Jordan is not better off than Lebanon or Iraq. Prior to its crisis, Syria was an important actor on the domestic arenas of these three states among other neighbors. But today, in light of its wars, it has started to constitute a constant source of concern that is obstructing political life both locally and nationally. Hence, just like Beirut and Baghdad, Amman is anticipating and moving at the pace of the developments inside its northern neighbor, and trying to arrange its situation with the available means, in order to contain the repercussions and prevent the explosion.
The Jordanians were not far away from the Arab spring, as their economic and financial situations have been deteriorating and their debt has exceeded $22 billion, i.e. 70% of their GDP - although it was around 9 billion nine years ago. This is not to mention the widely-spread corruption, the inflation, the rise affecting prices and the decline of the population’s purchasing power, all of which are factors similar to the ones that prevailed in Egypt and Tunisia prior to their revolutions. And as though the economic factor was not enough, the media outlets immediately entered the arena, at a time when the official media remained impervious while the regime’s status was being undermined. This reached the point where some tried to “instate justice” with their own hands and far away from the sovereignty of the law, thus pushing groups to march towards the houses of former officials in the absence of any boundaries, traditions and prohibitions. Still, the Jordanians had their own spring which did not exceed the level of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rejection of the calls for the departure of the regime, as they are watching what is happening in Syria after they had previously witnessed the events in Iraq. Moreover, they are aware of the size of the conflict between the United States and its partners on one hand, and Iran and its allies on the other, and are even more aware of their sensitive internal structure, which is similar to the one in most Middle Eastern countries.
Today, the international and regional conflict that is devastating to the Syrians is containing the extremists and rendering their conditions and demands more rational. Nonetheless, it has not prevented the Islamic Action Front from adopting a policy of patience, after it refused to deal with four consecutive governments in less than two years, with a fifth one formed today for three months and a sixth that will follow right after the elections. Indeed, the Front might be waiting for some king of perestroika that might fall from above. Moreover, it is declining any electoral law which might limit its aspirations, while wagering on the failure of the government whose prime minister Abdullah Ensour recognized upon his appointment that the “staging of elections without the Islamists will harm our democratic course,” as though he did not want to say that a parliament without an opposition would be as if appointed. In addition, the Front is wagering much more on the changes that will come from Syria, no matter how late they are, once the Muslim Brotherhood siege is tightened from the Nile to the Euphrates.
On the other hand, the King does not feel forced to relinquish his prerogatives, some of which the Front is insisting on amending to limit his powers. It is as if the Moroccan model is required, despite the differences between the two countries and experiences, considering that the Islamists have been publically working in Jordan for around 70 years and were included by King Hussein power. Moreover, the authority introduced constitutional amendments granting the legislative authority more autonomy, but also established an independent electoral committee and presented a new electoral law combining the two opposite views. There is no doubt that it achieved success at this level, after the number of people who registered to vote surpassed two millions, i.e. around 70% of those entitled to cast their votes. This was not the only surprise following the citizens’ reluctance and the extension of the registration period.
Indeed, the second surprise was Ensour’s appointment at the head of the new - albeit old – government, considering that the ministers were for the most part the same as in Fayez at-Tarawneh’s resigned government. It thus appeared as if Ensour was not only appointed to supervise the electoral process, and might be appointed once again to head a national salvation government following the election of the new parliament, if he is able to assume the King’s greatest burden, contain the moderate Islamists who would never accept seeing the regime sacrificed, divide their ranks between hawks and doves as it was previously the case, or break the boycotting of the constitutional event. This mission might seem difficult, but it is not impossible. The King chose the son of the regime who occupied numerous ministerial posts, as well as the detractor of the previous loyalist premiership! Since his election in the previous parliament, the “loyalist” Ensour adopted a rhetoric which allowed him to impose himself, even within the opposition ranks. He thus used to repeat that the government was not exercising its powers and was controlled by the security bodies, the power centers and the beneficiaries. In addition, he was among the detractors of the electoral law that is opposed by the Action Front.
The recent developments in Jordan do not mean that those occupying the streets will evacuate them tomorrow. They do not want a full revolution or the toppling of the regime, but rather to see severance with the previous era. True, the situation is very sensitive, but the demographic structure is playing a major role in preventing a slide towards the slogan of comprehensive change. Indeed, the opposition action is being led by the easterners in Jordan, who are originally the people and protectors of the regime, at a time when the Jordanians of Palestinian origins are standing by and watching, unable to find any interest in humoring their brothers amid fears surrounding the repercussions of any coup on their status, which is unmatched by that of their brothers in the other Arab countries. Moreover, their eyes are on the Palestinian arena and the projects of the Israeli right wing which is working day and night to ensure the liquidation of whatever remains of the cause.
Far away from these local calculations governing the rules of the game, there are regional and international considerations imposing further restraints and rules. All the Jordanians know that their country’s embracing by the Gulf Cooperation Council following the eruption of the Arab spring carries numerous messages, the first of which being the fact that the GCC states are concerned about the regime, as much as they are concerned about its counterpart in Bahrain. Also, they wish to help it overcome its economic troubles, which is why they decided during the Riyadh summit to allocate $5 billion to it over five years, which is a commitment whose implementation has already started. On the other hand, the GCC states do not wish to see anarchy on their northern border, after they had engaged in a difficult, bitter and long initiative to ensure stability and a peaceful transition of power on their northern border with Yemen.
Furthermore, the GCC countries, the United States and its partners converge in their attempts to prevent the fall of any pillars of the axis facing the rejectionist alliance prior to change in Syria, or before Iran changes its policies. And there is no doubt that Iraq’s close rapprochement with the Islamic Republic and its strategy, as well as its recent rapprochement with Russia, will enhance the conviction of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States in the necessity of supporting Jordan which is facing major challenges on its eastern and northern borders. Throughout the 1990s, the country constituted an open gate for Iraq and a place of refuge for many Iraqis fleeing the sectarian conflict, while today, it is playing that same role with their Syrian brothers who are suffering from the same affliction.
No one envies Jordan for its location and position, as it is standing on the friction line of a regional-international conflict and waiting. Indeed, while the Muslim Brotherhood is awaiting change in Syria, the regime is also in a state of anticipation. In reality, it is unable to engage in the Syrian crisis that many want it to among Damascus’ opponents, some of whom believe that the authority can compete with the Muslim Brotherhood on the street and regain its popularity if it were to take part in the campaign targeting Bashar al-Assad’s regime politically and on the field - at least the way Turkey is doing - instead of settling for helping and protecting the refugees among the citizens and political and military defectors. On the other hand, the Jordanian authority cannot disregard what change in Syria might carry, especially if it were to carry the Muslim Brotherhood to power or if the country falls in total anarchy. Did the Jordanians forget that they exported Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the Iraqis?
Tags not available