August 28, 2014
Itani on Spread of ISIS to Jordan
The threat from extremist groups, such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, “in the short-term is limited,” Faysal Itani, resident fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, said.
Speaking during the same panel, Itani explained that Jordan does not currently face immediate threat because of chance existential circumstances, rather than specific actions taken by its government.
Itani described the country’s security forces as loyal, cohesive, and adept, which “puts them in stark contrast to those of other neighboring countries of Syria that have struggled with ISIS, including Lebanon [and] Iraq.” He also pointed out that border control in Jordan is effective compared to the 560 mile Syrian-Turkish border, where thousands of people have crossed into Syria to join rebel groups.
Additionally, he said one of the most important things temporarily working in Jordan’s favor is “the geography of the Syrian civil war, mainly that the southern theater is still dominated by the FSA [Free Syrian Army] brigade groups and non-jihadist rebels.” He also noted, however, that the situation is in flux and “nothing can be taken for granted.”
Another reason Jordan currently seems immune to some of the perils experienced by other countries is because it is a high priority for U.S. Middle East policy, Itani said, adding that there is “some kind of meaningful political life” for Islamist groups to air their grievances.
One of the most important aspects for Jordan’s favorable situation, though, Itani pointed out, is that the country does not have a sectarian fault line — more than 95 percent of the population is Sunni.
Itani emphasized that the circumstances currently protecting Jordan from the winds of change sweeping throughout the region may not continue to hold up. There is a “fear” in Jordan, he said, of becoming Syria.