Jordan's outrage

November 11, 2005

Try as they have in recent years, al-Qaida affiliates had failed to execute successful suicide attacks in the Hashemite kingdom. Jordan's intelligence and security services, among the best in the region, had always managed to foil the plots - until Wednesday, when Islamic militants finally hit their mark with bombings at three Western-operated hotels in Amman.

Like Sharm el-Sheik, London and Madrid, the Jordanian capital was targeted because of its government's help in the U.S.-led Iraq war. Just as in those cities, the majority of the dead in Amman were civilians and locals, including guests at a wedding. The attacks in an Arab capital known for its civility, sophistication and safety in that volatile region should underscore for Jordanians and other Arabs the single-minded ambition of the terrorists - to kill indiscriminately.

Jordan, a gateway to Iraq, has been among America's closest Mideast allies, after Israel and Egypt. King Abdullah II faced a tough decision on the eve of the Iraq war - the country relied on Iraqi oil, many Iraqi expatriates had taken refuge in the kingdom and its majority Palestinian citizenry had sought a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he supported U.S. interests in the war, providing whatever assistance he could. Like his father, King Hussein, King Abdullah has been a leading voice of moderation, who most recently launched a public campaign to encourage the silent Muslim majority to oppose the hijacking of their faith by Islamic extremists such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a native Jordanian who is leading the Iraqi insurgency and is a prime suspect in the Amman bombings.

A stable, secure Jordan is very much in America's interest, especially now, with anti-U.S. sentiment raging in the Arab world. Last night, Jordanians took to the streets of Amman to mourn the 59 killed in the blasts, pledge allegiance to their king and decry Mr. al-Zarqawi by name. It was an angry demonstration, not unlike one held recently in Casablanca in the wake of threats by Iraqi insurgents to kill two kidnapped Moroccan diplomats.

Undoubtedly, security will be enhanced in Amman, and tourism might decline for awhile. But the suicide attacks, already branded as Jordan's 9/11, should reinforce the urgency for Muslims to support King Abdullah's campaign against violence, repudiate the cult of terrorism practiced by native sons and end a conspiracy of silence that allows their methods to go unchallenged.

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