The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS), buoyed by its recent successes in Iraq, wants to expand its regional reach. Reports that Iraq has withdrawn forces from western towns close to its 180-kilometer border with Jordan have left Amman feeling vulnerable, and the Hashemite kingdom, certainly a target of interest for the jihadist movement, has deployed additional security personnel along the border.
Taking on Jordan would be tough for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, however. The group has the ability to stage terrorist attacks in the country, but significant constraints will prevent it from operating on the levels seen in Iraq and Syria.
The June 15 edition of the Jordan Times reported that Amman had beefed up security along its border with Iraq amid fears that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is inching toward the kingdom. Quoting unnamed Islamist sources, the report added that the jihadist group has established a branch within the kingdom as part of its plans to create a regional emirate.
The ISIL’s intent to expand into Jordan follows the region’s geopolitical logic. After their push into Iraq, and already controlling significant swathes of Syrian territory, the jihadist group can try to push into the Hashemite kingdom from two directions. Jordan is the only opening available to ISIL—the group cannot move north into Turkey, nor could it move southwest into Lebanon. Even in Jordan, though, the group faces considerable constraints.
For starters, the Jordanian regime is far more stable than Syria or Iraq, and its security forces have proved to be quite effective. Furthermore, Jordan has strong backing from the United States and Saudi Arabia, especially since the kingdom became a critical staging ground for support to Syrian rebels. Washington and Riyadh can extend financial, intelligence and military assistance to Amman. But Jordan is also a key sanctuary for rebels, and this aids the ISIL’s cause.
Salafist, jihadist presence
Jordan has long had a substantial Salafist and jihadist presence. Since the start of the civil war in Syria, jihadists have moved frequently across the Jordan-Syria border. Amman has tried to crack down on this cross-border traffic, but it has not brought it to a stop.
To be continued.
Republishing by The Manila Times of this analysis is with the express permission of STRATFOR.