Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bush’s visit and Jordan’s role in Iraq

It was clear from the onset that president Bush’s visit to Jordan and his meeting with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki was not to be a courtesy meeting. It followed the Republican loss of the mid term elections and the writing of the Baker-Hamilton report on how to get out of the mess in Iraq. Reports are suggesting the meeting was not a pleasant affair, with Bush giving Maliki and earful about what he needs to do stabilize the situation in his country (possibly along the lines of this memo). A three way meeting following the Bush Maliki meeting which was to include the US, Iraqi and Jordanian leaders was scraped, reportedly on the request of the king and the prime minister. Abuaardark suggests this is a snub. I suspect that it was better for the king not to be in attendance while Bush chewed out Maliki.

The choice of Jordan as a venue for this meeting was interesting. Clearly, this meeting could have been held in Washington, Riga (where the NATO leaders were already meeting), Baghdad, Riyadh, Cairo or anyplace in Europe. The choice of Amman was not one of geographical expedience, but is a sign that Jordan is to play a central role in Iraq in the next stage.

Jordan has been trying to cultivate good relations with all parties in Iraq (except Al Qaeda), despite the deep suspicion generated by the famous “Shiite crescent” warning as well as Sunni suspicions about Jordan’s role in aiding the US invasion, among other incidents. In the last week the king has met with the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Harith al Dhari (not without controversy) as well as with Al Maliki and Abdulaziz Al Hakim (also not without controversy). It is funny that al Dhari is accused of supporting Al Qaeda, who in turn are livid at the king meeting with Dhari.

So, something is cooking. Jordan has been keeping reasonably friendly relations with Iran, giving the circumstances. It is not obvious how recent meeting with Iranian officials would fit in with Jordan’s upcoming role. Many analysts are speculating that Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are working to cut Iranian influence in Iraq. This is a reasonable objective, and hopefully it can be achieved in cooperation with the Iranians, who would do well to pull out of the Iraqi morass. Obviously, the situation in Iraq is volatile and unpredictable, and so the effectiveness of this role has yet to be seen. My impression that the Jordanian role will be mostly political, with a security role limited to intelligence assistance. Jordan should strive to stay close to all the major players in Iraq, and to help ensure that this dark page in Iraq’s history is soon turned.


At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For once the Jordanian goverment are playing it right (bil3aboha sa7). If they had done this in 2003 it would have made many Jordanians prouder. Take out the Bush part in this meeting its a good step, As for the snub part it was Maliki who snubbed Bush atleast thats what they said in the United States media.

At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Khalaf (and everyone else,)

I need your help. I’m a graduate student in Canada, (who lived and worked in Jordan for a few years,) writing a paper about civil society in the Arab world. I was wondering if I could ask you all a few questions about how you think blogs (both reading and writing them) affect the way people think about politics and society in the Middle East.

If you’d be willing to help me out, I’d really, really appreciate it. I’ve set up a blog for the project at The questions are posted there. You can also just post answers here, if that’s easier. Let me know if you’d like me to post the questions here.

Thanks in advance,

Desperate Grad Student (who is also very cold right now and misses Jordan desperately.)

At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Khalaf - Astute and thorough as always. Great piece.

The cancellation of the 3-way was hardly a snub. Think about the optics. Wouldn’t it look like there was a Sunni King mediating between the Americans and a Shiite Iraqi leader to Iraqis and the rest of the world? Maliki’s on thin ice with his own support base as it is… It seems pretty obvious to me why it was scrapped...


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