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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Terror attack on US embassy in Amman thwarted

I was sitting shiva when this happened, so I missed it, but Jonathan Schanzer has some reasons to be concerned about last week's attempted terror attack on the US embassy in Amman.
Jordan disrupted a major terrorist attack in Amman this month, and security services reportedly arrested 11 jihadis who intended to attack multiple targets – including the U.S. embassy and popular shopping areas – with heavy weaponry including car bombs and machine guns.
That the attack was thwarted comes as good news for this American ally, where King Abdullah's rule has come under increasing pressure amid the Arab Spring. But the failed operation was also, in many respects, a witch's brew of America's most vexing policy challenges, raising questions about the path ahead.
For one, the failed attack raised additional fears about our diplomatic security. After all, American diplomats and diplomatic installations were among the targets. In light of the recent debacles in Benghazi and Cairo on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the plot raises the question: was the United States sufficiently staffed and prepared at the Amman embassy? If you've ever seen the fortress we call an embassy in Amman, the answer is probably "yes." But the bigger question is: how do we address this apparent surge in attempts to harm American diplomats in the region?
Then there is the issue of Syria. Jordanian Information Minister Samih Maayatah announced that the suspects had entered Jordan from neighboring Syria. And as a Jordanian security source told Reuters, "Their plans included getting explosives and mortars from Syria."
These revelations underscore the cost of American indecision. The U.S. has stood on the sidelines while Syria descended into civil war. Washington ignored the death toll as it climbed over 30,000, and the refugee count as it neared a quarter million, insisting that intervention on any level would only attract more radical jihadi types into an already complex situation. A year and half later, in addition to what can only be deemed a sectarian mess, the jihadis have arrived, anyway. The debate continues about whether the fighters are affiliated with al Qaeda or not, but it doesn't matter. There is a jihadi component to the Syria war, and it's now spilling over into Jordan, where Washington has a stake in the survival of the regime.
The Iraq angle is equally troubling. The Jordan Times cited Jordanian press sources as noting that the disrupted cell "gathered intelligence and consulted with the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda via the internet."
The resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq, a franchise of the al Qaeda core once thought to be largely defeated, is now undeniable.
Read the whole thing.

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