Friday, May 23, 2008

Jordan and the collapse of the “moderation axis”

Ever since the disastrous decision in 1990 to stand against the use of military power to liberate Kuwait, Jordanian policy has been to firmly align its foreign policy with the desires of the US and its Arab proxies in the Gulf and Egypt. Of course, this was nothing new, as traditional Jordanian policy was western leaning, despite the Gulf war detour.

And since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent alignment that followed, Jordan, along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE as well as the parliamentary government of Lebanon and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh government in Palestine coalesced into what has become known as the “moderation axis”. In opposition, Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah, with the sometimes backing of Qatar, formed the “axis of objection”. While not publicly supporting of US politics in Iraq or even the US’ apparent desire to strike Iran militarily, the widespread impression is that the Arab members of the AoM were willing to barter their position on these issues in exchange for US pressure on Israel to resolve the Palestinian issue. The desire for peace with Israel was codified into what is known as the “Beirut declaration”, which was based on a Saudi initiative.

Anyway, the AoM is now on the run. Hamas is in control of Gaza, and the Palestinian issue is on the back burner, with Abbas threatening to resign. The Lebanese government caved into the demands of Hizbollah (with Qatari intervention). And for icing on the cake, Israel is conducting back channel peace negotiations with Syria.

And where does that leave us? On a political level, the possible repercussions of the collapse of whatever is left of the Palestinian authority are as stark as ever. On the economic level, the Saudis and Emaratis are reportedly refusing to help out with our serious economic problems, despite them sitting on piles of money that they don’t know what to do with. Our membership in the AoM is not enough to appease the US, who seems to be insistent that the final solution of the Palestinian issue should be on Jordan’s expense. It is ironic that we have joined the team that , even if it wins, is hostile to Jordan and it's interests. And even as Syria is negotiating with Israel, they refuse to deal with Jordan on any of the hanging bilateral issues (including border, trade and water issues).

And reading recent press commentary, it is clear that even people who had serious problems with our foreign policy are finding it too difficult to gloat. The biggest question is what next? One option is to wait for the election of a new president in the US. Odds are that this is a poor bet, and so we need to play a better game.

What are our cards?

Foremost is security and security cooperation. Everybody in the MoA is quite happy to use Jordanian intelligence and their security capabilities. This includes the US (especially Jordan’s relationship with Iraqi Sunnis), and Saudi Arabia, who’s control of Al Qaeda is partially due to Jordanian help.

Then there is diplomacy. Here the adage “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” is particularly apt. We gave away all our diplomatic chips without getting anything tangible in return. Any reexamination of our diplomacy should include a fresh look at diplomatic initiatives towards Iran, Hamas and Syria.

Finally, national unity and stubbornness. This should start with explaining what the challenges are, what the requirements are, and why we refuse to capitulate. Real steps should be made for more self-reliance, especially in energy and food production. To be open with the people, the regime should also make real movement towards political pluralism and personal and public accountability. This will require the cessation of all the controversial land sales until a national consensus is achieved (even partially). This is the only way to get the people behind such a challenge.


At 5:15 PM, Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

The way I understand the situation from reading through various publications is that some how Israel managed by hook or by crook to convince the US administration and diplomats that the Palestinian problem isn’t the core issue of the entire ME conflict. Never mind king Abdulla’s address to the joint session of US congress last year, and never mind all of the Arab lobbying diplomacy in Washington political corridors, since neither one have been able to convince the American administration otherwise. The vision of a two state solution will in all likelihood remain a vision and no more than that. I think that some day we may notice that some one will come up with a creative solution that will entail a joint Israeli/ Jordanian administration of whatever remains of the Palestinian land. Israel would for example take care of the security matters while Jordan would retain the administrative as well as the legal affairs of the Palestinians. The territories would be civilly autonomous and the residents would carry Palestinian documents. This would be sort of a compromise and face saving for Jordan so its hard core natives’ residents don’t claim that a solution was reached at Jordan’s expense. But again this is just my opinion.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hatem: This would be a disaster. Neither the Palestinians in the West Bank nor Palestinian Jordanians would accept such a "solution". What about settlements, water, Jerusalem and the right of return? No agreement will be considered legitimate if these issues are not resolved.

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Mohanned said...

Ok, so do we believe all of what the "analyists" said? For me I don't, maybe there is some tension but to blow it in the way they did is somewhat smelly! I don't see the US changing its policy with regards to jordan, as a matter of fact many in the adminstration and others are pushing for stronger relations with jordan. We even have our own caucus in the congress not to forget the lobbyists in D.C.

As for the myth of brotherhood and arab support, it is nothing new, the only reliable source of arab aid is now dead, others have always been contingent. So why the surprise? If something surprises me it is that some are surprised with the lack of arab support. The only reliable ally through 40 years has been the US of A, so why should they change now?

As for the palastenian issue, I can't see the jordanian option getting raised except in jordan by some writers and politicians, this doesn't mean that israelies have good intentions, but it is interesting to see jordanians focusing on the issue while it's almost ignored in the israeli media. Hamas will take power in the west bank, and we all know that hamas isn't interested in the jordanian option because now they have a stronghold in the heart of israel..As a matter of fact I see hamas raising power in the strategic interst of jordan..

At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"as traditional Jordanian policy was western leaning,"

i like your analysis but I have to disagree with above. Jordanian regime has been pro-US. the West is "Old Europe" and they have consistently kept an arm's length from US imperialism. So Jordan's regime is NOT West leaning, it's pro-Imperialist. That's the painful, undignified truth that cost us our reputation around the Arab world and in all progressive circles around the world. So at some point we have to accept there are two Jordans, the one represented by the majority of Jordanians which I call the real Jordan, and the other represented by a self-imposed regime with a purely self-serving agenda, as reflected by the series of failures on many fronts including but not limited to education, health, tourism, human development, technology, corruption, etc.

At 12:35 AM, Blogger Tallouza said...

Some are saying it is the pragmatism of Qatar that enabled it to broker a deal that is hoped to have saved Lebanon from the brink of civil war. If the axis of objection is a pragmatist, what is then left to the axis of moderation. I am afraid we lied the lie and we are now starting to believe that we are masters of our own fate. What we witnessed in Qatar is a classic case of "divide and conquer". It was a classic case of a hit below the belt. It is a premeditated attempt to embarrass Saudi Arabia. The message was loud and clear to all the Arabs of who really is in control. As for Jordan, I guess we are now paying the price for being so eagerly submissive in the name of a moderation that we embraced in an extreme way.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Masalha1 said...

for the past 50 years or so, the so called Arab moderates have bent backword and forward and in every shape and form you can imagine to please the Americans, but still did not earn the respect of any American administration.
even thought the US has a huge interests in the middle east but never once they felt their interest is at jeopardy despite the fact they treat those moderates with disrespect and undignified manners, the US has interests all over the world and they treat most countries with mutual respect except the Arab world why ? because they knew how to deal with us they know that we have no self respect and they know they can always count on those backstabbers from within to keep us seperated.
Yes the moderation is good but not to the point when it gets ( HABAL ) and too naive where you loose other's respect.
Yes moderates in the Arab world lost big time and will continue to lose including the respect of their own people.

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