Overview: Jordan remained a committed partner on CT in 2019. As a regional leader in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jordan played an important role in Coalition successes in degrading the terrorist group. Jordan continued to face a persistent threat of terrorist activity both domestically and along its borders, owing in part to its proximity to regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the state’s official rejection of Salafi-Jihadi interpretations of Islam. Terrorist entities continue to express interest in attacking both “hard” and “soft” targets, such as high-profile public events, hotels, tourist locations, and Jordanian security services. The most notable terrorist incident in 2019 was the November 6 attack targeting foreign tourists in Jerash. Jordanian security forces thwarted several plots and apprehended numerous terrorists; however, coordination among Jordan’s security services for terrorism response capabilities and prevention remains a challenge, but it continues to improve.
Border security remains an overarching priority for the Jordanian government, given fears that violence from the conflict in neighboring Syria will spill over into its territory. There were many Jordanian nationals among FTFs in Iraq and Syria, and the threat of domestic radicalization, especially online, remains. Returning FTFs are an ongoing concern for Jordan’s security services. As a member of the GCTF, Jordan continued to be a committed partner on FTF issues in 2019 as co-chair with the United States of the GCTF FTF Working Group.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: On November 6, a 22-year old Palestinian from a nearby refugee camp stabbed eight people, including four foreign tourists, in Jerash, one of Jordan’s most popular tourism sites.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Jordan made no significant changes to its counterterrorism legal framework in 2019.
The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) is the primary government agency responsible for counterterrorism. It operates with support from various elements within the Jordan Armed Forces, the Public Security Directorate, and the Gendarmerie. The Jordanian government continued to implement measures and conduct joint exercises to improve interagency coordination among security agencies during responses to terrorism-related events. Enhanced overt security measures are in place across Jordan, most visibly at hotels and shopping malls.
Jordanian security services disrupted a number of terrorist plots in various stages of operational planning. While successful interdictions showcase the government’s efforts, they come in response to attempts to conduct terrorist operations in Jordan from a variety of terrorist groups or individuals with terrorist aspirations, including those inspired by ISIS and al-Qa’ida. On November 12, the Jordanian newspaper Al-Rai reported that the GID thwarted terrorist operations of two suspects who planned to target employees of the U.S. and Israeli embassies, as well as U.S. soldiers at a military base in the Jafr region. The GID reportedly arrested the two suspects in July, and their trial in the State Security Court (SSC) began in early November. The SSC sentenced one of the suspects to eight years in prison for threatening to attack the Israeli Embassy in Amman. The SSC also convicted several detainees on terrorism charges. Sentences ranged from three years to life in prison with hard labor.
In 2019, Jordan did not extradite Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, a Jordanian national in her mid-30s, who has been charged in the United States with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. The charge is related to her participation in the August 9, 2001, suicide bomb attack at a pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including two U.S. nationals. Four other U.S. nationals were among the approximately 122 others injured in the attack. Following publication of the 2018 Country Reports on Terrorism, Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi confirmed that U.S. authorities asked Jordan to extradite Tamimi, and he expressed the view that Jordan’s constitution does not allow the extradition of a Jordanian citizen to a third country. The United States regards the extradition treaty with Jordan as valid and in force.
Jordan continued to reinforce its border defenses and surveillance capabilities in response to terrorist and criminal threats emanating from its 230-mile border with Syria and 112-mile border with Iraq.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Jordan is a member of MENAFATF. Its FIU, known as the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group. Jordan is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s CIFG. MENAFATF completed its mutual evaluation of Jordan in 2019; while not published before the end of 2019, the report contained several recommendations to enhance its AML/CFT regime.
Countering Violent Extremism: Jordan is implementing a national strategy on preventing violent extremism coordinated by an office within the Prime Ministry. Priority areas for engagement include countering terrorist ideology, building social cohesion among civil society, and assisting law enforcement. Officials regularly engage experts on topics such as the role of women and girls in terrorism prevention, and the monitoring and evaluation of local conditions conducive to terrorism. Civil society organizations have undertaken work across the country to address causes of terrorism and offer positive alternatives to youth through activities that build critical thinking skills, encourage civic participation, increase awareness of online safety, and address the needs of returning terrorist fighters and their families. Irbid, Karak, and Zarqa are members of the SCN and worked to develop capacity in local communities to prevent violence and build community cohesion.
Jordan, in partnership with the United States, held the first Aqaba Process Tech Meeting to counter terrorism online in February 2019 in Napa, California, which included governments, technology companies, international organizations, civil society, and academics. Jordan held a follow-up Aqaba Process meeting in Amman in June that likewise focused on countering terrorist use of the internet. In September, Jordan co-sponsored with New Zealand and France at the United Nations the high-level “Leaders Dialogue: Strategic Responses to Terrorist and Violent Extremist Narratives.”
International and Regional Cooperation: Jordan is a major non-NATO ally and founding member of the GCTF. It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Proliferation Security Initiative. Jordan also participates in the UN’s Group of Friends of Preventing Violent Extremism.