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Jordan in a Changing Regional Environment: The Forthcoming Scenarios - 2
04.11.2017

Seminar Concept Paper:

Jordan exists in a turbulent regional environment characterized by constant change and is situated in the center of crises and threats. Some of these threats are prompt and direct while others will present challenges in the mid and long terms. Historically, if this is the geopolitical status of Jordan, the past seven years of developments concurrent with the eruption of revolutions and uprises of the so-called “Arab spring’ and the successive developments have added to the whole scene intricacy.

Since the first conference under the same title at the end of August 2015, so many developments took place in the countries situated on the “Crises Arc” all around Jordan. This forthcoming conference will be designated for studying and analyzing such developments especially their implications and impacts on Jordan interests and its security and stability. What has been the harvest of the past two years? What is the impact of such developments on Jordan interests and its security and stability?

The Terrorist Threat: terrorism is the direct riskiest threat and war against it has achieved many successes in Iraq and Syria during the past two years. The so-called ISIS is almost eradicated in both countries after succeeding in dismissing the fable of “The Islamic State and Caliphate” in most – or even all- the major Iraqi cities and towns. In Syria, DAEsH is being besieged in narrow enclaves in the Badia and Eastern Desert after expelling its from the major cities and their rural surroundings. However, these victories do not mean that counter terrorism has come to an end. There are still sites and enclaves where “DAESH” and “NUSRA” exist and these areas must be cleaned up. More importantly, the causes for the exacerbating threat of terrorism are still inherent in the buildup of organizations and imbalanced political operations taking place in these two countries. This applies to the socio-cultural aspects and beliefs characterizing the social scenes as a whole let alone the state of divide and sectarian and faction conflicts as well as the harmful regional and international interventions nurturing the wide existence of both DAESH and NUSRA.

Implications for Jordan: Jordan is still faced with three major challenges in this respect. First: the terrorist enclaves (DAESH&NUSRA) nearby its northern borders with Syria and the border triangle with Iraq and Syria. Second; the possible return of hundreds of Jordanian fighters who had joined the terrorist groups in both countries and the challenges and threats resulting from such a return; which required programs if action and preparedness to deal with the phenomenon of ‘The Returnees from Syria and Iraq”. Third: the strategy to combat extremism inside the country and the capacity of the State and the society to remove the socio-economic, political, cultural, educational, and doctrinal environment that turned Jordan into an exporter of “Jehadists” some of whom joined the battle fields and others could not do that due to a cohort of factors.

The Syrian Crisis: In this interval between the two conferences, so many developments have taken place on the ground in Syria where Russia intervened on September 30, 2015 in its capacity as a Game Changer. This led to a series of field developments to the account of the Syrian regime and its alliances. Another series of turnarounds in the regional and international stakeholders’ stands due to the fear that the terrorist threat will be exacerbating which has already gone beyond the Syrian and the regional scope to strike several western and international cities and capitals. Some other times, this has been due to the caution of increased potentials for a direct clash among the regional and international powers on the Syrian arena.

The Syrian crisis is developing into two parallel tracks: Astana and Geneva although the irrevocable decision is that of the American-Russian understandings. In fact, these understandings have loomed the first fruit; namely, a reduced escalation of the status in several areas and the comprehensive resolution is waiting for stability and return to normality in some areas where each of these two powers hold their own dynamics. The core actors differ from one area to another and each area is amassing an attention that differs according the differences between these actors.

Implications for Jordan: Jordan is a major actor in the area where the escalation of status has been reduced in the western southern part of Syria. It has tapped into its historical relations with Washington and the persistent development in its relations with Moscow. This area includes enclaves for DAESH as well as spots of influence of the NUSRA. The Syrian Army is now visible on a relatively long distance of the Jordania-Syrian borders. However, the southern-eastern area is still liable to the refuge threat “Rugban Wehdat” and terrorists who are still free to move within the border triangle with Syria and Iraq…. the border points with Syria are still closed and the Jordanian impact on the final solution is so humble even though it is close to the tracks of Astana and Geneva. How will Jordan handle the burden of refuge and the terrorism threat? How will the areas with reduced escalation help mitigate the burdens of Jordan? How will the relationship between Amman and Damascus develop? Are we going to witness an active traffic of goods, persons, and services with Syria reaching to Lebanon and via the latter to the European market? Can Jordan move to the role of “broker” between the regime and the armed opposition in this region to help enhance its stability and open the borders for the refuges to return? What are the barriers and opportunities for all of these points?

The Iraqi Crisis: At the eastern borders, there have been strategic transition in the war against terrorism. DAESH is dying as an entity controlling large spaces of the Iraqi geography. Iraq is heading towards the ear of “DAESH Aftermath” with further divide: an Arab-Kurdish conflict; divide in the Shiite scene; divide in the Sunni scene; a sectarian conflict- Sunni-Shiite backed up with an intensive deployment of the armed militias, wide scope of regional and international interventions; very soon parliamentary elections expected to identify the disagreements and the weights of powers as well as the changes in their volumes.

However, Iraq is undergoing some positive developments as well such as the restoration of the Iraqi national identity feeling especially among the Arab component; a youth civil movement against corruption, the collapse of services and the conflict among the political elites; a relative openness by the Arabs to the different Iraqi components; an electoral movement across the sects and groups; the dead end to which the system after 2003 has reached as well as the increasing sense of the imperative to search for solutions for quotas based on sects and creed groups.

Implications for Jordan: Jordan has interest in the openness to the several Iraqi components and must stand at the same distance from all. Such an interest can be seen in the reopening of borders, resumption of goods and persons movement in both directions, joining the reconstruction projects, securing a share in the Iraqi market, countering any terrorist threats originating from there, implementing strategic projects in the energy sector such as the oil and gas pipelines.

These interests are challenged with the following; the existence of a “lobby” which is not friendly to Jordan and influential in the policy and decision making process in Iraq, the impact of the tension in the Jordanian-Iranian relationship on the relation between Amman and Baghdad following some Jordanian stands and statements with regard to the relationship with the Shiite component per se (the Shiite crescent, the Iranian belt….etc); Baghdad lacks the capacity to control the international road and maintain its stability; the impact of Jordan’s relations with the Arab neighboring countries (Saudi Arabia and Emirates) and the United States of America on its relations with both Iran and Iraq. Most importantly: How will Iraq manage its complex political crises after DAESh? What role can Jordan assume in assisting the Iraqis to overcome these crises and avoid their eruption? How will Jordan handle such challenges? How will Jordan deal with such challenges? How will the decision making institutions respond to the relevant questions?

The Palestinian Cause: The oldest crisis across history and the farthest future wise which faces Jordan. It is the Palestinian cause after the failure of the two-state solution and the obscure horizons for the peace process resulting from the policies of the rightist government and the extremist right in Israel and their practices on the ground. In addition, the persistent Palestinian divide and the shift of the Palestinian arena to become one of the Arab-regional competition arenas especially in terms of the final solution of the Palestinian cause or the impact on the Palestinian leadership composition after “Abu Mazen”. In fact, the Palestinian scene is on the verge of a new strategic phase the features of which are not clear yet. If the organized systemic shift of the Israeli community to the radicalism and national extremism is the headline of this era, one cannot ignore the roles that many Arab and regional parties implement. It seems that these have resolved to be active in shaping this era features: Iran and its persistent attempt to support certain powers and choices; the Egyptian- Emirate axis sponsoring the dissident colonel Mohammad Dahlan and which supervises the emerging coalition between him and Hamas; and the Turkish-Quatari axis which supports Hamas and those who support it from the Moslem Brotherhood members.

Implications for Jordan: Jordan backed up the choice of negotiation and the two-state solution; it considers that a livable Palestinian State can secure a strategic interest for it. However, this choice “Plan A” hereinafter is going to collapse. Does Jordan have “Plan B” and what are its main features and what should it look like? Is still Jordan capable of influencing the governing elites in Israel as was the case in the past? Is it still capable of motivating the peace track from the Israeli perspective? What about its capacity to influence the Palestinian elites in the West Bank and Gaza? Why does it abstain from assuming any role to achieve the internal Palestinian reconciliation? Where does Jordan stand within the internal divide? If a livable Palestinian state does not exist, the door will be always opened for solutions in Jordan and in cooperation with it and always on its account and on the account of Palestinians! So, how things should be approached? The Hashemite sponsorship of the Islamic religious heritage is a historical inherited legacy. At present, it is in the “whirl” of the Judaism and Israelisation policies; this religious heritage is becoming a “contact line” between Jordan and Israel.

What are the choices for Jordan? What papers does it have for this battle the core of which links to its security and stability as well as the “religious legitimacy” which is a pillar and source of legitimacy of governance in Jordan? Is the waiver of the sponsorship or “Arabizing”, “Islamizing” or “Universalizing” it is yet another choice? Jordan is heading towards major confrontations with Israel on two fronts; i.e. the failure of the two-state choice and the Hashemite sponsorship. In the meantime, Amman is adopting policies that will consecrate “dependency” on Israel in strategic domains such as water and energy. How will this issue shipshape? Last but not least: Is the security and stability of Jordan still a supreme Israeli interest? Can a future scenario be predicted whereby the interest of Israel is to instigate “a creative chao” in Jordan to be ridden from the surplus Palestinian demography and shift to the extremist Israeli Right: Jordan is Palestine?

Jordan and the Gulf: Jordan maintains several ties ad links and its relations with the six gulf countries are not on the same level and of the same weight with each country of them within the account of the Jordanian interests and policies. However, the six gulf countries are facing a series of challenges the most important of which is the deteriorating strategic value of oil in the international accounts and economies. For several reasons that cannot be presented in this paper, one can mention the deteriorating strategic position of the oil producing and exporting countries which totally depend on this commodity. In addition, the Gulf states are being challenged with the ruling crisis and the succession of rule internally and its implication for the foreign policy of some countries. These countries are competing with each other in almost a ferocious war in search for leading roles (the Qatari Crisis). Some of these countries suffer from the identity crisis that can jeopardize their unity, security and stability in light of rigid political regimes that cannot cope with the current developments all over including the values and principles of good governance, democracy, and pluralism. Under a prevalent religious culture characterized with radicalism and exclusion in most cases, the waters and land of such countries are transformed into spaces where the foreign military bases are being installed for major universal and regional competing states. At least, three countries of them have showed a tendency to intervene in the foreign and security-defense policies (war against Yemen). Such a tendency is unprecedented in the experience of this country since its foundation and as it gets involved in wars and crises nearby, it tends to dominate other countries. For this purpose, it uses its giant financial resources. Recently, it has become noticeable that some of these countries tend to maintain a temporary and constant military presence outside its borders. This takes the form of a direct military intervention or rented military bases; thus, its military engagement is no more limited to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. It rather goes further to include most of the crises of the region and some peripheries of Africa. Some of these countries introduce themselves as a critical actor in issues that they had never been known as interested in such as the Palestinian issue in its internal conflict dimension (the conflict on the era after Abu Mazen) and the Kurdish issue (supporting the Kurdistan poll and its separation) in addition to other crises.

Implications for Jordan : Jordan has several historical relationships with the Gulf group and these relations have witnessed ups an downs and ranged between prosperity and indifference. Hundreds of thousands of Jordanians work in the Gulf countries especially in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They support the economy with some billions of dollars each year. Security of Jordan is attached to some degree or another to the security of its gulf neighbors. This explains why Jordan cannot get away from the Gulf flock even in the stands and crises that Jordan is not very well comfortable with.

However, the relationship with the Gulf is faced with tangible challenges that can become more critical in the forthcoming five to ten years. The most critical of these challenges are; (i) the repercussions for the Jordanian labor and the transitions resulting from the depleted revenues of these countries and their oil returns let alone the accumulating deficits in their general budgets; (ii) Jordan is unable to cope with and stand the intervention tendencies of these countries in many crises in the region; (iii) the intricate choices that are narrowing more and more in face of diplomacy when clear conflicts erupt within the Gulf Cooperation Council; (iv) at the longer term, the “Arab Spring” sparks that are moving towards these countries and this will affect the security and stability of Jordan; (v) Jordan is affected with the stricter and extremer readings of Islam originating from the Gulf in general and the impacts of these are no more limited to those engaged in them but are affecting schools, mosques, preachers and Imams in Jordan itself; (vi) Jordan cannot transit into a constitutional monarchy depending on its democratic choices under a continuously imbalanced relationship with the Arab countries of the Gulf assuming that there is a will for such a transition.

Away from the crisis arc directly surrounding Jordan to the wider regional circle, what do the relationships of Jordan with the other regional actors- Iran and Turkey look like? What are the interests of Jordan and special accounts for the relationship with each of them? Are there any direct issues that contribute to improving or tensioning the Jordanian relationship with each of Ankara and Tehran? Or, does it depend on the stands of these countries towards the crises of the region and the actors in it from one side and the relationships of the allied countries of Jordan (Saudi Arabia and the USA in the first place) with these countries? Could a scenario exist to separate the bilateral relation track with both countries from the regional crises as well as the considerations of the Jordanian-Gulf relationship and that of the Jordanian-American? What are the chances to develop bilateral relationships with the two neighboring countries in the region and what are the challenges facing them?

Internationally, Jordan has succeeded in developing business relations with Russia; which enabled it to avoid the worst scenarios in Southern Syria in addition to its strong relations across the parties and departments in Washington. It also maintains strong and enrooted ties with the European Union which has created and is still creating an international security network. This has helped Jordan overcome the most hazardous developments in the region along the past years.

However, with Trump administration in the White house, Jordan is faced with challenges whether at the bilateral relation level or in terms of some regional crises that Jordan is engaged with especially the Palestinian cause. The tensioned Moscow-Washington relation which lacks confidence leaves Jordan in a critical position as it considers that the Russian-American understanding is a condition for the political and negotiation solutions for several crises in the region.
The escalation in the relations between Washington and Tehran puts Jordan at some additional challenges including the future relations with Iran and with Iraq.

In the absence of an independent political and security role for Europe in many case files and crises of the region, Jordan is moving in a high tide ocean. How will the relations of Amman and Washington develop in the presence of Trump Administration and its ambiguous attitudes towards core issues such as the Palestinian cause? How is the relation with Moscow developing in light of the worsening tension in the American-Russian relationships and the revival of the cold war in the Kremlin and the White House parlors? How can the relations with Europe be developed being the political and economic partner of Jordan in many domains and sectors? What should be done to improve such relations and achieve the economic, political, and security benefits of Jordan?

The National Response Plan: Challenges at both the regional and international levels call on Jordan to implement internal policies that respond to the imperatives to face such challenges. It must back up the internal front to serve the foreign policy management effectively and efficiently. The foreign policy becomes more effective and further independent and its choices and alternatives become more and more whenever it relies on a sound internal condition and whenever the internal policies are more effective and more useful in facing the challenges.

Internally, Jordan is faced with three major challenges:
First: the Economic Challenge in terms of motivating the economic growth and increasing its rates and creation of job opportunities especially for the youth generation and anti-corruption efforts. Moreover, Jordan needs to build an economic developmental model that can address the elements of power and excellence available for it in order to invest the same to the largest extent possible. This model must be capable of dealing with the pressurizing challenges of today and those implied in the possible transitions in the oil producing/exporting Arab countries.

Second: The challenge of confronting extremism and exaggeration resulting from a group of factors and which have developed to an extent that this challenge has become an impediment for democratization and respect of the human rights as well as building up the civic state built on the rule of law with an eye on the possibility that it would become a threat for the security of Jordan and its stability.

Third: The challenge of the blocked or frozen democratization of the country. This must be prioritized on the national Jordanian agenda in order to translate the concept of the democratic civic state on the ground- the state of effective and equal citizenry; a state for all – men and women and respect of the principle of the rule of law without any exception or discrimination. This must open the doors wide to combat the other challenges! To cut it short: Jordan with a coherent internal front is more capable of facing the external challenges and threats at the highest level of capacity and proficiency.

For photos of the conference, please click the following link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jlr9tKtltNeuyitg1