Arabs Cautious About Role in Airstrikes

AMMAN, Jordan (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Jordan said Tuesday that its air force had taken part in a fierce round of overnight U.S.-led airstrikes, the first in Syria directed at Sunni Muslim extremists of the Islamic State and other terrorists.

But in a sign of the ambivalence among America’s Arab allies in the campaign against the terrorists of the Islamic State, the four other Arab states said by the U.S. to have provided assistance remained silent about their roles in the hours immediately following the raids.

Jordan, while acknowledging in a military statement that its warplanes bombed targets in Syria, stressed that it acted in self-defense and did not directly refer to having acted in concert with the United States. Nor did it specify that the Islamic State, whose fighters leapt to prominence over the summer by spilling out of Syria and seizing large portions of Iraqi territory, was a primary target.

“Planes from the Royal Jordanian Air Force destroyed several selected targets of terrorist groups that had made it their practice to send elements to carry out sabotage” inside Jordan, the military statement said, adding that the Jordanian warplanes had returned safely to base.

U.S. officials said that in addition to Jordan, four other Arab states — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar — had aided in the overnight air raids, which pounded Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold, Raqqa, and several other areas, together with positions of at least one other extremist group. Qatar’s role was described as a supporting one.

Both Persian Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have sophisticated air forces, and the small but wealthy emirate of Qatar and tiny Bahrain are both home to major American military installations.