Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Jordanian government is set to take precautionary measures to contain the spread of Islamist insurgents from neighboring countries, as fears grow of Al-Qaeda fighters extending their influence beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria.
The recent takeover of the Iraqi city of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al-Qaeda breakaway group, has caused a stir in Jordan, with many lawmakers calling on the government to step up security measures and tighten border security.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Al-Momani said on Sunday that Amman was putting measures in place in response to Mosul and large swaths of Iraq falling out of government control.
“All civil and military state institutions are taking the necessary and precautionary measures to avoid crises like the one Iraq is going through now,” he said.
Jordanian authorities have tightened control along the borders with Iraq, and stepped up security at border crossings between the two countries, an Amman security source told Asharq Al-Awsat, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The official ruled out a possible refugee influx from Iraq, saying: “The assessments and indications the Kingdom has [carried out] do not suggest potential waves of Iraqi refugees.”
With large parts of the north and west of Iraq under the control of radical and tribal fighters, and the Syrian crisis drawing in Jordanian jihadists, authorities in Amman are considering new measures to curb a potential rise of an Islamist insurgency breaking out in the Kingdom.
“Figuring out a strategy to face the challenge and threat posed by the spread of ISIS towards Jordan should be a priority for the government and all [local] political forces,” Fahd Al-Khaitan, a Jordanian journalist from the Al-Ghad newspaper, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Khaitan called for “dialogue between the government and the political forces in Jordan in order to agree on a strategy to face the danger.”
“Should ISIS establish a foothold in Iraq’s Sunni-majority provinces, it would start thinking about extending [its influence] towards Jordan,” he warned.
Some Jordanian lawmakers played down claims of potential security threats from ISIS, emphasizing instead the economic costs of instability in neighboring countries.
“Jordan will be affected by the developments in Iraq, not in the narrow security sense but rather in wider economic terms,” the general coordinator of the Mubadara (Initiative) bloc in the Jordanian parliament, Mustafa Hamarneh, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Hamarneh said several joint Iraqi–Jordanian projects, such as the oil pipeline between Iraq and Jordan, had now been suspended.
Another Jordanian MP, Mahmud Al-Kharabsheh, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are great risks as ISIS is getting close to our eastern borders and the northeastern ones, and this will create added burden on Jordan to tighten its control on the borders with the two neighboring countries.”