Islamic terrorists have repeatedly tried to hit Jordan, with indifferent success, until Wednesday when U.S. chain luxury hotels popular with diplomats, tourists, foreign business travelers and the local well-to-do were bombed with significant loss of life, including guests at a wedding party.
Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia quickly went on the Internet to claim the credit in its trademark lunatic prose, saying it was striking against King Abdullah, "the tyrant of Jordan," who had turned Jordan into "a backyard garden for the enemies of the religion — Jews and crusaders — and a filthy place for the traitors of this nation . . . "
Suspicion immediately fell on a native son, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who heads al Qaeda's operations in Iraq and is wanted in his homeland for murder and by U.S. forces for much more.
If al-Zarqawi is the mastermind, and Jordanian security forces think he is, he probably acted out of a complex of motives: He is a longtime opponent of the ruling Hashemite dynasty. Jordan is pro-United States, recognizes Israel, and has a bustling, modern capital. It's ruled, by the standards of that region, with a fairly light hand. No wonder al-Zarqawi hates it.
Jordan has also become a haven for Iraqi exiles and, because of the security situation in Iraq, it functions as kind of a satellite commercial capital.
If al Qaeda thought the murderous act was a public relations coup, it miscalculated badly. Jordanian demonstrators gathered outside the shattered hotels, chanting "Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!" and "Death to al-Zarqawi."
The Jordanians were not misled by al-Zarqawi's rhetoric about crusaders and Jews. This was an attack on Arab Muslims, who accounted for most of the dead. The Associated Press quoted one member of the wedding party: "No religion, no Islam, no Muslim people allow this to happen."
In Iraq and elsewhere, the Islamic terrorists, either out of frustration or pure spite, are increasingly targeting their fellow Muslims. For much of the war on terror, moderate Muslims seemed to treat the conflict as being between the secular West, particularly the United States, and a fanatical Islamic fringe, remote from their daily lives. It was not their fight.
The Amman bombings may have shattered that wishful neutrality.