wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
2003-08-03 14:21:00
Embassy Amman
Cable title:  


pdf how-to read a cable
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 AMMAN 004827 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2013


Classified By: Ambassador Edward W. Gnehm for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)


C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 AMMAN 004827


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2013


Classified By: Ambassador Edward W. Gnehm for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)


1. (C) Political Islam is a mostly moderate force in
Jordanian society. By far, the most important Islamic
organization in Jordan is the Muslim Brotherhood, and
then its political arm, the Islamic Action Front.
There are no other Islamic groups in the country that
match the MB/IAF in influence and size. However, by
and large, political and social associations in Jordan
are mostly tribal-based rather than religion-based,
and as the recent Parliamentary elections showed,
tribal affiliations remain the most influential factor
in Jordanian politics. There are several Islamic-run
charities in Jordan, but unlike Islamic charities in
other parts of the region, these charities do not
provide services for many in the population. There
is a small minority of al-Qa'ida-influenced extremists
in Jordan, but the GOJ has and continues to take a
very aggressive tack in dealing with Islamic extremism.

2. (C) Answers below are keyed to Reftel paras:

4) Post has provided below a thumbnail sketch of the
following influential organizations/individuals active
in Political Islam in Jordan:

Muslim Brotherhood (MB)--The Jordan branch of the MB
originally began in 1945 as an offshoot of the
Egyptian MB, but it has never evolved into a violent
or subversive group. The MB has a history of
cooperation with the GOJ and enjoyed a special
status under King Hussein's reign. The King allowed
the MB to categorize itself as an Islamic society
during a time when political parties where banned in
Jordan, and as such, the MB was able to develop its
organizational structure and influence while other
political movements were forced underground. During
the last 40 years, the MB has promoted its
political beliefs via its control over professional
associations, and through its social activities,
relatively modest welfare programs and media efforts.
Elements of the GOJ responsible for monitoring

religious extremists are concerned that the ultimate
aims of the MB are more radical than the
organization's stated policy and that there may be
links between MB members and more extremist
organizations. The current leadership of the MB,
headed by East Banker Abdul Majid Thneibat, is
dominated by moderates, however there is a movement
within the organization towards a more radical public

Islamic Action Front (IAF)-- The IAF was established
as the political party representing the MB in 1992.
MB leaders created the IAF because they did not
want to jeopardize the MB's special status as a
social society. The IAF is the only functioning
political party in Jordan. With several thousand
members and an effective campaign machinery, the
IAF won 17 seats out of 110 in the recent
elections and will likely be able to attract
several other sympathetic Parliamentarians to form
the largest (but still minority) political bloc in
Parliament. Its current leader is a moderate East
Banker, IAF Secretary General Hamza Mansour.
Although Mansour has made numerous provocative and
inciteful public statements, within the organization
he has called for cooperation with the government,
participation in the elections, and contacts
with foreign embassies (including the U.S.)

Islamic Centrist Party--Roughly 120 IAF members who
promoted a more pluralistic and liberal agenda broke
away from the IAF in 2001 to form their own party, the
Islamic Centrist Party. The party's platform includes
promoting the role of women in society, tolerance
and economic reform. However, so far the party's
popular support has been limited and it won no seats
in the recent Parliamentary elections. The party
is run by Secretary General Atef Btoush.

Islamic Center Society--Probably the largest and most
established charity run by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Islamic Center Society runs a number of health
clinics, secondary schools, and at least two
hospitals and underwrites these services for the poor.

Takfir wa Hijra (Mohammad Shalabi)--A radical
offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Takfir
wa Hijra (aka Takfiris) follow an extreme
fundamentalist version of Islam. The GOJ has
labeled a group of Ma'an-based extremists,
led by Mohammad Shalibi, aka Abu Sayyaf, as
Takfiris, although Shalibi denied any
connection to the Takfiris in a public interview
in November 2002. The GOJ moved against the group
in November 2002 in the city of Ma'an. The crackdown
resulted in the deaths of several GOJ security
officials and Shalabi followers, but Shalabi's
current whereabouts are unknown.

4a) Parties/groups that advocate and seek a violent
overthrow of existing regimes, and express overt
hostility to political and religious pluralism, and
to secular and minority groups: Shalabi and his
followers, loosely termed Takfir wa Hijra by the
GOJ, would fall under this category. Also in this
category, are an unknown number of local-based
extremists who are associated with al-Qa'ida or
followers of al-Qa'ida associate Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.
Several of Zarqawi's associates were arrested in December
2002 for the assassination of US diplomat Laurence
Foley and are currently on trial for his

4b) Parties/groups who are anti-democratic and
anti-pluralistic, and who seek the overthrow of
existing regimes though not necessarily by violence:
Hizb al-Tahrir, an organization that professes to
advocate non-violent Islamic revolution, has an
unknown number of followers in Jordan.

4c) Parties/groups that are willing to engage in a
democratic, pluralistic process but who, if given
full power, would not respect the rights of
non-Islamists, secularists, and/or minorities:
Some members of the Islamic Action Front and Muslim
Brotherhood would probably fit this category. The IAF
if given full power would likely support some laws
that would infringe upon the rights of others,
including the banning of alcohol, gender segregation in
schools, and mandatory use of the hejab for women.

4d) Parties/groups who engage in a democratic,
pluralistic process and who do/would respect the
rights of others as well as the principle of alternance
of government: The IAF/MB mostly fit into this
category as they have historically worked with other
parties/minority groups within the political system.
They have also cooperated with the GOJ--to the extent
of circumscribing their own activities when the GOJ
has established parameters for their activities.

5) Post would not advocate assistance programs to
IAF or MB members. Public statements attributed to
the MB have at times appeared to favor terrorist acts
against Israel and/or resistance to the US in Iraq.

6a) How are effective groups organized? What makes
them effective? What lessons could secular groups in
the same countries learn from the Islamists?

-- The MB is the most effective Islamic group in
Jordan, while the IAF is the most effective political
party in Jordan. Their effectiveness is based on
broad grassroots appeal, commitment to a set of
common causes, and strong organizational and financial
support from its members. The IAF has been
effective in using the media to promote its message,
principally through the publication of "Al Sabeel",
Jordan's highest circulation weekly newspaper.

What part of the population or potential electorate
could/do listed groups control individually and

-- The MB and IAF's appeal is broad and attracts both
East Bank and West Bank constituents. Prior to changes
in the electoral law, the MB was able to garner
about 27 percent (22 of 80) of the Parliamentary seats
in the 1989 elections. In the June 2003 elections,
the IAF won a total of 17 seats (out of 110),
despite expectations that the group would win at
least 20-22 seats. A pollster from the Center for
Strategic Studies at Jordan University recently told us
that, based on unreleased polling data, he believes the
MB/IAF receives the support of about 15 percent of the
population. MB influence in the professional associations
is much more dominant. MB members usually dominate
poorly-attended elections and thereby control the
leadership in the most important associations, including
the engineering and medical associations.

Do listed groups pursue a largely domestic or
internationalist agenda? Do they receive funding or
other support from foreign governments or groups?

-- The MB/IAF pursue a mostly domestic agenda with
one exception: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Almost
since its inception, the MB has pursued an anti-Israeli
agenda and rallied opposition to the Jordan-Israeli peace
treaty. The MB and the IAF are leaders of anti-normalization
campaigns in Jordan. Post knows of no foreign government
funding or support to the MB or IAF. The GOJ monitors
the MB and IAF closely and would likely block any such
support from foreign sources. We would point out that
most Jordanians view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
as a domestic--and not international--issue.

Do these groups view the shari'ah as the immutable
seventh-century version or as an elastic body of guidance
able to evolve to fit contemporary circumstances?

-- While public statements are steeped in shari'ah,
in practicality, the MB and IAF in Parliament, and when
in government in the early 1990s, have a more
pragmatic approach to Islamic issues, particularly
with implementation of shari'ah-mandated criminal

Do host nations have any prominent Islamic "modernizers"?
If so, are they associated with listed groups?
Antagonistic toward the groups?

-- The MB and IAF are comparatively moderate entities
in the context of the spectrum of regional Islamic
political movements. Both organizations are controlled
by the East Bank leaders, who traditionally have had close
ties to the regime.

What role, if any, do listed groups play in intra-Islamic

-- MB members are often invited and have attended regional
Islamic meetings, some of which have involved more radical
Islamists. Post does not know the extent to which MB
members participate in the dialogue at these meetings.

Do listed groups show any willingness to cooperate
politically or practically with non-Islamic parties/groups?

-- Both the IAF and Islamic Centrist Party have worked
with non-Islamic blocs in Parliament to achieve common
goals. The IAF has had a pragmatic approach to
working with non-Islamic parties, and even Christians
on occasion. The Islamic Centrist Party, before Parliament
was dismissed in June 2001, called on some 30 other
political parties--representing a broad political
spectrum--to join it in creating a new Parliamentary
bloc. However, Parliament was dismissed before it
could consolidate the new bloc.

What is the attitude of listed groups toward the U.S.?
With groups opposed to the U.S., is opposition grounded
mainly in disagreement with U.S. policy or in anti-
Westernism more generally?

-- Post notes that disagreements with the IAF/MB date
back to a couple of incidents, prior to the start of the
al-Aqsa Intifada, involving revoked visas for senior
IAF/MB leaders, who had previously enjoyed 5-year, multiple
entry visas to the U.S. Prior to the visas issue, the
Embassy had regular--if not close--contact with leaders
of the MB and IAF. The start of the al-Aqsa Intifada led
to the further disintegration of relations. However,
in July 2002, Hamza Mansour, the leader of the IAF,
agreed to meet with R Special Coordinator Christopher
Ross for which he endured some tough internal criticism.
The IAF/MB have refused to meet with Embassy officials
since July 2002, and both groups have declined invitations
to Embassy events. MB/IAF criticism is mostly limited
to statements against U.S. support for Israel, perceived
U.S. efforts to "normalize" Jordanian-Israeli relations,
alleged lack of U.S. support for Palestine, and U.S.
policy in Iraq.