The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has clearly stated its aspiration to institute a caliphate well beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria. Recent statements and images attributed to the group demonstrate one way it hopes achieve that goal: by first encroaching into next-door Lebanon and Jordan, where a public demonstration was held last week in support of the extremist Sunni group.
TheBlaze reviewed local media reports as well as postings by scholars who track the Islamist militant group, which has signaled its ambitious designs following a string of territorial victories in Iraq in recent weeks.
The Associated Press reported that the Jordanian army has reinforced its border with Iraq in response to the threat, and Lebanese police raided two hotels in Beirut, arresting suspected members of a sleeper cell allegedly linked to the Al Qaeda splinter group.
On Sunday, ISIS seized territory on the Iraqi side of the border with Jordan and took control of the only land crossing between the two. Sunni tribal militants were now in charge of checkpoints “along large stretches of the Baghad-Amman highway,” Reuters reported.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concerns about the potential spillover of ISIS – also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — at a press conference on Monday in Baghdad.
“It’s also crystal-clear that ISIL’s rise puts more than one country at risk. ISIL threatens the stability of the entire region and it is a threat also to the United States and to the West – self-declared,” Kerry told reporters. “None of us should have to be reminded that a threat left unattended far beyond our shores can have grave, tragic consequences."
President Barack Obama sounded the same concern about ISIS spreading in an interview recorded Friday for CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“We’re going to have to be vigilant generally. Right now the problem with ISIS is the fact that they’re destabilizing the country,” Obama said. “That could spill over into some of our allies like Jordan.”
In a new ISIS recruiting video aimed at luring Western Muslims to the battlefield, a British militant, Abu Muthanna Al-Yemini, said: “We understand no borders ... and we will even go to Jordan and Lebanon with no problems.”
On Friday, several dozen ISIS supporters waved black flags at a demonstration in the city of Ma’an, Jordan, chanting, “Today Iraq, tomorrow the caliphate,” and “The caliphate is coming to Jordan,” marking the first large showing of public support in Jordan for the extremist group, the Jordan Times reported.
Those demonstrating celebrated ISIS’s military gains in neighboring Iraq which they called “victories for Islam.”
“This march aims to show that we are a genuine, independent movement that has true support in Jordan,” said a local pro-ISIS activist identified by the Jordan Times as Abu Mohammed.
Here is video of the rally where chants of “Allahu Akbar” and “Dawlat al-Islam (the Islamic State)” could be heard:
Mohammad Shalabi, who heads the Salafist movement in Jordan, tried to downplay the significance of the public display.
“The organizers of this rally were misguided and do not represent the Salafist movement or any jihadist group. ... There is no Islamic State in Jordan," he said.
Supporters of ISIS in Jordan also reportedly burned tires:
#Jordan: pro-ISIS agitators in Ma'an set fire to tyres: http://t.co/2rw4aK3zib— Aymenn J Al-Tamimi (@Aymenn J Al-Tamimi) 1403565968.0
ISIS has posted images online which show its greater territorial ambitions, including these that were uncovered by a researcher who tracks the group that is designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. The second set of images shows arrows showing the short distances to Jordan and Saudi Arabia:
Oh yeah, this is definitely the ISIS social media team's Next Big Idea http://t.co/3OZgSQF64i— 𝙅.𝙈. 𝘽𝙀𝙍𝙂𝙀𝙍 (@𝙅.𝙈. 𝘽𝙀𝙍𝙂𝙀𝙍) 1403404000.0
ISIS knows its audience, and it's not necessarily you. http://t.co/NSWTbIlUaa— 𝙅.𝙈. 𝘽𝙀𝙍𝙂𝙀𝙍 (@𝙅.𝙈. 𝘽𝙀𝙍𝙂𝙀𝙍) 1403403603.0
Beyond Jordan and Lebanon, Palestinians in Gaza rallied to celebrate the ISIS victories last week.
#Gaza: a clearer photo of the pro-ISIS demonstration in Rafah to celebrate ISIS' conquests in #Iraq: http://t.co/DxpZRgMw9x— Aymenn J Al-Tamimi (@Aymenn J Al-Tamimi) 1403566138.0
Jordan’s interior minister, Hussein al-Majali, emphasizing his concerns about ISIS to the parliament, summed it up: Jordan is “surrounded by extremism.”