Tuesday, November 15, 2011

11/15/11: Change Happens In The Blink Of An Eye

Flag of Syria

Flag of Jordan

Flag of Saudi Arabia 

The pace at which change occurs in, what seems to be, every country in the Middle East is utterly astounding. Whether talking about changes of opinion, policy, stance, or alliance, it all happens inordinately fast over here. Only Yesterday I was in class giving a presentation on Jordan's weak stance on the issue of the Syrian crackdowns and violence, and, just today, it seems like that situation has changed two fold (in fact the change occurred last night). 

Politically speaking, the issues with Jordan's stance on Syria are profoundly interesting, and various sources painted a very decent picture of the delicate political situation that the Royals of Jordan find themselves in. Now since I am not Jordanian I can only discuss how it looks from the views of an outsider looking in on what is going on in the region. However, before I begin, I would like to extend a huge thank you to all of my Jordanian contacts who have been so helpful in sending me wonderful sources and information concerning the "goings-on" of the Hashemite Kingdom. 

What my research led me to discover: Jordan is in a very delicate situation when it comes to how they respond to Syria for a few reasons. Firstly, Jordan fears, and has reason to fear, Syrian intervention in Jordan should the Assad regime feel that they are supporting Syrian opposition. As of now, Jordanian border towns with Syria, namely Ramtha, are housing close to 1,500 refugees (some sources say it's close to 2,000), and though the Jordanians have not confirmed this outright, this could be used as a means for Syria to intervene on the claims that the Jordanians are aiding Syrian opposition rebels. This worry is not without reason. Syria has intervened in Jordanian domestic happenings in the past. Probably the most notable time was when Hafez Al-Assad (Bashar's father), who was president of Syria for almost 30 years (1971-2000), sent troops into Jordan during "Black September" to support the Palestinian guerillas against the Jordanians. Though his raid was quashed by the Jordanians, it was direct military action taken by the Syrians against the Jordanians. 

Hafez Al-Assad

On the other hand, Jordan is receiving a great deal of pressure from within to take a more firm stance on the violence in Jordan. The King has come under tremendous amounts of pressure from opposition groups since the Arab Spring movement has swiftly swept through the Middle East, and though he has made internal reforms to maintain monarch legitimacy in his country, the pressure is still ever present. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood faction in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), is opposed to, what was, Jordan's wishy-washy response to Syria, and has used that as a means to rally up opposition. The IAF feels that Jordan should strongly condemn the unadulterated violence going on in Syria, and follow the lead of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait in recalling their ambassador to Damascus. On the one hand Jordan has to worry about Syrian retaliation, and on the other, they have to respond to ever growing domestic pressures.

An IAF rally in Jordan 

On top of domestic pressures, the Kingdom of Jorda has outside relations that it has to nurture with great care and caution. On May 10th, 2011, Jordan (and Morocco) submitted requests, and were invited, to become members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is an extremely beneficial move for the country in terms of political and economic growth. The GCC, established by Saudi Arabia in response to the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war on May 25th, 1981, includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE, and now Jordan and Morocco. Saudi Arabia's ever growing criticism on the Syrian regime, as well as the decisions of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to recall their ambassadors to Syria, has also put a growing amount of pressure on Jordan. The last thing the Jordanians want to do is jeopardize their relations with Saudi and lose membership to the GCC. Revocation of membership would mean a devastating loss of financial support, Jordanian jobs, and they would face political isolation in the powerful Gulf region. 

Gulf Cooperation Council 

With all of this to take into consideration, it seems that King Abdullah decided that ever growing internal pressures, on top of good relations he needs to keep with the powerful Gulf states, prompted him to "become the first Arab leader to openly urge Mr Assad to quit"-BBC Also in the report issued by the BBC, King Abdullah II stated that if he were President Assad, he would "step down and make sure whoever comes behind me has the ability to change the status quo that we're seeing". It should come as no surprise, seeing the pattern of demonstrations that have so far happened in Syria on the Saudi embassy, Turkish embassy, and so on, by Assad's supporters, that about 100 of the regime supporters rallied outside of the Jordanian embassy late last night. Dozens were also killed in Syria-Jordanian border towns upon the issuance of the King's statement. 

King Abdullah II

For whatever the reason may be, it seems that Jordan has finally taken a more firm stance on the issue of Syria. What this will mean for the country in the future, no one can know until the internal situation in Syria calms and settles (and who knows when that will be). But what seems clear, at least to me, is that more countries are now taking a stand against the atrocities happening in Syria, and vocalizing their upset for the some 3,500 (and counting) people who have died, and who will continue to die, if things don't change quickly in Syria. 

Until Tomorrow <3,
Jordana Simone

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