Interesting developments are occurring on Israel’s last peaceful frontier. That would be its border with Jordan. Jordan has had tough economic problems to resolve, a restive Palestinian population to contend with and, alack and alas, it is ruled by a generally pro-Western king who has a peace treaty with the “Zionist entity.” There have been protests in the streets against the Jordanian government’s tough economic measures and, for the first time, calls for the overthrow of King Abdullah.
According to an interesting Gatestone Institute article of much the same name as this one. some Jordanian officials believe that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are encouraging the protests as “punishment” for Jordan not taking a stronger line in the Saudi efforts to topple Syria’s Assad. Others add that non-Jordanian nationals have come across the border to cause trouble. But none of this is particularly new in this perennially turbulent region.
What is new, is the new and improved U.S. State Department attitude toward Jordan, which has some Jordanians wondering if the U.S. has decided to support an Arab spring-style putsch in the country. Per the Gatestone article:
“Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner managed to create panic [and anger] in the Royal Palace in Amman when he stated that there was ‘thirst for change’ in Jordan and that the Jordanian people had ‘economic, political concerns,’ as well as ‘aspirations.’
“The spokesman’s remark has prompted some Jordanian government officials to talk about a US-led ‘conspiracy’ to topple King Abdullah’s regime.
“The talk about ‘thirst for change’ in Jordan is seen by the regime in Amman as a green light from the US to King Abdullah’s enemies to increase their efforts to overthrow the monarchy.”
The full November 15 State Department briefing by Mark Toner is here. His report on Jordan is carefully couched in terms of “full support for King Abdullah’s roadmap for reform” and full of pious calls for peaceful engagement. But the Arab world has been in turmoil for two years now and regardless of how strong “the people’s thirst for change” may have been, the Arab spring has produced little positive change. And so it is understandable that Jordanian government officials might be concerned when an Obama official refers to “the aspirations of the Jordanian people to foster a more inclusive political process that will promote security, stability, as well as economic development.”
The Gatestone article carefully notes a few geopolitical realities about Jordan. If King Abdullah is ousted and an Islamist regime comes to power, two things will happen. First, obviously, Israel’s eastern boundary will no longer be with a non-belligerent state. This means that modern Jordanian Army equipment, now in hostile hands, will be less that 50 km from Jerusalem.
Second, Jordan, as a regional military power to be reckoned with, will no longer be there to watch over the Saudis’ northwestern border. And if Saudi Arabia is destabilized, the tiny Gulf Cooperation states will not be far behind.
If Toner’s briefing does in fact mean that the Obama administration is seeking more “daylight” between its “progressive” self and Jordan’s “conservative” regime that might not be paying sufficient heed to the “people’s aspirations,” then there is serious trouble ahead.
With Obama’s blessing, I suspect.