Jordanians' Feelings Mixed on Attacks

Mohammad Hikmet, 27, who recounted leaving Jordan to fight in Iraq in 2003, said he was shocked by the hotel bombings in Amman this month. Others said the attacks were justified.
Mohammad Hikmet, 27, who recounted leaving Jordan to fight in Iraq in 2003, said he was shocked by the hotel bombings in Amman this month. Others said the attacks were justified. (By Jackie Spinner -- The Washington Post)
By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 21, 2005

IRBID, Jordan -- Abu Ali, a solidly built man with a beard and permanent grease stains under his nails from his job as a truck mechanic, was pleased when he heard about the hotel bombings in his country.

Speaking solemnly, looking around to see who might be listening to him, Abu Ali said he had been waiting for something like this to happen ever since his country allowed U.S. troops to assemble on Jordanian soil during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Nov. 9 suicide blasts in Amman that killed 60 people, most of them Jordanians, were justifiable payback, said Abu Ali, who lives in a small suburb of this ancient city near the Syrian border. He can muster little sympathy for the victims.

Abu Ali said he has shared his feelings only with his friend Moussa, a human resources manager who lives with his new bride in Irbid. "He knew he could talk to me," Moussa recounted as the two men stood outside the auto shop where Abu Ali works. "We have the same opinions." Fearful of retaliation from the Jordanian intelligence service, the men agreed to talk to a reporter only if their full names were not used and the village where they grew up was not named.

Their view of the bombings reflects lingering anger here over the war in Iraq and belies the images of Jordanians united under their flag after the suicide bombings. Although King Abdullah criticized the U.S. invasion, many Jordanians saw the hosting of U.S. soldiers as tacit approval. An unknown number of Jordanians crossed through Syria and into Iraq to help fight the Americans.

In the days following the Amman blasts, the Jordanian government has acknowledged that its citizens largely view the insurgency in Iraq as an Iraqi problem created by the U.S. invasion. Officials say they hope the bombings served as a wake-up call for many Jordanians.

At a recent news conference, Prime Minister Adnan Badran said the government was starting a campaign aimed at schools, mosques and the news media "to prevent our children and youth from being brainwashed" by Islamic extremists, whom he called the "enemy within."

"We are all eyes for this homeland," he said. "The time has come to build social education that resists this culture. What we need is social reform."

Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher, the government's spokesman, estimated that 60 percent of Jordanians consider the al Qaeda network to be legitimate. "There must be zero tolerance toward such heinous acts," Muasher said. "A clear line must be defined between resistance and the killing of innocent people."

But men such as Abu Ali and Moussa say they see no distinction. To each other, they declare support for Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian whose al Qaeda in Iraq organization asserted responsibility for the attacks in Amman on the Radisson SAS, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn, all Western hotel chains.

"Our government shouldn't have anything to do with Iraq," said Abu Ali, 39. "Just leave us alone and it will keep us in peace.

"This was a message from Zarqawi and his guys: The Americans should leave Iraq. As long as they stay, it's legitimate to hit them anywhere. The innocent people who died, they are the casualties of war."

It is hard to say how widespread such feelings are. When asked about the Amman bombings, nearly a dozen people interviewed on the streets of Irbid condemned the attacks. But most were also quick to criticize the Americans for removing Saddam Hussein from power and for leaving U.S. troops in Iraq. And, they said, they fear more attacks in Jordan as a result of violence in Iraq.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company