Ambassador: Iraq War Complicates Security for Jordan Steve Inskeep talks with Karim Kawar, Jordan's ambassador to the United States, about last week's suicide bombings in Amman. All three of the bombers were Iraqis. Ambassador Kawar says the U.S. presence in Iraq is making it harder for Jordan to protect against terrorism.
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Ambassador: Iraq War Complicates Security for Jordan

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Ambassador: Iraq War Complicates Security for Jordan

Ambassador: Iraq War Complicates Security for Jordan

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

That war effectively spilled across the Iraqi border when three bombs exploded last week. The attacks on hotels in Jordan are blamed on a group of Iraqis. One of them is the woman who failed to blow herself up and turned up on television screens around the world. Today, her friends say that three of her brothers had been killed by US forces.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Another bomber had a name that was familiar to the American military. The US said it had previously detained an Iraqi whose name matches one of the attackers. He was released for lack of compelling evidence that he posed a security threat.

INSKEEP: Now Jordan, which is home to millions of refugees, is taking extra security measures. The interior minister announced a new regulation yesterday that requires landlords to notify authorities within 48 hours if they rent an apartment or house to a non-Jordanian.

Here in Washington, the Jordanian ambassador says his country wants to remain relatively open. Ambassador Karim Kawar knows that is harder with a war just across the border.

Ambassador KARIM KAWAR (Jordanian): Certainly, the situation in Iraq doesn't help. The lack of security there and the American presence in Iraq has been fueling anti-American sentiment, which doesn't help in controlling the situation.

INSKEEP: Is there a threat within Jordan as well as an external threat from Iraq that you have to worry about?

Amb. KAWAR: None of those suicide bombers were Jordanian. They were all Iraqis. We're a refuge for nearly 800,000 Iraqis that are welcome to stay in Jordan until the situation allows them to go back to Iraq. So certainly this is not an act that's supported by the Iraqi government or the Iraqi people. This is a fringe group who have taken the Islamic faith and have scarred it through their acts. They certainly represent a minority. In Jordan we support traditional Islam and moderate Islam and we are certain that we will prevail.

INSKEEP: Jordanian officials have said, as I understand it, that they have arrested a number of followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi within Jordan. He's a native Jordanian himself, the man now in Iraq suspected of being behind these attacks. Is there a contradiction there between saying that a number of Jordanians have been arrested and saying that Jordanians were not involved and are all opposed to the attacks?

Amb. KAWAR: There have been several arrests, but so far none have been identified as being collaborators. With the recent attacks we, of course, had a number of people who would support Zarqawi as long as his acts were in Iraq and in other countries. Now that those have come home, I think that changes a lot of those attitudes.

INSKEEP: Ambassador, your security services have been notably successful in repelling attempted attacks in recent years. How do you think the situation is different now that one of them has succeeded? Does it make it harder to push back the next one?

Amb. KAWAR: Well, in this particular case, Zarqawi has used Iraqi nationals to carry out those attacks. Our security services have been focusing more on potential Jordanians pushing for insecurity in Jordan. Of course, that calls on our security services to change their tactics.

INSKEEP: Does this mean you might have to scrutinize Iraqi exiles more closely?

Amb. KAWAR: This should not change the way we treat our guests. Jordan remains to be an open society. Certainly, today, every Jordanian is more vigilant and looking out for any possible threat. As you know, Iraq has porous borders, so we have to, certainly, look at new ways of looking at borders and crossings.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: We've been talking to Ambassador Karim Kawar. He's Jordan's ambassador to the United States. Thanks very much.

Amb. KAWAR: Thank you, sir.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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