The recent terrorist attack in Jordan is a horrendous act that must be condemned by all ethical standards. Targeting civilians, regardless of the reason, is an unjustified act. Yet a mere condemnation will do us (those who oppose the act) no justice. We must attempt to understand how such an act could be imagined, come to be, and tolerated. Unfortunately, theories of conspiracy (Israel or the United States are behind the attacks), do not assist us in such an analysis. They are always brought in to help fill the gap in an already flowed political understanding of the crisis itself.
Also, the ambiguous calls for “national unity” as put forward by the Arab regimes, in this case the Jordanian, become ever more attractive, as we fail to direct our understanding at how the regime itself, via its notion of unity against the “greater threat,” is implicated in giving birth to such violence.
It is not conspiracy nor a “Jordanian Sept 11”
The government in Jordan is trying to pitch the attacks as a "surprise" attack, or sort of "Jordanian Sept. 11." Others talk about some “Mosad” conspiracy theory. However, this sort of action was widely expected in Jordan, given the increase in similar attempts during the past year or so. The government kept a led on their imminence, bragging about the superiority of its own security apparatus so not to disturb the burgeoning financial markets.
But why is Jordan targeted in the first place? 1) The track record of the Jordanian official policy of “cozying with the US,” assisting it in its war and other terrorizing campaigns; 2) next to Israel, Jordan is now the second largest country that receives US foreign assistance (per capita), also higher than Egypt, and higher than Pakistan in absolute terms; 3) the support the Jordanian government is lending the US in its war on Iraq; 4) the continued visits of US high military ranking personnel being welcomed by none other than the king himself; 5) the almost full cooperation between the Jordanian and the American security apparatuses in pursuing, interrogating, and torturing the presumably members of "Islamic terrorist organizations.” As LA Times describe Jordan in a recent articles as a hub for “extraordinary rendition!” All of these factors might help explain, not justify, such attacks, and why recently these groups have been adamantly targeting Jordan.
Jordanian public sentiment:
Curtailing political freedom has enjoyed a long life under the Jordanian regime. This practice has been intensified during the drum up for the last US war on Iraq, and more so afterward. The Parliament was dissolved early on way before the war. The government rebuked a public demand for a new democratic elections law, as well as parliamentary elections, several times before the war. Only after the occupation of Iraq, and when the defeated mood reign supreme did the government agree to parliamentary elections in June 2003. Jordan has a long history of state attacks on independent democratic institutions, mainly labor and professional unions, political parties, student organizations. Electoral laws for the Parliament and the municipal councils are habitually changed to ever more absurd ones (e.g. the government assigns half of the members and the presidents for the municipal councils and for the students organizations in the universities, the rest are elected!) The state denies as a matter of daily practice permit requests for marches, rallies, and public meetings.
All of this fosters sentiments of despair, while deepening the political apathy of a wide margin of the Jordanian public. In this atmosphere of highly contained and suppressed political dialogue and mobilization, the highly publicized horrendous deeds of "Zarqawi's" and his likes -- presumably against the US forces or who cooperate with them -- began to make sense to some Jordanians, as the only possible political action to vent one’s frustration, if not to avenge US terror bestowed on Iraq, and the Iraqi people, with implications to the entire region.
The regime is riding on an ephemeral tide of popularity on the attacks aftermath. However, The reaction on part of the people is already being differentiated n different divides, though the main contentious issue is the regime’s relations with the US administration and the way he abides by the later definition of terrorism.
What the government is vowing to do now is to attack not just these extremist organizations but also whomever talks or expresses any justifications for them. So they are expanding the level of repression to further suppress the freedom of thoughts and expression in Jordan, in a way only the government has monopoly on the definition of what is considered a condoning expression or justification for terrorism.
So, definitely they are going in the wrong direction again. Much so they are not questioning their attitude toward the bigger terrorist and source of destabilization in the region and the world, I mean the US administration. Not to do so and continue with their political repression and manipulations will not do any help but provide for the same ingredients that got us to this point in the first place, if anything Egypt is a good example in that regard.