In Jordan

Neil MacFarquhar’s report in the NY Times about the role of the secret police in Jordanian politics is both timely and thoughtful.

In Jordan and across the region, those seeking democratic reform say the central role of each country’s secret police force, with its stealthy, octopuslike reach, is one of the biggest impediments. In the decades since World War II, as military leaders and monarchs smothered democratic life, the security agencies have become a law unto themselves.

Last week’s terror attacks in Amman accentuate one reason that even some Jordanians who consider themselves reformers justify the secret police’s blanket presence – the fear that violence can spill across the border. But others argue that the mukhabarat would be more effective if it narrowed its scope to its original mandate of ensuring security.

MacFarquhar cites some very interesting statistics, e.g. the fact that more than three-quarters of Jordanians fear taking part in any political activity. In such a climate, how can there be any kind of alternative to the ideologies of right-wing religious lunatics, such as those that claimed the lives of 57 people last week in Amman?

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