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Salt raid: Lessons learned

Aug 13,2018 - Last updated at Aug 13,2018

The terrorist attack in the city of Salt, northwest of Amman, should surprise no one. Long-time observers of Jordan politics have warned that Jordan, being on the frontline in combating all kinds of terrorist attacks in a region best by conflict, would be a target for various forms of terrorists. What makes matters worse is the fact that youth radicalisation is becoming a homegrown phenomenon that poses a domestic security challenge for Jordan.

Jordanian authorities are well prepared to handle the challenge of terrorism. For decades, Jordan’s intelligence agencies have been successful in penetrating radical groups, thus foiling many attacks within Jordan. Not long ago, Jordan unveiled a counterterrorism centre with the objective of boosting the capacity of local forces to deal with this challenge.

Two unrelated, yet important, lessons could be drawn from last Saturday’s terrorist attack in Jordan. First, there is a consensus among Jordanians that the stability and security of the country is a top priority. The solidarity expressed by Jordanians is a statement of a strong domestic front, and this should be reinforced by sound policies by the government.

Second, there is a pressing need to nip in the bud radicalism. We all know that there are some incubating environments for radicalism in at least three sites in Jordan. There are many studies published by Jordanian researchers on those radicalising sites. Given the gravity of the situation, the government should adopt a de-radicalisation strategy. True, the security approach is a key pillar for this strategy; yet, it is far from being sufficient. Perhaps, the government needs to counter the radical thought by exposing its fallacy. Unfortunately, Jordanian authorities have invested only in the security approach. It is high time to admit that there is an ideological component and this could not be confronted by force alone. Indeed, many young Jordanians are susceptible to radicalisation due to their perception of the weakness of the political reality and the lack of stake in the current political order. His Majesty King Abdullah refers to the empowerment of youth in his discussion papers. But this has yet to be translated to policies.

Apart from the pull factors, the government needs to examine the socioeconomic factors that push many young people to the radical movements. Economic deprivation and the lack of jobs have frustrated the booming youth. Hence, the government must think that short of improving the economic conditions, it runs the risk of losing ground to the radical movements. I had the chance to talk to many Jordanians over the last two days. While they condemned terrorism and loathed radicalism, they pointed out to the fact that we all know. Radical movements have been successfully recruiting Jordanian youth because they promised them a different and better alternative. 

And herein lies the crux of the issue. The government should restore the moral ground and the trust of the youth so that it could undermine the efforts of radical groups to have a strong foothold in Jordan.

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