Jordan’s Volatility Could Shake Up the Middle East
Jordan’s current domestic upheaval involves some prominent officials and members of the royal family who were arrested and charged with an attempted regime change.
A regime change in Jordan could transform the strategically-located country into another haven for Palestinian and Islamic terrorism. It would threaten the existence of the current regimes in Saudi Arabia, pro-US Gulf states, and Egypt, and advancing the interests of Iran’s ayatollahs, Turkey’s Erdogan, the Muslim Brotherhood, China, and Russia — all while traumatizing regional stability and impacting Israel and the free world in a wholly negative way.
Jordan’s inherent political and ideological vulnerability has been fueled by intra-fragmentation and conflicts, dating back to 1921, when the Hashemite Bedouin family was imported to Jordan — from Hejaz in western Saudi Arabia — by the British Empire, and imposed upon the newly-formed country. Jordan’s people are deeply divided, geographically, tribally, culturally, ideologically, and religiously.
Moreover, 70% of Jordan’s population are Palestinians, while Palestinian leaders (e.g., the PLO, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas) view Jordan as an artificial entity, the eastern (78%) part of Palestine. Hence, Palestinian active involvement in subversion and terrorism in Jordan, and occasional attempts to topple the Hashemite regime, such as the civil war in September 1970 and the 1989 wave of terrorism. In addition, ISIS veterans of Iraq and Syria have settled down in Jordan.
The current tremor in Jordan is one of the ripple effects of the Arab Tsunami, which has rampaged through the Arab Street since 2010/2011. The Arab Tsunami has been fueled by centuries of internal and regional ethnic, religious, and ideological violence, exacerbated by hate-education, political corruption, despotism, and human rights violations. Arab leaders who were perceived to be Rock of Gibraltar-like rulers, were violently overthrown.
Approximately 500,000 Syrians have been killed since the March 2011 eruption of the civil war, in addition to the millions of refugees. Two million Sudanese were killed, and millions displaced, during the 1983-2011 genocidal civil war. Two hundred thousand Algerians were killed during the 1991-2006 civil war. Two hundred thousand Lebanese were killed in internal violence — inflamed by Palestinian terrorism — during the 1970s and 1980s. The list goes on and on.
According to professor Fouad Ajami, the late Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, Middle East reality constitutes a chronicle of illusions, despair, and politics repeatedly degenerating into bloodletting.
Thus, in the pursuit of peace, well-meaning Western policy-makers can sacrifice the perplexing Middle East reality upon the altar of convenience, oversimplification, and wishful-thinking, which has fueled regional fires.
Connecting dots in the Middle East reaffirms the non-Western security requirements for Israel, which must withstand the (Middle East) worst-case-scenario, not the (Western) best-case scenario. Hence, security requirements must respond to relatively-frequent and unpredictable occasions, when peace accords are abrogated. Moreover, security requirements must bolster Israel’s posture of deterrence in a region prone to transient regimes, policies, and agreements.
Conflict within the Arab world highlights Israel’s unique role as the only effective, reliable, unconditional, democratic, and stable ally of the United States, and Israel’s military and technological capabilities have become a unique force-multiplier for the United States in the region.
The turmoil in Jordan could have a major effect on both Israel and the United States, and both countries must be on guard for any dangerous developments.
The author is a retired Israeli ambassador, and expert on US-Israel relations and Middle East affairs.