Israeli intelligence predicts fall of Jordan's Hashemite kingdom
JERUSALEM — Israel's intelligence community has determined that stability is declining in Egypt and Jordan.
The two countries, which have peace agreements with Israel, are considered as among the most powerful states in the Middle East. Egypt and Jordan both have air forces based on U.S. platforms.
King Abdullah II, in December 2005. AFP/Hassam Ammar
"I don't want to be a prophet," said Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, head of Israel military's Central Command. "But I don't think there will be another king after Abdullah."
Naveh, who meets regularly with senior Jordanian military commanders, said 80 percent of Jordan's population was Palestinian. In a lecture at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Feb. 22, Naveh, referring to intelligence assessments, said the strengthening of Hamas and Al Qaida-aligned groups would eventually end Hashemite rule in Jordan.
"There is already a Palestinian majority [in Jordan]," Naveh said. "There are ties to Hamas. In another few years, there will be a great strengthening of Hamas in Jordan."
It was the first time in decades that a senior Israeli military or intelligence official publicly predicted the demise of the Hashemite kingdom. Naveh did not offer a timetable.
Officials said military intelligence has envisioned a long-term Islamic threat against Egypt and Jordan that would affect the military balance with Israel.
The Islamic opposition would hamper Hashemite rule in Jordan as well as efforts by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to transfer power to his son, Gamal, they said.
Last week, two senior military commanders discussed these assessments in public forums, provoking diplomatic protests from unspecified nations.
Later, officials said Israel had raised concerns over the future of Abdullah's regime during a strategic dialogue with the United States in late 2005. They said Israel also reported a decline in the stability of the regimes in Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian Authority.
"These things are known," said Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, after an intelligence briefing on Feb. 23. "We don't need the generals to know this."
On Feb. 22, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski told a gathering of industrialists in Haifa that Mubarak was losing his authority. Kaplinski referred to the increasing strength of the Muslim Brotherhood and the deteriorating health of the Egyptian president.
Jordan's King Abdullah, left, gesticulates to Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah as they take a break after visiting Brunei's Special Combat Squadron on March 2, 2006. AP Photo/Rudolf Portilli
"Also in Egypt, there are signs of wavering of the regime," Kaplinski said. "The entire area is very dynamic and highlighted by a lack of certainty."
Hours later, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz released a joint statement that described Jordan's future as bright. Officials said Naveh would also send an apology to Jordan. Kaplinski was not publicly rebuked.
"There has been a drastic change in the assessment by military intelligence over the last few weeks," an official said. "Military intelligence was surprised by the Hamas victory [in Palestinian Legislative Council elections] and the significant rise of the Brotherhood in Egypt. We could be witnessing the formation of an Islamic ring around Israel, and the military feels it must provide warning."
Naveh said Israel faces the prospect of an Islamic takeover in such Arab countries as Iraq, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. This could result in the revival of a hostile eastern front against the Jewish state, particularly following of an expected U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq in 2007.
Officials said Al Qaida and Hamas could consolidate the Arab eastern front. Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, a Jordanian national who heads the Al Qaida network in Iraq, has been recruiting Palestinians to establish a presence along the Israeli-Jordanian frontier. Over the past two years, Jordan has captured dozens of suspected Al Zarqawi operatives accused of planning attacks against Israeli and U.S. interests.
Naveh said Israel's military has already detected signs of an Al Zarqawi presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said Al Zarqawi has sought to build a support infrastructure that would eventually recruit Palestinians for mass-casualty attacks against Israel.
"Al Qaida is trying to establish awareness in the Gaza Strip," Naveh said. "The next stage is for terrorism. I don't think Zarqawi will bring terrorists to Gaza. He doesn't have to. What he can do is exploit Hamas and take it [attacks] to another level."
Geostrategy-Direct, www.geostrategy-direct.com, March 8, 2006
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