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Jordanians Support Iraqi Resistance to U.S.


Insurgents from Iraq carried out last week's bombings in Jordan. Those attacks prompted a wave of anger and condemnation. But as NPR's Ivan Watson reports from Amman, Jordanians from across the political spectrum still insist the Iraqi insurgency has a moral right to fight the US occupation.

IVAN WATSON reporting:

The worst terror attacks in Jordan's history triggered street demonstrations and flag waving.

(Soundbite of demonstration)

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

Crowd: (Shouting in unison in foreign language)

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

Crowd: (Shouting in unison in foreign language)

WATSON: Jordanians were outraged at the bombings, including one in the midst of a wedding party which killed more than 30 civilians. Some called it `Jordan's 9/11' and denounced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which claimed responsibility for the attacks. But others, like this man named Ahmed Al-Qilani(ph) who attended a wake for some of the wedding party victims, repeated an all-too-common conspiracy theory: that by attacking Jordanians, al-Qaeda and Zarqawi were carrying out some hidden American agenda.

Mr. AHMED AL-QILANI (Wake Attendee): The plan is for the USA mainly because they have the reason is what has happened in the war.

WATSON: The US government is very unpopular here due to America's support for Israel and the US invasion of Iraq. A survey conducted by The Pew Research Center last summer reported that 49 percent of Jordanian Muslims polled said suicide attacks were justifiable against the US and its allies in Iraq. Sixty percent said they had a lot or some confidence in Osama bin Laden. Yosh Tilderman(ph), a Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group, says the Amman bombings are not likely to alter widespread popular support here for the Iraqi insurgency and for Palestinian resistance to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

Mr. YOSH TILDERMAN (Middle East Analyst, International Crisis Group): The last thing that will happen is that people turn against suicide attacks in Iraq and in Israel. Of course there's always people who condemn these attacks, but many people are willing to overlook these kinds of attacks simply because they are so angry about US policies in the region.

WATSON: Many Jordanians believe Arab resistance against foreign occupation is an inalienable right.

Mr. LABIB KAMHAWI (Political Analyst): If you are occupied, you have the right to resist occupation and liberate your own country without being labeled as terrorists.

WATSON: Labib Kamhawi is a political analyst. He says the Amman bombings may lead Jordanians to draw a line between good insurgents and bad insurgents.

Mr. KAMHAWI: People are more clear about it, maybe they will come out and say, for example, Zarqawi is a terrorist. But they will not say that people who are fighting the occupiers in Iraq are terrorists. They will never say that, no--or that the Palestinian resistance movement is a terrorist movement. No, they will not say that.

WATSON: The Jordanian government and leading politicians here say people now have to differentiate between resistance and terrorism.

Mr. ABDUL LATIF ARABIYAT (Leader, Islamic Action Front): We need to define what's the terrorism act and what's the resistance act.

WATSON: Abdul Latif Arabiyat is the leader of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has 17 seats in the Jordanian Parliament. Arabiyat condemns the targeting of civilians, but he supports insurgents who attack US troops in Iraq. But what about the large numbers of American officials and security contractors who pass through Jordan on their way in and out of Baghdad? Can they be targeted here in Jordan?

Mr. ARABIYAT: No. No, we don't say that. We have the meaning of the safety place, the safety area as a diplomatic--as people, civilian, passing by Jordan, living in Jordan, they are nice our citizens. It's not acceptable to do any bad thing against them.

WATSON: In Internet postings, Zarqawi said attacks on the three Amman hotels were justified because al-Qaeda was targeting locations used by American and Israeli intelligence. Some analysts here say the reaction in Jordan might have been different if foreigners and not Jordanians had been killed in the attacks. Ivan Watson, NPR News, Amman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ivan Watson
Ivan Watson is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he has served as one of NPR's foreign "firemen," shuttling to and from hotspots around the Middle East and Central Asia.
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