May 25th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Inside Jordan, worries about Iran and Syria

Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan. Read all her reporting here.

By Barbara Starr

The tiny nation of Jordan may be one of the most important U.S. allies in the Middle East, but these days trouble is brewing from growing al Qaeda threats in the region.

In several days of talking here with senior U.S. military, diplomatic and Jordanian officials, the word most often heard is "instability." What worries Jordan is that regional stability could be shaken even more by unrest in neighboring Syria and also by Iran's nuclear intentions.

And the Syria and Iran problems increasingly may be linked.

These officials also informally believe that the Syrian crisis now essentially has distracted the Iranian leadership so much it may be lessening the immediacy of a nuclear weapons threat from Teheran. Up until a few months ago Jordanian leaders privately believed Israel was likely close to striking Iranian nuclear sites, but now they say, that seems to have eased.

But they also warn the Arab world sees the new Israeli government as a "war cabinet," and Iran could make the decision yet to proceed with a nuclear agenda.

Still, the worries Jordan feels from Iran are significant.

"Iran is a problem for the whole region," one official here said. Hezbollah ties to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) are now virtually complete, Jordan feels, with the Iranian regime providing the group weapons and full financial and other support.

Jordan is in fact worried Hezbollah operations could target it.

The most senior Jordanian officials tell CNN they do not believe Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, has any intention of attacking Jordan, knowing that would bring down the wrath of the United States.

But the Jordanians' worry is more complex.

Jordanian officials say there is extensive evidence Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is shipping weapons to the Syrian regime and that Russia is determined to keep supporting al-Assad, so that it has a base for intelligence operations. Those weapons are mainly limited to hand-held weapons such as AK-47s that Syrian troops can use in urban assaults.

In addition, Jordan now believes there are upwards of 1,500 al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers in Syria, most coming in from Iraq. U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN's Suzanne Kelly that the U.S. believes there are approximately 500 al Qaeda operatives in Syria but cannot quantify how many more sympathizers there might be.

In recent weeks there have also been infiltrations from Lebanon, and trouble has erupted on that border.

Jordan's own long northern border with Syria remains stable, for now. But officials say they have caught smugglers, and even a small number of people trying to bring weapons into Jordan. They've also caught Syrian intelligence agents coming into Jordan to spy of the growing Syrian refugee population.

All of that equals worry.

The Jordanian military also has stepped up its training with U.S. special forces, just in case.

"We have to anticipate any surprises," from Syria, says a senior Jordanian official. Elite Jordanian special forces and U.S. Army Green Berets are training in Jordan in case they have to move to secure Syria's chemical or biological weapons. There is even on-going training on how to rescue a downed pilot.

Jordan already is struggling under the economic burden of tens of thousands of Syrians refugees. If al-Assad pushes more out of Syria, that, too, could destablize Jordan's already shaky economy.

But for the United States, the most direct worry still comes from al Quaeda in Yemen, also known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Jordanian assessment is that some Jordanian fighters have traveled to Yemen to join the group as well as fighters from the Palestinian territory, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Libya

soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Lujack Skylark

    Persia/Iran (Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39) is destined to go to war against Israel and Israel will destroy Iran and Iran's allies as written in the Biblical prophecy.

    May 28, 2012 at 1:04 am | Reply
    • bill

      Sounds great. How many people will be killed on each side. This will save on food and water and contamination of the earth. Does this come under the religion topic? The Gods do not give a shit about Iran or te other countries...Man the leaders do make a point to look out for their selfs...I would like to get opinions from Moslems or Iranians out there..I get the impression that most writers heere are from America..Bill the Greek from Las Vegas who is 82 yeas of age..

      May 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  2. Jose S.

    https:// vimeo dott com/16724719

    May 27, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  3. Felix El Gato

    We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

    May 26, 2012 at 10:55 am | Reply
  4. ????

    I really doubt that we have any allies in the Middle East region. If we shut off the money, wouldn't take long to learn.

    May 26, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
  5. Jordan

    Jordan is not US allies !

    May 26, 2012 at 2:04 am | Reply
  6. MyPictureOfMohammad


    May 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Reply
  7. King of freedom

    The people are protesting the king's corruption and they want to change the system where he has less power. So, the king is trying to press the Jordanian people claiming that Al-Qaeda will take over the country and the Islamist will be in power. This is the shortest way to kill his people assuming he is fighting Al-Qaeda.

    May 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  8. Fed Up

    Bush and Cheney lied to make money for their pals at Haliburton, pure and simple. I am a Republican but not proud of this moment in time that started something we should have never been involved in. That said, our country needs to focus on our at home issues and defend our borders, first and foremost. Our foreign policy is weak because we are seen as a country stretched far too thin by helping everyone who cries and holds their hand out for assistance.

    May 25, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Reply
    • Greatness starts in humility...

      Wow... Thank you... I do agree with you. 🙂

      May 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
    • The truth

      Man for get about our borders , we're in every nation on the earth except N. Korea and we're even itching to get in there....You being a Republilcan , probably can't understand that.... 🙂 🙂

      May 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
      • Fed Up

        Let's keep America home to LEGAL citizens = Americans.

        May 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • c s

      The US currently has over 700 military bases overseas. The simple fact is that the US military can no longer be the world cop anymore because the US is BROKE. Republican Ron Paul advocates a large reduction in US military forces and a withdrawal of US military to the US. The US currently spends between $200 and $300 billion a year defending the Persian gulf and Saudi Arabia, so that Asia and Europe can get their oil. Let someone else be the Saudi protector. Most of the 9/11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia and everyone knows that the almost everyone in the country hates the US. The Saudis are bankrolling schools all over the world that teach hatred for the West and Americans.

      If the US was to take the money currently spent on protecting Saudi Arabia and spent it to produce solar and wind energy, the US would be able to finally turn around the economy. Every dollar spent importing oil into the US leaves the US, while money spent on solar and wind energy is circulated in the country and has a multiplier affect on jobs and income.

      May 27, 2012 at 12:09 am | Reply
      • syed


        May 27, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  9. Digital Backlash

    We will never be a united Earth until we have an external threat.
    Time to manufacture one.
    Just like 911.

    May 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
    • Bill

      I always wonder how you 911 conspiracy nuts think Bush managed to hide something on that scale, but then could not come up with a few WMD's in Iraq to justify his war.......

      May 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
      • The truth

        That's only becaue no one told them that they was lying....... you know there ain't nothing in the world worse that a MF who lies even to himself.. 🙂 🙂

        May 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  10. Procivic

    Given that most Al Qaeda assassins have been Arab and that Jordanian nationals have been generous volunteers on a per capita basis, the "officials" quoted would do well to keep their peace regarding Iran and concentrate on their internal shortcomings.

    May 25, 2012 at 8:47 am | Reply
    • sarge

      Why are you afraid of an opinion?

      May 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Reply
    • The truth

      I just have to be honest and inqusitive as to know why Al Queda still get so much attention... all the al Queda wanna be's have absolutely no peotential to ever getr any where near where Osamba ben Liad ever got...

      It takes large funds and stealth... and the stealth part these wanna be's will never understand... 🙂 🙂
      doubt they could blow up a bridge roflol

      May 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply

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