April 26, 2006

Hamas Operation in Jordan - Why?

Almost a week ago, Jordanian internal security forces arrested several Hamas militants in northern Jordan - most likely in Irbid, a common venue for Palestinian activity and home to a large number of Palestinian refugees. The Hamas group had weapons that included British-Swedish anti-tank weapons. The Jordanians claim the weapons were to be used against Jordanian targets.

I think everyone knows that Iran routinely supplies money, weapons and training (the three things required to maintain an insurgency) to Hizballah, as well as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but not too many realize that Hamas has been on the recipient list for Iranian largesse since at least 1992. The funding is estimated to be as much as $30 million per year. Despite the fact that the PIJ and Hamas are Sunni fundamentalist groups, the Iranian Shi'a leaders' hatred of Israel transcends any reluctance to support the Palestinian Sunni groups.

Although one route to get the weapons from the delivery point at Damascus International Airport to the Hamas and PIJ is via smugglers' trails through Jordan, the question we should be asking is why Hamas would be planning operations in Jordan. They would be foolish to take on the very capable Jordanian security services. If you believe the Jordanians, and they have an effective intelligence service against the Palestinian target, you have to look north to Syria. Syria? Why would Bashar Al-Asad be stirring up trouble to the south? He has enough to keep himself busy with the United Nations investigation into Syrian complicity in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.

If you look at Syria's borders, you have Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Lebanon to the west, Israel to the southwest, and Jordan to the south. Of all of these, Jordan is the one that is relatively calm - why stir up trouble there?

As for Hamas, aren't they a bit busy now trying to convince the world they can run the Palestinian Authority, convincing people to give them money rather than starting trouble in Jordan? Or is this just a Hamas money-making effort on behalf of sponsors in Syria and/or Iran?

It doesn't make sense to me.