is perhaps the only person who can transcend the ethnic and
political complexities," said Michael Rubin of the Washington thinktank the
American Enterprise Institute.
Hassan, 55, was
crown prince of Jordan for many years and effectively ruled the country
during the terminal illness of his eldest brother, the late
But a few weeks
before his death in 1999, King Hussein removed him from the succession
and nominated his own son, now King Abdullah.
On April 8 this
year, Prince Hassan had talks at the Pentagon with Paul Wolfowitz, the
US deputy secretary of defence. The subject was never disclosed but
since then he has begun to assume a higher political profile.
in his dramatic "coming out" last week when - surrounded by TV cameras -
he arrived unexpectedly at a conference of exiled Iraqi officers in
London. It was the first time that a high-ranking Arab had publicly
associated himself with the Iraqi opposition. His move appears to have
been well received.
been heightened by the fact that the Jordanian royal family is related
to the Iraqi royal family, whose last king, Faisal II, was deposed and
assassinated in 1958.