Homeland Security

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

JORDAN: Reforms necessary to prevent terrorism, says ICG

AMMAN, 27 November 2005 (IRIN) - New security measures taken in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in the capital, Amman, must be complemented by political, economic and cultural reforms if Jordan is to avoid similar incidents in the future, according to a new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.

“Any security response must be complemented by a genuine opening of the political system and more equally-shared economic opportunity if Jordan is to minimise the risk of further attacks and instability,” the report noted.

The 9 November bombings, in which three hotels were targeted by suicide attackers killing 60 and injuring more than 100, were later claimed by the Al-Qaeda group.

Immediately afterward, Jordanian authorities drafted a proposed anti-terror bill with the aim of preventing further attacks.

The ICG noted that the bombings had resulted in popular
“revulsion” in Jordan against Islamist terrorism. It went on to note, however, that such sentiments would likely be temporary, given a general sympathy with Islamist militants, due mainly to Amman’s unpopular alliance with the US.

The think tank also cited an “overly constricted political system, growing economic inequality, shrinking opportunities and anger at widespread corruption” as reasons for public sympathy with Islamic militants.

“The regime has public support right now because of popular outrage over the casualties,” explained ICG Middle East Project Director Joost Hiltermann. “It should use this small window of opportunity to deliver long-promised reforms.”

In response to the bombings, Jordanian King Abdullah II has made senior level changes in the government.

These have included the appointment of the national security director, Marouf Bakhit, as prime minister, who has been mandated with “launching an all-out war on Islamist militants and forging ahead with indispensable reforms.”

The ICG, however, warned against a security-only response to the attacks.

“Further crackdowns in response to the bombings could backfire unless the problems driving popular dissatisfaction with the regime are taken on with equal vigour,” noted Hiltermann.

The IGC report recommends that the government provide more political freedom by drafting a new electoral law aimed at promoting popular representation and forming a broader, more inclusive government.

In addition, the paper suggests that the regime expand employment opportunities to allow poorer segments of Jordanian society to share more fully in national economic growth.

On the cultural front, the think tank advised the government to “drive a wedge between jihadi and non-jihadi Islamists” by promoting “a tolerant vision of Islam” in educational institutions and encouraging religious teachers who denounce violence.

In February 2005, a steering committee appointed by King Abdullah drew up a “National Agenda” to be implemented over the next decade.

The wide-ranging document covers political development, legislation, infrastructure, investment, financial reform, labour, education and social welfare.

Robert Malley, director of ICG’s Middle East and North Africa program, cautioned: “The November attacks are a preview of what’s to come unless the government gets serious about real reform.”

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance

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