Three Hegemon's blog
Jordan wary of being used as a US base


Contact Me
postings list
Links page
July Pages
June Pages
May pages
What does Three Hegemons mean?
US unilateralism
War on Terrorism
Crisis of the US capitalist model
Latin America
WTO and other international organizations


U.S. Considers Wary Jordan as Base for an Attack on Iraq


WASHINGTON, July 9 American military planners are considering using bases in Jordan to stage air and commando operations against Iraq in the event the United States decides to attack Iraq, senior defense officials said today.

But Jordan has not yet been consulted specifically about the possible use of its bases, and Jordanian officials have criticized such a plan.

An American military planning document prepared at the Central Command calls for air-, land- and sea-based forces to attack Iraq from three directions, but the details of which countries might be involved are just coming to light.

Using Jordanian bases would enable the Pentagon to attack Iraq from the west, as well as from the north via Turkey and the south via several Persian Gulf states.

Such an arrangement would also introduce American forces between Iraq and Israel to help detect, track and destroy Scud missiles that Baghdad might shoot at Israeli targets, as it did during the Persian Gulf war in 1991, the officials said.

A final military plan for attacking Iraq has not yet been prepared, but "every country in the region, from Turkey to Jordan to the gulf states, was being considered when you're talking about mounting an operation," a senior defense official said.

President Bush has discussed with King Abdullah of Jordan the administration's goal of toppling President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and the political landscape without Mr. Hussein, officials said.

But in a telephone interview from Amman today, Jordan's foreign minister, Marwan J. Muasher, said: "Our public position is the same as our private position. Jordan will not be used as a launching pad, and we do not have any U.S. forces in Jordan."

The reason for Jordan's anxiety is clear. King Abdullah, who presides over a poor country in need of aid and good will from the United States, is trying to be a friend to Washington. He has met with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House four times in the past two years, most recently on May 8.

The king is to meet privately with Mr. Bush here later this month, officials said.

At the same time, most of Jordan's population is of Palestinian descent, and Palestinians have been ardent supporters of President Hussein.

Jordanian sensitivities regarding Iraq have a long history. During the gulf war, the current king's father, King Hussein, essentially sat on the fence as Palestinians in the West Bank and in Jordan repeatedly held boisterous and sometimes violent demonstrations in support of Iraq.

Now Iraq sends large cash payments to families of Palestinian suicide bombers, further cementing the Iraqi leader's popularity among Palestinians.

King Abdullah would risk alienating many Palestinians in his kingdom, destabilizing the fragile balance that maintains Jordan as a viable state, if he allowed American troops to mount an attack from Jordanian territory.

Indeed, when Mr. Cheney visited the king in Amman in March, the Jordanian authorities issued a statement expressing the monarch's concern about "the repercussions of any possible strike on Iraq and the dangers of that on the stability and security of the region."

American military planners, operating without the political filters that their superiors would impose if an attack were imminent, say Jordan's role could be similar to that of Pakistan in the war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has allowed American Special Operations forces and search and rescue crews to work out of bases in the country, but neither nation publicly acknowledges the arrangement.

A spokesman for the National Security Council, Sean McCormack, said the administration would not comment on war planning, but noted that "Jordan is a close friend and ally."

There are several signs that military cooperation between Washington and Jordan is increasing. The administration has requested $25 million from Congress as part of a larger emergency spending bill to provide Jordan with military equipment and "upgrades for land and air base defense," as well as border security, said a congressional aide.

The military's Central Command, which is responsible for planning military operations in 25 countries from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, has rated the construction projects in Jordan among its highest priorities, one official said. Some of the American aid could go toward lengthening runways at two Jordanian air bases to accommodate larger planes, the official said.

Two weeks ago, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the head of American forces in the Middle East, met in Amman with King Abdullah and with the defense minister and the senior military officer. Col. Ray Shepherd, a spokesman for General Franks, said the meeting was a "routine" visit.

American forces have conducted joint operations in Jordan. A year ago, 2,200 marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, Calif., took part in an exercise in Aqaba. In the late 1990's, American warplanes flew missions to enforce the no-flight zone over southern Iraq from Jordanian air bases.

The United States and Jordan have also carried out intelligence cooperation for many years.

Internal military planning over how to use Jordanian bases comes as the outlines of a plan to attack Iraq are evolving and apparently working their way through military channels.

Once a consensus is reached on the concept, the steps toward assembling a final war plan and the element of timing for ground deployments and launching an air war represent the final decisions for President Bush to make.

The existence of the military planning document was first reported in an op-ed article in The Los Angeles Times last month. The New York Times published details of the document last Friday.