Jordan’s crisis and the burdens of political neighbors

Abdullah Bishara

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Jordan is one of the most prominent Arab countries. I love to visit it, enjoy attending its councils, and benefit from its political salon. I always feel the weight of its geographical reality, sympathize with its struggle for existence while respecting the aspirations of its people, and I greatly appreciate the wisdom of its leadership and the cleverness of its intelligence services. Despite all that, life in Jordan goes on as normal and its people have high hopes, with a society that is open to new things.

I would venture to say that this is Kuwait’s perception of Jordan in general, and I never expected Jordan to experience a state of tension stemming from family efforts to distort the image of leadership in the person of King Abdullah bin Al Hussein, and to project internal tensions to the outer space as per the statements of one of the King’s brothers. The situation was reminiscent of Tsarist Russia during the time of the Romanov family, or the Ottoman Empire during the era of the Ottoman Caliphate, which was characterized by ambitions lying in ambush.

It was a painful surprise for everyone, as it was thought that the conspiracies for the Throne were the legacy of bygone eras. The important thing now is for Jordan to come out of this preserving its stability, protecting its historic system, and consolidating its unity.

A few observations in this regard:

First: The Arab majority stands in solidarity with King Abdullah, expressing an awareness of the strategic necessity to preserve the Jordanian regime, protect it from weakness, and keep threats at bay. The turmoil of the political and security system in the region affects global interests, harms the balance of power, disrupts the prevailing Arab order, and opens the door to chaos and broadens the Israeli expansion towards east Jordan. Jordan, with its geographic complexities, demographic makeup, the pragmatism of its regime and its rational behavior, is a global trust that the international community maintains, despite its geographical distance and the diversity of its concerns, because Jordan is the most important key to regional stability, which is inevitable for a comprehensive collective peace.

Second: The Jordanian people are distinguished by their vitality, the breadth of their ambitions, and their motivation to overcome the geographical limitation and lack of resources using the weapon of education and talents in a race towards regional and international excellence. It seems to me that the Jordanian people’s expectations of Arab partnership exceed the limits of the possible, and I feel from the visits that Jordanian enthusiasm towards an Arab convergence as a solution to the lack of resources does not agree with what exists in Arab relations. I also felt that there was a sense of urgency in Jordan for the presence of the Arab lever when necessary, and I do not doubt that this political outreach stems from the limited resources and the troubles of geographical suffocation, in addition to the weight of being neighbors with Israel, which exploits every occasion to break up the Jordanian aspirations to get out of its geographical and physical scope.

Third: King Abdullah, through his experience, his wisdom and his reading of the path of Jordanian diplomacy on the Arab and international levels, turned the page of the adventurous streak in Jordan’s history, whose outcome was the loss of half of the kingdom in an Israeli occupation in 1967, and imbalances in Jordan’s Arab and Gulf relations, and a departure from Jordan’s well-known tendency towards cozying up to some Arab radical regimes, adopting their literature and volunteering to market it internationally, as we witnessed with the invasion of 1990, when Jordan turned its back on the network of Gulf-Jordanian relations.

A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace on April 11, 2021 shows Jordanian King Abdullah II (R), Prince Hassan Bin Talal (L) and Prince Hamzah (C) arriving at the Raghadan Palace in the capital Jordan. (AFP)
A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace on April 11, 2021 shows Jordanian King Abdullah II (R), Prince Hassan Bin Talal (L) and Prince Hamzah (C) arriving at the Raghadan Palace in the capital Jordan. (AFP)

Jordan rises higher when it deepens its bilateral ties with all Arab countries. This is King Abdullah’s mission, which he came out with when he assumed the leadership of Jordan. He deserved our response in the form of unprecedented political, economic and security cohesion, and I remind you that King Abdullah initiated the relationship with Kuwait, which was non-existent since the 1960s.

I would like to recall the great effort made by the late Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber to restore Jordanian-Kuwaiti-Gulf relations to a better place, starting in 1994 with attempts to deal with the fallout of the invasion.

In 1996, at the invitation of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, former crown prince and prime minister, the late Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah, headed the Kuwaiti delegation. I was a part of that delegation at the time. Gaddafi was next to the Kuwaiti delegation, yet no conversations nor handshakes were held between us. The Jordanian delegation, chaired by King Hussein, was facing us, but no contact was made as well. And we returned, each on his way. The late Sheikh Sabah had an internal compass that always guided him towards Arab nations despite the pitfalls.

Fourth: The influencing factor for the continuation of this divergence is what we call “Arrogance Challenges.” These challenges do not align with the logic of politics and do not conform to the priorities and interests of countries that have been affected by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, most notably Jordan. The kingdom had suffered because of the interruption of Gulf support at the time and its stance was subject to question by friendly nations to Jordan, especially Europe and the US.

However, King Abdullah has proven that he is aware of the need for Jordan to adopt an inclusive Arab approach, in which the country avoids engaging in axes that raise the concern of other Arab countries all the while remaining realistic with regards to Jordan’s security, economic, and social situation. Jordan also made its way into the Arab world while accepting its unbiased responsibilities towards Arab issues and without animosity to those who disagree with it. The kingdom remained keen to adopt a positive role that is beneficial to all, and thus, the king developed a diplomacy managed by reason, unruffled by emotions and not guided towards adventure.

Fifth: Under King Abdullah’s reign, Jordan enjoyed a higher position with regards to GCC countries, joining other countries calmly and without even submitting a request. It automatically became part of the GCC in all its strategic and economic aspects, the parallel attitudes towards regional risks and the unity of perspective in international relations. In line with these relations, Gulf states were strong in expressing support for Jordan and the system led by King Abdullah during the crisis. Arab and international public opinions also showed support, not only through statements, but also visits and personal contact. The Jordanian-Gulf relations were never as strong as they are now, which is a result of the reassurance provided by King Abdullah and his relations with the GCC.

Sixth: Certainly, King Abdullah’s leadership of Jordan and the diplomatic developments that he introduced in the kingdom’s behaviors within the Arab sphere have greatly contributed to correcting the Jordanian popular perception and expectations of the Arab world, especially Gulf countries. The Jordanian believe that the GCC countries were bottomless wells of money and resources in Jordan’s backyard has vanished. Jordanians became more aware of the realities and capabilities of the Gulf, finally realizing the fact that the Gulf is simply a captive of a commodity, which fate is decided by factors that are controlled and planned by developed countries.

By the way, Gulf states in the United Nations are referred to as “Liquidity States,” and their strengths and weaknesses are not in the Gulf.

Seventh: King Abdullah managed the crisis firmly and steadfastly, placing the safety of Jordan and the interests of its people above every other consideration. As he says, no one, regardless of their position, is considered above Jordan and its stability. Therefore, the necessary measures had to be taken. Prince Hamzah is present with his family in his palace and under the care of the king himself. As for the power of attorney granted by the king to Prince Hassan bin Talal, it is a sign of wisdom since Prince Hasan has a special place intellectually, culturally, and humanely within the royal family, in Jordan, and in the entire world.

The outcome of the incident was turning that page while confirming that the constitutional state that has entered its second centennial is strong, prudent, and ready for the future. I pray for the safety of King Abdullah and the security of Jordan.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas.

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Destabilizing Jordan: Who will suffer and who will benefit?

Jordan: State loyalty put to the test

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