- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
Today’s New York Times uncovers the clandestine effort by the CIA and Arab governments to deliver military aid to rebel fighters in Syria through an airlift involving more than 160 flights of military-style cargo planes owned by Arab governments. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the story is a flat denial from the Jordanian airline that the Times says is shipping tons of Croatian weapons to Syrian rebels.
“This is all lies,” says Muhammad Jubour of Jordanian International Air Cargo. “We never did any such thing.” Unfortunately for the spokesman, the Times had specific air traffic data showing flights by the airline’s Ilyushin-76MF planes to and from Croatia. How did Jubour respond to that?
Jubour … claimed that his firm did not own any Ilyushin cargo planes. Asked why his employer’s Web site still displayed images of two Ilyushin-76MFs and text claiming they were part of the company fleet, Mr. Jubour had no immediate reply. That night the company’s Web site was taken down.
Oops. Not a smart move. The tricky thing about the Internet is it doesn’t forget very easily. It’s true that when you visit Jordanian International Air Cargo’s website you’re greeted with an “Under construction” sign.
But we did some digging on the Way Back Machine and were able to find a cached version of the website from Jan. 9, 2012. Under the website’s “Fleet” subsection we found something interesting: The Ilyushin-76MFs. Resurrected!
So why all the false denials and secrecy? For one thing, few countries want to admit to flooding weapons into a deadly civil war. For another, a source described as a “regional air traffic official” tells the Times that the Jordanian airline is actually a “front company for Jordan’s air force.” We hate to break it to the Jordanians, but it looks like their cover’s been blown.