SHAFAQNA – The Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah, made the offer in a series of bilateral meetings at the Nato summit in Wales on September 6, during which he met both President Obama and David Cameron. Sources familiar with King Abdullah’s pitch said that he appeared deeply frustrated by the pace of international coalition building against Isis. “King Abdullah was furious at the constraints being placed on action,” said one of the sources.
The source said the king sketched out a scenario in which Jordan might be used as the base for a military push northwards by anti-Isis rebel or tribal forces through the deserts of eastern Syria towards the militant group’s headquarters in Raqqa. He offered Jordanian military support and stressed the dangers of delaying a strike against the increasingly powerful militant group. The Jordanian embassy in London declined to comment.
“King Abdullah has been extraordinarily proactive in showing the Western world that if they do not support a proactive strategy against Isis then Jordan will take matters into its own hands,” said Michael Stephens, deputy director of the Qatar office of the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank.
The sources said that he also addressed the threat to Jordan from forces loyal to President Assad of Syria. He said he had already warned Mr Assad of direct Jordanian military intervention in southern Syria if forces loyal to the Syrian regime pushed into areas close to the Jordanian border in southwest Syria that are now effectively rebel safe havens. The three-year Syrian civil war remains in stalemate, with more than 190,000 dead. Jordan could face a surge of a million Syrian refugees if there is conflict along its border, adding to the 600,000 already there.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has confirmed troop pledges from a number of countries during a Middle East tour, although he declined to name them. The White House is conscious of the sensitivities of identifying regional nations that have privately agreed to involve ground troops.
Indications that Jordan might be prepared to send troops into Syria emerged at the weekend when Michael McCaul, a US Republican congressman, revealed he had recently met Hussein bin Al Abdullah, the Crown Prince of Jordan, and that the prince had said his country was ready to deploy some troops into Syria to fight Isis.
Jordan has long been an island of stability in the Middle East. Isis has publically vowed to invade the country and behead King Abdullah as part of its mission to rebuild the medieval Muslim caliphate that stretched from Spain to India in the 8th century.
The US government this week approved a $500 million training package to build up Syrian rebel forces to counter Isis, with an expansion of existing training for rebels expected to take place in Jordan and the Gulf states.
The importance of having Arab troops taking responsibility for ground actions against Isis was underlined this week when President Obama repeated his determination to avoid having American combat boots on the ground in the battle with Isis in Iraq and Syria.
Senior US officers have warned that without competent ground forces, no campaign against Isis can succeed.
The Pentagon and the CIA have warned Mr Obama that the Syrian rebel forces available to fight Isis, such as the Free Syrian Army, cannot be depended on to confront the militants. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, warned on Thursday that it would take a year to complete the training.
Jordan mobilised its armed forces along the Iraqi border in June after Iraqi forces abandoned border positions to advancing Isis militants. Some 2,000 Jordanians are fighting with Isis.
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