Jordanian ambassador speaks at U today in wake of killing

Dylan Thomas

A visit to the University from the Jordanian ambassador to the United States will be even more significant following the shooting death yesterday of an American diplomat in Jordan.

Karim Kawar, the Jordanian ambassador, is scheduled to speak at the University today, just one day after Laurence Foley, 62, an employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was shot eight times by an assassin outside of his home in Amman, Jordan’s capital.

Camille Gage, program associate at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, the event’s host, said the assassination gives those attending an opportunity to ask the ambassador directly about the political climate in Jordan.

She also anticipated important and timely comments from J. Brian Atwood, dean of the Humphrey Institute and former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The agency is an independent government organization that provides economic development and humanitarian aid with missions in countries around the world.

Atwood said he visited Jordan “a couple of times” as administrator of the agency. The agency’s program in Jordan is based out of a newly constructed U.S. embassy, he said.

Atwood said his talks with officials in Washington indicated Foley had no known enemies, but was a “target of opportunity,” likely killed simply for being American.

“It’s unusual because usually (Agency for International Development) workers are seen as doing a great deal for the people of the country,” Atwood said.

Atwood said he suspects a terrorist group was responsible for the assassination, although he said he has no evidence that would indicate that was the case.

“This guy was just an American in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Atwood said.

Ronald Krebs, assistant professor in the political science department, said it would not be surprising if the shooting was a terrorist act, noting that Jordan had already foiled a number of potential attacks against American and Israeli targets.

Currently, 10 Jordanians are being tried there on charges of plotting to attack U.S. and Israeli targets.

Krebs said whatever anti-Americanism exists in Jordan – which is 50 percent Palestinian – is probably exacerbated by the potential of U.S. military action in Iraq.

Atwood agreed, saying he was particularly interested in hearing the ambassador’s comments on the popular opinion among Arabs in Jordan.

He said although the visit from the ambassador would have been important regardless of the assassination, issues of Jordanian’s views of al-Qaida, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have even greater weight.

However, he emphasized the ambassador should not be on the defensive, saying Jordan’s government is “very friendly to the United States.”

Krebs said what Jordan does to track down the assassin and protect U.S. diplomats will be very important. Because of the large Palestinian population in Jordan, U.S. support of Israel has made American officials within Jordan “relatively vulnerable,” he said.

“The real question will be, of course, what steps do the Jordanian authorities take?” he asked.

Krebs said the assassination emphasizes the need for the United States to examine its reputation in the eyes of Arabs around the world, and to listen closely to the voices of Arabs.

Krebs asked: “Is it a sort of public relations enterprise, as some within the (George W.) Bush administration seem to think, or does it require a much more fundamental rethinking about the nature of American foreign policy?”


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