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Jordan Stresses 'No Gray Area' In Fight Against IS, Extremism


Jordan hosts more than 600,000 refugees from Syria, and has warned that the refugee crisis, which has put a strain on the country's economy, also poses security problems.

Jordan hosts more than 600,000 refugees from Syria, and has warned that the refugee crisis, which has put a strain on the country's economy, also poses security problems.

Jordan's King Abdullah has said that there is "no gray area" in the fight against terrorism, and warned that there is a "civil war within Islam between moderation and extremism."

Jordan, a member of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group, has participated in air strikes against IS militants in Syria and has said that one of Amman's key roles will be to provide intelligence on IS to the West.

The country is also hosting more than 600,000 refugees from Syria, and has warned that the refugee crisis, which has put a strain on the country's economy, also poses security problems.

Speaking on October 20, King Abdullah said that the war against terrorism would not be over soon, because it involved a battle against extremist ideology. "If the military battle takes a brief time, the security and ideological war might extend for 10 or 15 years," he added.

Abdullah's remarks come amid heightened fears of increased radicalization in Jordan, prompted by the unrest in Syria and Iraq, and by Amman's participation in the anti-IS coalition.

Jordan has long complained that the vast numbers of Syrian refugees it is hosting pose a security threat. In recent weeks, since Jordan's participation in anti-IS air strikes, there are signs that Amman believes this threat to be on the rise. On October 8, international refugee agencies complained that Jordan had stopped allowing Syrian refugees to cross over its border. While Jordan denied that there had been a change in its policy, analysts suggested that Jordan may have implemented stricter border controls in response to the threat from IS.

On October 18, Jordan's former prime minister, Maruf al-Bakhit, said that over 1,100 Jordanians were fighting for the IS group in Iraq. Bakhit also warned that around 2,000-4,000 Jordanians support the extremist and violent Salafist ideology preached by the militant Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian behind multiple attacks against Jordanian, U.S., and Iraqi targets and who the CIA claims beheaded two U.S. citizens in Iraq.

There are also signs of some pro-IS sympathies among some communities in Jordan. Over the past few months, Jordan has seen small pro-IS demonstrations in its southern city of Ma'an, 240 kilometers south of the capital, Amman. Videos of the demonstrations, during which protesters waved black flags and called for the establishment of an Islamic state, were circulated via pro-IS social-media accounts.

In one recent demonstration on October 3, local media sources reported that dozens of young people marched through Ma'an after Friday Prayers, chanting slogans in support of IS and rejecting Jordan's participation in the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition. According to the reports, the city's mayor, Majid al-Sharari, tried to dissuade the demonstrators, saying that the demonstration was not good for Islam or for Muslims.

The situation in Ma'an prompted a crackdown on IS and Salafist sympathizers.

Sixteen Jordanians are currently on trial for promoting IS propaganda and forming an "Army of the Caliphate" online, while Jordan's security services have targeted Salafist movements with a series of arrests over the past two months, detaining 135 suspects but releasing over 50 due to lack of evidence.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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