Why Jordan’s Reputation in the Region might not Improve

… unless something changes, that is.

And its a general PR mess that I’m talking about here, not actions.

I was in the process of writing an article about the recent attack in Camp Chapman that killed Shareef Ali Bin Zeid, a senior GID official, along with several CIA agents in the base. In the meantime, I noticed that Naseem Tarawnah, had already written up a post about the issue. Instead of writing a virtually duplicate post, I decided to follow the comments there, and a separate idea formed; Jordan is sometimes so sensitive about possibly appearing pro-Western that it chooses silence, denials, or bogus arguments that end up hurting their reputation among Arab states, not retain it.

It is indeed depressing that apparently, King Abdullah’s vision of transparency – while it applies to the government – doesn’t apply when the names “Israel” or the “U.S.” come to play. Which is a shame, really. Because I think if the government was in full disclosure of some of these facts (ones that do not play into issues of national security, of course), only few would contest the actions of the government.

As mentioned in the comments over at Naseem’s blog, fighting terrorism, al-Qaeda, and Taliban is a legitimate cause that 90% (if not more) of the Arabs would agree to. If Jordanian spokespersons were as frank as Wikipedia, for instance,  was with me, telling me that Jordanian GID officials only went to the CIA base to deliver Humam Khalil al-Balawi, who claimed to have information about the location of Ayman al Zawahiri ,then most would be content! Instead, when the issue broke, no official source spoke of the CIA-GID connection, that many assumed the GID itself was somehow a ‘follower’ or a ‘subset’ of the CIA, and assumed also that the “connection” was somehow at a functional level (which would be scandalous), instead of an operational level (which is acceptable, especially in cases of combating global terrorism networks). Instead of receiving facts that would’ve made me examine things in an unbiased way, I only heard rumors, assumptions, and weasel words, and I was armed with no information to fight back with.

And if Humam al-Balawi is indeed the bomber, then don’t be ashamed because he’s a Jordanian. Did we forget al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian as well? Its fine to have one or two terrorists out of 6.5 million. And if the government is just ashamed because they vouched for al-Balawi, then how about just blame the CIA for not searching him or something?

But, here’s an interesting quote, pasted from Wikipedia:

Jordanian government officials, while acknowledging that al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor, insisted that there was no proof that the suicide bomber was a Jordanian. They pointed to contradictory reports, including a statement from Afghan Taliban that claimed the attacker was an Afghan. A Jordanian official living abroad said that al-Balawi would not have been a double agent, and stated he was a sometime contact of the Jordanian intelligence who had no formal role as an intelligence officer. (source)

So I won’t jump into conclusions that it is indeed al-Balawi; it can be people from al-Qaeda or Taliban who tracked him and decided to stop him from leaking information or whatever. Still, the official story needs to shift from strict denial to something more informative.

This whole issue reminds me of Mohammad Hassanein Haikal’s saga, in which he bashed Jordan over and over, and it took weeks, if nor a month or so, for Zaid al-Rifa`i to come up with an answer. And that’s what kills me, we have the answers! 90% of the time, facts are on the Jordanians’ side. Our PR still messes up, comes up with little answers, and is reluctant to share the very information that will vindicate us!

Today, a spokesperson released some clarifications, and I think that’s satisfactory on some level, information-wise. But how far reaching is a late response?