Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jordan could be the first to step away from the "madmen of the White House"

Among the members of the "axis of moderate Arab states", it is Jordan that seems most highly motivated to move away from a complete submission American policy. This follows the setbacks in Lebanon and Palestine, and the insulting Bush speech on the weekend, but more importantly it is the result of a build-up number of factors, the main one being the dead-end in the Palestinian talks and the fear that Jordan could end up bearing the brunt.

Employing a combination of kremlinology and personal contacts, the Amman correspondent of Al Quds al-Arabi outlined in detail yesterday (pdf: scroll down to p. 6) the signs of this shift in Jordanian thinking. These range from the fact that the Religious Endowments Ministry has been permitting much more blunt criticism of America and Bush in the Friday sermons in the mosques, to consternation in government circles over the recent rejection by US allies Kuwait, Saudi, and the UAE of Jordanian requests for financial assistance in the face of rising oil prices, the fact that Bush has skipped Amman on his two recent "ill-omened" trips to the region, and most ominously the lack of any concern about the vulnerability of Jordan as part of a last-resort arrangement in Palestine. The journalist says the Jordanians have concluded that it is not just the Palestinians that are at risk in this, but Jordanian interests as well. He says this has led to decisions at the highest levels in Amman as follows:
"We will not permit any political or non-political solution (in Palestine) that is at the expense of Jordan and Jordanians, and we will stand against any "alternate" options and oppose any attempts at forcible migration to Jordanian lands, by any means available to us, including military force."
And the journalist continues:
The question now is: What has motivated the "moderate" Jordanian administration to bring up this idea of the "Jordanian option" [mass relocation of Palestinians to Jordanian territory], while there is still uncertainty surrounding the peace process and its trajectory? The answer lies in the persistence of sure signs that the Jordan-American relationship is going through an extraordinary period of actual crisis, [which has led to] Jordanian anxiety about the possibility that there exists a dark scenario in the minds of those who are called in political circles in Amman "the madmen of the White House". What this says is that the American indifference to the interests of Jordan is no longer a secret, and can no longer be hidden or dissembled under any cover....
Any requests made in Washington for increased economic assistance are met with the demand to send an ambassador to Baghdad. And the journalist says the Jordanian authorities have been made aware of the fact that the biggest instigator against them in Washington is Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. This is reflected in the absence of any kind of assistance in respect to oil, and instead harrassment by the Iraqi authorities of Jordanian goods and merchants. In fact, says the journalist,
[Maliki] refuses to acknowledge that the approximately one million Iraqis who live in Jordan are in fact citizens [of Iraq] belonging under the protection of his government, clearly pushing [instead] the idea that these are Sunnis hostile to the current regime in Baghdad, and that their elite enjoys Jordanian protection, connected with Saddam Hussein.
Those are three of the broad reasons why the Jordanian authorities are said to be looking to realign themselves politically in the region: (1) Fear of Bush driving the Palestinian problem over the cliff leaving Jordan holding the bag; (2) The undeniable lack of any inter-Arab solidarity on the economic front, particularly from the oil-rich US allies in the Gulf; (3) Sectarian attitude from Bush's friend Maliki in Baghdad, who insists the failure to open an embassy amounts to a hostile act, and considers the one-million Iraqis living in Jordan not as Iraqis but as sectarian enemies.

The same Al-Quds al-Arabi journalist writes today about an interview with a senior person in the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, the point of which is entirely summed up in the headline: "The Islamist opposition in Jordan warns against [an attempt to] put through a substitute for peace, at the expense of Jordan: On account of the weak Jordanian role in the region, and a frivolous foreign policy".


Blogger William deB. Mills said...

I don’t know the position of this paper in Jordan or the extent of media censorship, but I would be surprised if such blunt remarks could be made without permission (someone tell me if I’m wrong). As for the context in which they are made, Jordan has something like 7 million citizens and perhaps another million Iraqi refugees. The 7 million are about half Palestinian, and recall they almost took over the country once upon a time. Another 400,000 Palestinians live precariously in Lebanon, where they are subjected to a harsh apartheid regime. (Nir Rosen did a fascinating piece on that.) I don’t have Jordanian expertise, but these numbers alone suffice to suggest that it would not take much of an influx from Palestine to upset things, and I haven't even mentioned all the new jihadi and pro-Palestinian groups that seem to be running around the region looking for a mission.

7:41 AM  
Blogger annie said...

This is reflected in the absence of any kind of assistance in respect to oil,

last year sometime on one of the iraqi blogs, posted by a blogger living in amman there was a lively discussion about the pros and cons of jordan's policies regarding iraqi refugees fluctuating between grateful and hostile. apparently the hostility emmenated from the lack of appreciation stemming from years of bargain prices for oil from saddam. the jordanians loved saddam (according to the blog participants).

so here we have a million refugees and no deal unless they set up an embassy in baghdad? it does appear jordan is low on the totem pole of US priority. i guess that is a step up from being threatened w/annihilation. i'm sure maliki/US/IS doesn't like jordan protecting all the (ex)baathists and sympathizers. they would rather have them in mosel for roundup.

9:44 AM  

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