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Jordan at the Crossroads

JINSA Report #: 

June 17, 2011

JINSA is generally sympathetic to the difficulties faced by Jordan's King Abdullah II. He is a Hashemite ruling a mostly Palestinian and Bedouin country; an excellent security partner to Israel because Israel ensures that he will not be overthrown by Palestinians who believe Jordan is no more legitimate than Israel; and a reasonable moderate in an increasingly radical region, sending the Jordanian military to countries in support of Western objectives - including a very useful group of female soldiers who work in Afghanistan.

JINSA was honored to have had, as we have had before, a meeting with the King when the JINSA Flag & General Officers were in the region. The meeting took place in a window - after President Obama's big speech on the Middle East, before he recanted some of it at AIPAC and before Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke before Congress. His Majesty was off-the-record, but we can safely say there was heavy emphasis on the need for economic growth and political development in Jordan, concern for how the "Arab Spring" would play out, and appreciation for American aid. Our other Jordanian interlocutors implored us to consider Jordan an ally and use what influence we have to strengthen U.S.-Jordanian relations - one suggested we change JINSA's tagline from "Securing America, Strengthening Israel" to "Securing America, Strengthening Israel and Jordan." We left Jordan inclined to do so.

So, it was with great dismay that we read in The Washington Post today that His Majesty believes al- Qaeda resembles the KKK and its Israel's fault. He said so. "The minute the Israelis and Palestinians solve their problem, then al-Qaeda no longer becomes international; it becomes like a white supremacy group that you might have in the States. It becomes an internal extremist element that is looking at taking over your country but not taking over the world." (The KKK was never close, Your Majesty.)

He also believes Iran is building a nuclear arsenal to help the Palestinians. "When Netanyahu keeps saying to us, 'Iran, Iran, Iran,' I go back to him: 'peace, peace, peace.' Because the first people who will stand up and say, 'Iran, stop pointing rockets in our direction,' will be the Palestinians."

Maybe worst was his apparent belief that Israel is the aggressor against the Arab states, and clearly he thinks Israel doesn't understand that war is bad, because Israel keeps having wars. "When you get billions in aid and your weapons resupplied and your ammunitions stock resupplied, you don't learn the lesson that war is bad and nobody wins. So there's a false sense of understanding."

There's no point in rebutting His Majesty point for point; he knows better and we know he knows (we sincerely hope he knows we know he knows). But this is what happens to weak countries when they sense a shift in the political winds. The time is gone when:

  • The United States and Israel were open allies, and the Arabs knew there was a limit to how far they could push issues like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty;

  • Israel and Fatah were making economic accommodation without Hamas and without President Obama forcing Abu Mazen - and the King, for that matter - to be intransigent lest they lose face by being more moderate than the President;

  • The Saudis, the Gulf States and Israel cooperated in the understanding that the threat to regional stability was Iran; and

  • Hezbollah hadn't yet swallowed Lebanon.

Maybe the days that it was safe to be America's friend and Israel's tacit partner are gone as well. Israel and Jordan still share the most essential security requirement - no Palestinian state on the Jordan River - so hope remains, but it's getting harder to think of the Jordanians as partners in the larger order of things.

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