Thursday, April 20, 2006

Jordan accuses Hamas of smuggling arms

The Jordanian government announced that it has seized weapons and explosive that Hamas elements have allegedly tried to smuggle into the country, reports the Jordanian daily al-Ghad.

The materials were seized after Jordanian security services observed a number of Hamas elements trying to smuggle and store such weapons into Jordan on several occasions. Al-Ghad also reports that Hamas members were observed casing several locations in Jordan, actions that a government statement said conflicted with repeated statements by the new government not to use Jordan for any goals that would threaten the security of the kingdom. The Jordanian government accused Hamas of using “two languages” in it’s dealings with Jordan.

It is not surprising that Hamas is active in and hopes to build wider support in Jordan, but attempts to smuggle and store weapons in the country would be a blunder of the highest degree. Hamas, to my knowledge, has never attacked any site outside of Israel or the Occupied Palestinian territories and they have repeatedly stated they do not intend to do so.

This development raises many questions. There is no doubt that Hamas does not intend to attack the Jordanian government. They know this would have disastrous consequences for themselves and for the Palestinian cause. Look at what happened to the popularity of al-Qaida in Jordan after the November attacks here. Even in militant Islamist circles the attacks were widely criticized and I doubt even al-Qa'ida will attempt such an attack here again. Any future attacks are much more likely to be aimed at individuals, to ensure that ordinary Jordanians are not killed.

Turning back to Hamas, it has always been a strictly national movement. Certainly, they have different relations with other militant Islamic movements, but they have never shown any inclination to use violence beyond the field of their struggle for national liberation and islamization in Palestine. A spokesperson for the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood has questioned the lack of evidence in the Jordanian government charge and said that the accusations "do not add up". A western friend here also questioned the timing of the charge.

Does this mean there is already a radicalization of militants within the Hamas movement, and that the leadership is losing control of its traditionally well-disciplined members? Are some elements of Hamas preparing for a confrontation with other Palestinian factions in Jordan?

There have been growing reports of increased efforts by al-Qa’ida to expand its field of operations into the Palestinian territories, and al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri sharply criticized Hamas for participating in Palestinian elections. Are there rouge elements within Hamas, who maybe have been influenced by the broader pan-Islamic ideology of al-Qa’ida? Or is the Hamas leadership actually foolish enough to expand the conflict as the West continues to pressure and isolate the movement and the Palestinian Authority it now heads? Any one of these scenarios is possible, but not likely.

No matter the reason for the weapons smuggling charge, this development bodes ill for both Hamas and Palestinians in general, and will likely increase tensions between Jordanians and Jordanian-Palestinians. Jordan has a vested interest in making sure that Hamas, a shoot off of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine does not succeed in Palestine, for fear it would bolster support for the Muslim Brotherhood here in Jordan.

I agree that having the Muslim Brotherhood come to power would be a social, political and economic disaster for any country in the region, but I think this is something that is better determined by people, not those currently holding power. This is unfortunately how democracy works. People have to learn the mistakes of their choices. It is the fact that they've not had choices that has helped feed extremism and militancy in the region.


Anonymous Guitar Master said...

I wish I could blog as good as you, but what I can do is give you a nice Guitar Lesson!

1:51 AM  

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