The Associated Press reports that today, King Abdullah II of Jordan is scheduled to speak with Congressional committees, via video, about his opposition to Israel extending Israeli law to parts of the “West Bank.”
But there are reports that the discussion between the king and Congress is likely to cover a topic even more controversial than that.
At issue is the extradition of Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, who masterminded the 2001 Sbarro massacre in Israel, which killed 7 children from the ages of 2 to 16 years old. As part of a deal for the release of hostage Gilad Shalit, Hamas demanded that Tamimi be included among the over 1,000 terrorists freed.
Israel acquiesced to the ransom demand.
Tamimi ended up in Jordan, where she was not only welcomed with open arms — she became a celebrity and had her own TV show for a number of years.
But 2 of the people Tamimi killed were American citizens, and in 2013 she was indicted in the US on the charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals. Despite the fact that there is an extradition treaty between the US and Jordan, and that in 1995 it was used to extradite Jordanian national Eyad Ismoil to the US for his part in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center — Jordan has refused to extradite, and has questioned the validity of the treaty itself.
Pressure has been steadily building as Jordan’s refusal has been covered in the media and members of Congress have begun asking questions.
Today may be the day that King Abdullah can no longer avoid facing the issue of extradition.
And there are indications that the US may be backing up their request with a threat.
Henry Wooster is Trump’s nominee to be the next US ambassador to Jordan. While being questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during confirmation hearings, Wooster responded to a question by Senator Ted Cruz on what leverage is available for getting Jordan to extradite Tamimi:
The United States has multiple options and different types of leverage to secure Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimiâ€™s extradition. We will continue to engage Jordanian officials at all levels not only on this issue, but also on the extradition treaty more broadly. U.S. generosity to Jordan in Foreign Military Financing as well as economic support and other assistance is carefully calibrated to protect and advance the range of U.S. interests in Jordan and in the region…If confirmed, I would explore all options to bring Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi to justice, secure her extradition, and address the broader issues associated with the extradition treaty.â€
|Henry Wooster. (Public Domain)|
Wooster’s responses to the questions were obtained by The Associated Press.
The AP’s Matt Lee notes that Wooster’s comments are in contrast to US policy up to this point, which has been to try to address these issues with Jordan quietly, behind the scenes, and avoid making this disagreement public.
It is because Wooster spoke so openly about this, that there are expectations that King Abdullah will be asked directly about Tamimi today.
Wooster himself is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Maghreb and Egypt and has served also as the Deputy Chief of Mission, and then Charge dâ€™Affaires, at the U.S. Embassy, Amman, Jordan — so he appreciates the delicacy of the situation.
In his opening statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before taking questions, there is no reference to the US taking a strong stand against Jordan on the extradition issue. Wooster toes the public line, quoting Secretary of State Pompeo that â€œJordan is one of the United Statesâ€™ enduring strategic partners,â€ and emphasizing the US priority to ensure Jordan’s security and stability. Wooster goes so far as to say that Jordan has been “an invaluable ally in our joint work to counter terrorism, support international peacekeeping, and provide humanitarian assistance throughout the region.”
Keep in mind that Wooster’s opening statement was made on May 13 — over a month ago. The questions posed to Wooster and his responses should have all taken place last month. And while his opening statement appears on the websites of the US embassy in Jordan, Roya News in Jordan and Jordan Daily — none of them have the followup questions or answers, though Roya News quotes from the AP article, without any official government response.
So why are Wooster’s responses appearing now, a month later?
The timing implies there may have been a leak to the Associated Press, at a time when Wooster’s answers will have the most impact.
It looks like things may be getting interesting.