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November 18, 2002

As war threatens, Jordan turns guns on Islamist stronghold

Seems that the crazies cause trouble not just for Israel but in any country that houses them. Jordan, having made peace with Israel, now having its own troubles with Islamists.
MAAN, Jordan It does not take much to spark a riot in this downtrodden desert city long regarded as Jordan's version of a Wild West frontier town, where small-time traders, unemployed laborers and Bedouin tribesmen mingle with smugglers and firebrand Muslim preachers.

In 1989, the riot was over the cost of fuel. A few years later, it was the price of bread. And in 1998, it was the U.S. and British air strikes on neighboring Iraq.

Each time, order was restored after officials persuaded prominent religious and tribal leaders to hand troublemakers over to the authorities. But last week, with the threat of a U.S.-led war on Iraq stoking tensions across Jordan, the government took a different tack to try to suppress unrest in Maan: It sent in tanks. The crackdown, which has involved thousands of soldiers and police officers, underscores the fears of public revolt across the Arab world in the event of a U.S. attack on Iraq, and the extraordinary steps governments in the region are taking to ensure they stay in control.

Anticipating violent protests and acts of retribution against American interests as well as those of U.S. allies, Jordan, Egypt and Gulf states have taken additional security precautions in recent months, according to officials, diplomats and analysts. The measures range from keeping more troops on standby and increasing the frequency of riot-control training to rounding up government opponents.

"There is an enormous amount of concern," said Adnan Abu Odeh, a political adviser to the late King Hussein, father of the current king, Abdullah. "We cannot handle the earthquake of another war in the Arab world."