Full Spectrum Jordan: A Coming Storm?

(Photo: Twitter/X)
Last night Gaza went dark after Israel destroyed telecommunications (data and mobile) creating fear of those in Khan Younis and Gaza City of being shelled in the dark, without being able to call loved ones or tell their story online. It caused worries that this was the long awaited and feared land invasion, which would result in house-to-house fighting, snipers, and massive casualties. As I wrote in a previous piece, Israel will most likely not launch a full scale land invasion for a variety of reasons. Instead it will raze a security region, a buffer zone, in North Gaza and will launch limited land incursions and ops, like last night. اضافة اعلان

Who is against the land invasion, why and who are the main players?

Three Things You Should Know:Arab States:
Since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza,  Arab states have come out strongly to condemn Israeli  war crimes - which are well documented. As well, states like EgyptSaudi Arabia, and especially Jordan have warned of the regional repercussions of a land invasion of Gaza. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi  has repeatedly sounded the alarm of growing anger Arab societies are experiencing - not only of the massive civilian casualties in Gaza, the destruction of churches, mosques, schools, and hospitals -

But especially over the international response, particularly that of the US. It would perhaps be easier if the international community ignored us, but to see these images on the news, and online, and then actively hear US officials like UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (vetoed a ceasefire proposal but suggested a ‘humanitarian pause’  with language defending Israel) celebrities like Sarah Silverman (defending cutting water to civilians), or spokespeople like John Kirby (pro-Palestine protests at University are ‘definition of unacceptable’ and ‘a ceasefire only helps Hamas’) provide talking points to justify these war crimes. It’s heartbreaking. That’s it. After the grief for Gaza, Arab societies had their hearts broken by the US and Europe and now they see the region itself could be broken. Arab states have to walk a tightrope between the growing domestic discontent in their own countries with Western demands and alliances. It may not be possible. Arab leaders find themselves in increasingly difficult geopolitical and domestic quandaries. A ground invasion, especially if supported by US money, weapons, advisors, and rhetoric, could be too much and activate armed groups and cells throughout the region.  There could be long-term societal resentment against the US, and collapse of faith in Western institutions.

Who might get involved?A land invasion will definitely be met, and already has been in a limited capacity, by non-state actors across the region - US assets and bases are targeted in Iraq, Houthi drones struck Egypt, and Hezbollah still engages and distracts Israel at the northern border. While Hezbollah is yet to launch a serious attack, their engagement must be considered as a warning of what can come if the land invasion happens. Syria and Iraq will play a role in this unfolding regional dynamic - The PMF, especially The Nujaba Movement and Kata’ib Hezbolla. This does not include ‘lone-wolf attacks’ such as the ones that happened with the killings of tourists in Egypt or Belgium.

How might they get involved?Lebanese Hezbollah, as mentioned above, is using limited strikes to engage Israel on its northern border. It is unlikely that Hezbollah would break the rules of engagement with an incursion, but it could increase its missile strikes, or target interests inside Lebanon. The active players who pose a much larger threat are Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Nujaba movement, and Asai’b Ahil Al Haq - all in Iraq. These groups are already targeting US bases and interests in the region, especially in Iraq and Eastern Syria. These groups are also the ones demonstrating and blocking shipments of oil from Iraq to Jordan. A possible escalation might result in these groups moving their operation from Iraq and Syria to the Golan Heights and opening a new front there. 

It is also worth noting that the Iraqi government awarded the Popular Movement Front (PMF) vast swaths of land on the borders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, to be used in creating an independent economic engine for the PMF. Following the footsteps of the IRGC, it can now be used as an operation base to target US interests and allies in Saudi and Jordan.  The Houthis have also fulfilled their vow of  joining the conflict. According to reports, the Houthis are well equipped with military grade drones that they can use for launching attacks against Israel. So far, two drones exploded over Egyptian villages. While the reports did not identify the type of weapons used, previous Houthi attacks on Saudi Aramco and a recent UK seizure of a Houthi shipment both indicate Delta Design Drones. 

My Take:
There is no surprise that Gaza is an open-air prison, Israel has evaded international consequences for violence against civilians, or that the US supports Israel. What was a surprise was how blatantly Israel shuns international law, such as cutting water to communities and targeting a church sheltering civilians, only to be given political cover by the US whether at the UN or in the press room. The rage at protests is then aimed not just at Israel but also at its Western backers and apologists. This creates a threat of a West vs. Arabs dynamic. Our generation already survived this public perception with the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. 

As much as protestors blame the US, or US politicians blame Iran, the truth is, everything now depends on Israel. Israel decides to invade Gaza and face thousands of Hamas fighters and put civilians in the way, or to find other means of securing the hostages and containing Hamas. 

If there is a ground invasion, it plays into the Iranian objective of thriving on chaos. As an agent of chaos, Iran can reposition itself as a key player in the region.  It looks for fissures like Gaza, and exploits them. It also uses it for PR and information campaigns. Arab public sentiment that was anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah is seeing a shift. By making Iran a mastermind, by making Iranian proxies ‘the resistance’ it creates a mood where Iran can expand its narrative to areas that were resistant to it before. It places itself as the voice or protectors of Gaza. Of course, this isn’t true. Many hoped for the US and EU to be the voice of human rights and international law - to be protectors - but this was a disappointment. But this does not mean that to defend Gaza means buying into Iran’s narrative. (Iran was clear in its plan of expelling all US troops in the middle east, announced in the wake of Suleimani’s assassination).

Where does this leave Jordan? Jordan is a hub for dialogue and the King a strong voice for Palestinian protection, international law, ceasefire, and humanitarian support. His Majesty has given tough rhetoric in his opening of Parliamentthe press conference in Germany, or the summit in Cairo. Her Majesty Queen Rania in a CNN interview and Safadi in multiple venues have echoed these sentiments. But US allies like Jordan, who focus on peace, dialogue, and a two-state solution are in the crossfire both as an American ally and a host to American interests and bases. Jordan, for example, has already been named by Iraqi militias in a BBC interview as a legitimate target.  Any Arab state which has close relations to the US or was engaged in recognition efforts with Israel is under threat if a land invasion occurs. A regional expansion of the conflict benefits none of them. 

The only states that benefit from a ground invasion and subsequent expansion of the conflict are Israel and Iran.

Katrina Sammour was first published on Full Spectrum Jordan, a weekly newsletter on SubStack. 

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