Jordan Caught Between An Ally And Its People The recent attack by a Jordanian suicide bomber on a CIA base in Afghanistan revealed the depth of the cooperation between the two allies. But even though the Jordanian government is pro-Western, anti-American sentiment runs high in the desert kingdom.
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Jordan Caught Between An Ally And Its People

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Jordan Caught Between An Ally And Its People

Jordan Caught Between An Ally And Its People

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The recent attack on the CIA in Afghanistan revealed the depth of cooperation between the U.S. and Jordan. Jordanian intelligence put the bomber, Humam al-Balawi, in touch with the CIA in hopes he would spy on al-Qaida. Jordan was then stunned when he turned out to be a double agent.

Jordanian-American cooperation springs from pro-Western sentiment in the government. But among the Jordanian people, anti-American sentiment is widespread.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has that story, and it begins at a funeral in Jordan for a member of al-Qaida.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: One after another, men with long beards file into the reception hall and pay their respects to the dead man's father. Here in the Palestinian refugee camp in the Jordanian town of Irbid, there were no tears of sadness to mourn Mahmoud Zeidan. His father, Mahdi, says his son was a member of al-Qaida who died in a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan.

Mr. MAHDI ZEIDAN: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm proud of him, he says. I'm happy he died a martyr fighting the Americans.

Mahdi Zeidan says his son left Jordan 10 years ago to further his religious studies in Pakistan. Somewhere along the way, he fell in with the Taliban and then al-Qaida. The family says he was a spiritual adviser to the group. He was 35 when he was killed.

Mr. ZEIDAN: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: My son wasn't a terrorist, he says. The U.S. are the terrorists who are bringing fear to Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mahdi's other son also fought in Afghanistan. He was captured by the Americans and sent to Guantanamo for five years. He was present at the wake but declined to speak to a member of the Western media.

Outside the hall, Mahdi's third son says he isn't sure whether or not to go and fight, too.

Mr. MUHAMMAD ZEIDAN: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Muhammad Zeidan is critical not just of the Americans. Referring to the recent revelation that Jordan helped the CIA, he says this country is absolutely fighting on the wrong side of war.

He's not alone in that sentiment. A strong current of anti-American feeling runs through Jordan. Analyst Hassan Abu Hanieh says it's no coincidence that men like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who led al-Qaida in Iraq, the recent CIA bomber and other militants like Mahmoud Zeidan come from Jordan.

Mr. HASSAN ABU HANIEH: (Through Translator) It's close to the Palestinian issue. At least 50 percent of the country is Palestinian. They blame the U.S. for supporting Israel. And then there is Iraq, also on our border, and what happened with the war there? It gets people's emotions here very high.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States provides Jordan with $660 million in foreign assistance a year.

Mr. SULAIMAN GHNAIMAT: Training, technology, intelligence coordinate and collaboration.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sulaiman Ghnaimat is a former Jordanian general and a member of the recently disbanded parliament. He says Jordan needs the U.S.

Mr. GHNAIMAT: It is serving our country. It is serving our nation. It's serving even our neighbors. So there's many, many benefits we are getting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But it is a delicate balancing act for Jordan's government. It must cater to its ally's needs in the war against Islamic extremism while keeping its population appeased.

Since news of Jordan's involvement for the CIA was made public last week, the Jordanians have been in damage control mode.

Jordan's General Intelligence Department or GID warned members of the CIA bomber's family not to speak to the press. Several analysts were also called up and told not to make inflammatory statements. At least one local journalist working with the foreign media was hauled in for questioning.

Rohile Gharaibeh is a member of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.

Mr. ROHILE GHARAIBEH: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says the government here realizes how negatively the public views their involvement with the CIA. They see it as something strange. Gharaibeh says to express opposition to the government's decisions in Jordan, though, is difficult. Opposition members, he says, are subject to harassment.

Jordan's GID has been cited by human rights organizations for its repressive tactics. It's been accused of detaining and torturing CIA prisoners in America's much criticized rendition program. Other human rights reports say it has also carried out arbitrary arrests and abuses of Jordanian suspects.

Sulaiman Ghnaimat, who has worked in intelligence in Jordan, defends their actions, saying Jordan also faces the threat of terrorism. In 2005, militants bombed a series of hotels in Jordan, killing and injuring scores of people.

Mr. GHNAIMAT: Very, very important that they should be very, very active and very, very alert, first, inside the country, and then around the country, any step which is needed (unintelligible).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.

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