No clear-cut answers from Obama on Jordan’s concerns

Jordan’s anxiety and concerns over the ongoing violence in Syria and the stalemate in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process remain unresolved even after the U.S. President Barack Obama’s overnight visit to the kingdom.

Except maybe for the “rhetorical assertions” and pledges of support to a reliable peace partner and a strategic ally – nevertheless important – Obama gave the troubled and deeply concerned Jordan no clear-cut answers on “when” and “how” to end Syria’s ongoing violence and revive the Palestinians-Israeli peace talks and thus leaving the kingdom’s weariness of the international community’s indecisiveness and reluctance to take tangible steps towards the region’s major dilemma unalleviated.

What Obama said in preacher-like statements in Jordan were not more than a translation of the international community’s reluctance to take action in Syria

Raed Omari

For a country like Jordan, hosting around 500,000 Syrian refugees that add to its already troubled budget, an immediate action to bring an end to violence sweeping Syria – preferably political – would help the kingdom, which had weathered the region’s political turbulence, remain stable and safe from the influences of the Arab Spring uprisings.

But with no international action approaching, Syria is seemingly going through prolonged unrest with consequences that will definitely spillover to the entire region.

At a press conference in Amman, King Abdullah expressed concerns over the increasing number of Syrian refugees in his kingdom, making it clear that Jordan will not change its “open-border” policy with its northern neighbor despite the accompanying economic and security burdens.

The king said that the number of the 460,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan is expected to double by the end of the year if the situation remains unchanged, adding that Zaatari refugee camp on the border with Syria is “now the kingdom’s fifth largest city.”

Probably alerting Obama and the international community of Jordan’s crisis as a result of the refugees influx, the king said that the number of Syrians in Jordan now constitutes around 10 percent of the kingdom’s population, similarly “like the United States hosting 30 million refugees” taking into consideration the number of population in both countries.

In a bid to ease Jordan’s extra economic difficulties resulted from hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees in the region, Obama announced that his country will extend $200 million in additional support to the kingdom this year.

But, taking into account the long history of strategic and security cooperation between Jordan and the U.S., this money seems not enough especially when hosting the Syrian refugees, as the king said, costs around $550 million annually.

According to a Jordanian heavy-weighted statesman, Jordan has incurred considerable financial losses as a result of the U.S policies in the region, giving the example of the U.S. invasion of Iraq which, during Saddam Hussein rule, used to provide the kingdom with constant oil supply at preferential prices.

Regardless of the financial aid, Jordan wanted from Obama to be more decisive to finding a solution to the Syrian unrest which, once resolved, a lot of its worries will be automatically alleviated. But even this goal is still seemingly far-reaching.

Obama brought to Jordan nothing new regarding Syria, except for the same rhetoric and “paradoxical discourse” the U.S. Administration has been showing since 2011, the start of the Syrian revolution.
Obama reaffirmed that the U.S will continue cooperating and coordinating with the international community to end the bloodshed and violence in Syria.

Obama pledged that the U.S. will strengthen the Syrian opposition and provide it with training and enhance its capabilities to make it a viable and political opposition, but this new position was soon followed by another statement that complicated the scene and showed the U.S hesitance to direct involvement in Syria.

“The outcome in Syria is not going to be ideal,” Obama said, voicing concern that Syria would become a haven for extremists.

Jordan, already worried about the fundamentalist groups taking power in Syria, will be certainly perplexed and anxious seeing the world super power and its strategic ally haunted by such concerns.

What Obama said in preacher-like statements in Jordan were not more than a translation of the international community’s reluctance to take action in Syria and a manifestation of the U.S. Administration’s paradoxical and inconsistent discourse on the Syrian violence.

Jordan was neither well-funded nor well-guided by the U.S which still is managing the Syrian crisis that solving it.

Mideast peace process

The same can be said about the outcomes of Obama’s visits to Israel and the West Bank which yielded nothing tangible “only for the Arabs” except for a “gentle call” on both sides to resume peace talks and a U.S. moral support for a Palestinian independent state

Jordan, in a peace treaty with Israel, has long advocated the two-state solution as the only means to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and was pining hopes that Obama’s Mideast tour would break the deadlock in the peace process. But no such progress was made.

Obama brought no new peace plan to the region and only urged the Israelis and Palestinians to begin direct negotiations only reminding them that such an endeavor needed sacrifices.

In Amman, the capital waiting impatiently to see progress in peace process, Obama said that the Israelis and the Palestinians need to take steps to resume peace talks, again preaching that a window of opportunity between the two sides is still open, “but the situation remains difficult.”

It is no doubt that such a U.S. position towards the stalled peace process was not that promising to Jordan that is eager for a tangible action that leads to resolving all the final status issues, including Jerusalem, refugees, borders and water, which lie at the heart of its interests.

Obama’s visit was good anyway

Despite its lack of exceptionalities and indecisiveness, Obama’s visit to Jordan has had many important aspects – paramount of which was the U.S commitment to the kingdom’s security.

Jordan, surrounded by turbulence and unrest, will benefit immensely from a strategic partnership with the U.S which likewise sees in a secure and stable Jordan a guarantee for its interests in the region.

For many pundits and politicians, allying with the U.S is of prime significance at times of regional instability and this time, it has become highly needed with regard to the developments in Syria and their strategic threats.

According to political analyst Fahed al-Khitan, the Jordanian-U.S. alliance has proved to be of exceptional importance during regional turmoil. “Jordan has proved to be the most reliable U.S security and political partner, especially in the war against terrorism.”

With the fall of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki growing “stubborn”, Jordan, along with the Gulf states, is now the U.S. only reliable ally in the region, al-Khitan said.

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Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

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Last Update: Monday, 25 March 2013 KSA 09:33 - GMT 06:33
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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