In the midst of a widening war Saturday, Jordan’s border with Iraq was a calm oasis in the eye of the storm.
The expected outflow of refugees fleeing the American-led bombing of Iraq was increasing but not yet a flood. And in the rocky desert to the west, visible Jordanian military deployments did not appear to be heavy.
On several hillocks about 30 miles from the Iraqi border, Soviet-made anti-aircraft missile batteries pointed toward the skies. In the same area, Jordanian artillery was emplaced under camouflage nets. But no large concentrations of troops were apparent along the Amman-Baghdad highway.
Most of the traffic consisted of tanker trucks hauling Iraqi oil into Jordan, a supply that continues despite the United Nations trade embargo.
At the Jordanian customs post here, meanwhile, a mix of travelers was moving west into Jordan. A Sudanese family’s car was parked next to that of a family of Egyptians. The Egyptian father, a mechanical engineer, said he had left Baghdad 24 hours earlier during a morning lull in the bombing.
“I’m going home to Alexandria,” he said. “I don’t know when I’ll be coming back. Not until the war is over at least.”
Another refugee, Suhail Sahouri, a Jordanian trader who has traveled monthly to his business in Baghdad, said the bombing appeared to him to be selective.
“I don’t believe they’re trying to destroy the city,” he said of the allied pilots.
A Jordanian labor consultant, who gave only the name Tarik and said he had studied in Atlanta for four years in the 1980s, took a pro-Iraqi line.
“They (U.S.-led forces) are going to lose,” he asserted. “Saddam Hussein is a victorious man, very powerful.”
He was returning to Amman to visit his family, he said, and would return to his job in Baghdad even if war continued.