August 19, 2005
Annoying grey ships at Aqaba piss me off: Shall Fire rockets at them. (US ships attacked) - updated
Well, this news in the AM bemused me:
It reports two missiles (in fact, it appears mortars, not quite the same thing, Mr. Halaby, or perhaps Katyusha rockets..... well something explosive in any case) were fired at US warships at Aqaba harbor.
[update: 17h00 GMT below]
Suppose this will do wonders for tourism. Might clear out the harbor though, reduce the backlog.
The item that caught me overall attention was, however,
U.S. frigates, apparently part of routine exercises with the Jordanian army, were seen docked at the mouth of the Red Sea port earlier this week
Well, if only there a week or so, this attack was slapped together right quick.
What early observations can one make on this?
First, if these were mortars or rockets, they probably came over from Iraq, no doubt via tribal smuggling routes.
Second, someone in Aqaba port gave intel on the nice Amerikanine in town.
Third, Jordan's government is now going to go bloody nuts over this. Relatively heavy ordonnance in the hands of increasingly restive southern tribes can not be something to make Abdullah sleep well. One can expect Moukhaberat are going to go nutso.
Fourth, this may put a minor crimp in Aqaba harbor operations. Bad for Jordan.
Fifth, rather suggests the level of anti-American sentiment in Jordan is reaching a boil. Probably also suggests anti-Abdullah sentiment in the South is non-trivial.
Last - press reporting on military items remains dodgey. I mean really, mortars are not rockets are not missiles. But this is merely detials, no real worries.
[update 17h00 GMT]
The Financial Times has an updated report that gives what appears to be useful information:
In an unverified internet statement, a group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility. The group has previously claimed responsibility for various attacks including the July 23 bombings in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
I take a jaundiced view on early claims, but the bedou connexion...
Jordanian security forces say they are looking for a Syrian and two Iraqi men in connection with the attack which used Katyusha rockets launched from a warehouse on the outskirts of Aqaba. It was recently rented by four people with Egyptian and Iraqi nationalities. The police are also looking for them.
Now this is interesting. I remain intrigued by the potential bedou connexion, and foreign radicals do not refute the overall idea. I also note it's rather common to blame foreigners straight off. Regardless, a mix might not be surprising at all, nor Iraqi involvement.
The Qatar-based Arab satellite TV network al-Jazeera earlier this month quoted Jordanian security sources as saying they had arrested 17 people who had plotted to attack American military personnel in the country. They said that several of them were linked to the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who heads the al-Qaeda network in Iraq.
Hmmm, wonder what the profiles are.
Jordan has a history of reporting al-Qaeda related plots, in which dozens of people have been arrested and tried over the past several years. In April last year, the authorities arrested a group of people who were said to be linked to Zarqawi and charged them with plotting to carry out a chemical attack in the country.
True, cells and more cells.
The country is widely regarded as pro-Western and has been accused by militants of aiding the US-led invasion of Iraq. The first large bomb attack in Baghdad after the war was aimed at the Jordanian embassy - even before the attack on the UN headquarters.
Of course the militants were right. It was an open joke in Amman, those funny flights at funny times, the funny Americans with the funny haircuts before the war and through it.
In October 2002 Laurence Foley, a US embassy official, was killed in front of his home in the capital Amman. The authorities arrested two people in connection with that case and said they too had links to al-Qaeda.
I have fond memories of waking up to that news on CNN I think, and thinking, "Hmm, wonder if this means a danger pay raise."
Despite these incidents, Jordan is widely regarded as one of the region’s most stable countries.
Well given the pissloads of money it gets for security....
Still Abdullah is looking a bit on the outs these days.
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Anti-American sentiment has long been especially high in Jordan as compared to other Arab countries, thanks largely to the high percentage of Palestinian-Jordanians (also a possible explanation for the Katyushas - used often by Palestinian militants but not in Iraq, although similar rockets are).
Second, although a local intel link is not at all unlikely, it is well known (in Iraq, for example) that US naval ships frequently dock in Aqaba. Also, as mentioned in the article, joint naval exercises take place regularly. Initial planning and arms acquisition may have taken place months ago.
Third, damn straight Jordan's security services are going to go nuts, in a quiet sort of way. It doesn't bode well for the attackers that they have already had to show (probably forged) passports. There's a good chance they won't get far.
Posted by: hasenauer at August 19, 2005 12:57 PM
Yes, indeed. I lived there, right through the bloody war and after actually.
However, I rather doubt any Palestinian Jordanian connexion. Aqaba is tribal territory.
Insofar as those ships are reported as having been there only a week, I think you can count on a leak, or a lot of patience. I'll go for a leak.
As for Jordanian security, well, nothing is fool proof.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at August 19, 2005 01:11 PM