Assassination in Jordan
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TERENCE SMITH: Now to assess the significance of the assassination, and its potential impact on U.S.-Jordanian relations, we’re joined by Youssef Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He’s a former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, and energy editor at the Wall Street Journal. Yousef, welcome.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM, Council on Foreign Relations: Hello, Terry. How are you?
TERENCE SMITH: I’m very well, thank you. What does this shooting say to you about the security of Americans in Jordan and in the Arab world?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: I must say it is an ominous development. It crosses a sort of red line. There had been assassination attempts against diplomats, but Israeli diplomats in Jordan. Jordan is one of our closest allies and generally speaking has a rather good internal and external police system. But also, it has a population of 70 percent Palestinians, who are extremely unhappy with our policy towards Israel and towards Iraq. And so what it says to me is that we are putting now the lives of a lot of American diplomats in danger, and it sends a signal to a lot of American businessmen and families that live in the Middle East.
TERENCE SMITH: And I suppose it makes it of course much more difficult for American diplomats to do their job.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: To begin with, Terry, American diplomats have not been doing their job for quite a while, as you know our embassies have been turned into fortresses. And our diplomats have to move in armored cars, they hardly leave the embassy. It is very complicated affair to go and see an American diplomat. We are already unable to perform our diplomatic functions as other countries do in the Muslim world and in the Arab world, and that situation is now going to get worse.
TERENCE SMITH: No one, as was mentioned earlier, no group has claimed responsibility for this assassination. But do you relate it to other incidents in the region, for example, the shooting of U.S. Marines in Kuwait?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Yes. I would put my money on al-Qaida. We have had first the attack on the French tanker, we’ve had the attack on the American Marines. And we have had the attack on the tourist resort of Bali. And I think what we are witnessing here is a widening of the kind of activities and terror that al-Qaida is perpetrating, and I would be very surprised if this incident is not related to them.
TERENCE SMITH: Does this have any impact on the very close relations between the United States and Jordan?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: It does, and frankly what it says also is it shows us how fragile several of our closest friends and allies in the Middle East are. I think Jordan is a very fragile country at the moment. It will become far more fragile when and if we launch this attack against Iraq, because it has close commercial and political ties to Iraq, and of course because of the majority of the Palestinian population there. Also too Egypt is a fragile country at the moment because the Arabs treat, or the Egyptians treat — are equally opposed to this attack on Iraq. And the Saudis – the Saudi regime is under a lot of pressure. Basically our whole, our system of alliance in the region is under considerable pressure.
TERENCE SMITH: And what does it say about King Abdullah and the situation he’s in, the pressures that are no doubt building on him?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: I think the Saudis perhaps are less threatened than the Jordanians and the Egyptians in the sense that they have oil, and they don’t need our help that much. But what it will do for King Abdullah, for Prince Abdullah –.
TERENCE SMITH: I’m talking of course about King Abdullah in Jordan.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Oh, I’m sorry, King Abdullah in Jordan. He is not as experienced as his father. He’s a young man, he is, does not have the popularity or the solid base of support that his father has. And I think it suggests that his situation, if this hostility towards the United States continues to grow, is going to become perilous in the sense that the various tribes and the various factions that compose Jordan may not give him the loyalty that they gave his father.
TERENCE SMITH: Yousef Ibrahim, thank you very much.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Thank you.