MUWAQQAR, Jordan - In the bleak and seemingly endless desert expanse that
unfolds east of Jordan's capital city, Amman, lies a crucial cog in the
ambitious regional designs of the United States and its allies in the Middle
Commonly known by its acronym JIPTC, the Jordan International Police Training
Center is ground zero for the transformation of US-allied security forces not
only for the Kingdom of Jordan, but also for Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian
Under the regime of King Abdullah II, this country of six million people has
developed itself as something of a "Green Zone" in a tumultuous region - it is
strategically located at the heart of the
Middle East and bordered by Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the West
As General Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau in the US, said
during a joint training mission and tour of Jordan late last month, the country
has become "the lynchpin" in the efforts to create a "peaceful central command
JIPTC is staffed mostly by Jordanians, but the trainers are military and police
officers from more than a dozen countries - primarily Canada, the United
Kingdom and the US - as well as private contractors, such as DynCorp.
The relatively unassuming base, surrounded by blast walls and concertina wire,
is comprised predominantly of temporary portable buildings spread out across a
five-square-kilometer facility. The sprawling desert environment is well suited
for its multiple shooting ranges for a program that planners say is
three-quarters hands-on training, and one-quarter classroom instruction.
Since graduating its first class in November 2003, JIPTC has trained more than
50,000 police officers bound for Iraq. The academy has trained four battalions
of the Palestinian security forces, deployed under the auspices of US security
coordinator, General Keith Dayton, to back the "caretaker" Palestinian
government of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad in the West Bank.
With little fanfare, JIPTC has Jordan's regime playing a frontline role in the
US project to transform the Middle East.
"Jordan continues to be a key partner and to play a positive role in the
region," General David Petraeus, the US commander responsible for the region,
told a Senate Armed Service Committee meeting in April.
"Jordan participates in many regional security initiatives and has placed
itself at the forefront of police and military training for regional security
Mouin Rabbani, an Amman-based analyst, told Inter Press Service that such a
link was also problematic. "Jordan is one of the leading US allies in the
region, and it suffers the consequences of US policy, perhaps more than others,
because it's situated literally between the two biggest American failures in
the region: Iraq and Palestine."
Petraeus has explicitly linked JITPC to attempts to legitimize the failed peace
process in the Israel-Palestine conflict. "These efforts will likely prove
critical in the continued development of legitimate security forces in Lebanon
and the Palestinian Territories and, as a consequence, in the long-term
viability of the peace process," he told the senate committee.
According to Rabbani, Jordan's support for US efforts in the failed peace
process "raises questions about a strategy which is, for all intents and
purposes, wholly and exclusively aligned with one external would-be mediator
that's seen increasingly as irretrievably hostile to Palestinian and more
general Arab national aspirations, and completely wedded to Israeli interests".
In Dayton's first substantial interview with an Israeli newspaper regarding his
role in training the Palestinian forces, he was clear about his objectives.
"I'm here to advance America's interests, but I'm also here because of the
relationship between your country [Israel] and mine," he told Ha'aretz.
The Palestinian forces have an open agenda to target Hamas and other
Palestinian factions. In May, six people were killed when Dayton's forces
attacked Hamas activists in the West Bank town of Qalqilya, sparking a gun
battle that lasted several hours and took place without Israel's interference.
Hamas characterized the attack as "an awful crime" committed by
"collaborators", while Abbas declared that his forces would continue to strike
opposition groups "with an iron fist".
Dayton, in his only major policy speech to date, told the stridently pro-Israel
think-tank, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), that
JIPTC-trained Palestinian security forces had engaged in a series of violent
raids that were "surprisingly well coordinated" with Israel. Dayton
characterized the results as "electric".
"They have caught the attention of the Israeli defense establishment for their
dedication, discipline, motivation and results," Dayton said. "The
Jordanian-trained guys are the key."
Staging security training in Jordan cuts to the heart of the problem with the
credibility of these indigenous forces among their people. It is presumed that
they cannot be trained in their local milieu because they lack political
To this end, Dayton told the WINEP audience: "You might ask, why Jordan? The
answer is pretty simple. The Palestinians wanted to train in the region, but
they wanted to be away from clan, family and political influences. The Israelis
trust the Jordanians, and the Jordanians were anxious to help."
The JIPTC-trained forces find themselves at the center of a bitter factional
divide. Hamas won a decisive electoral victory in 2006, but has been forced
underground in the West Bank since sweeping Israeli arrests of many of its
elected members, and the subsequent takeover by Fayyad's regime in Ramallah.
The West Bank elected 52 of Hamas's 74 members of the 132-seat Palestinian
Legislative Council, while Fayyad's party, The Third Way, received less than 3%
of the popular vote, which translated into two seats. Abbas's Fatah party
tallied 45 seats. However, since assuming power, Abbas and Fayyad's West Bank
regime has been the beneficiary of more than US$1.8 billion in US-encouraged
international aid for a population of 2.5 million, while Hamas and the
Palestinians in Gaza have been subjected to a crippling boycott.
Upwards of 1,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Dayton's security forces,
mostly Hamas members. Many of those arrested face dubious charges, if any, and
the judicial process has been the source of significant criticism by
Palestinian human-rights groups.
All this has served to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Dayton's security
project, while the Hamas-Fatah division has all but killed the feasibility of
holding presidential elections in the Palestinian Territories, now a year
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama announced in June a $150 million increase
in military aid to Jordan, bringing the annual total to more than $513 million.
The increase came on top of the George W Bush administration's 2007, 10-year,
$50 billion military aid package to the region's allied regimes, including
Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the pliant Gulf states. The deal included a $30
billion weapons package to Israel through 2017.