Author Topic: Jordan:  (Read 22160 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Jordan:
« on: May 14, 2017, 07:46:24 AM »
With the impending collapse of DAESH (I'm preferring DAESH over ISIS now) and its metastasizing throughout the region, particularly eastern Jordan the Great Fustercluck of the Middle East enters a new phase.  

Jordan, the Royal Hashemite Kingdom, seems to be a unique Arab country see e.g. http://jordantimes.com/news/local/muslim-youth-take-initiative-guard-churches-easter-celebrated led by a unique man, King Abdullah facing unique complexities. Jordan has long and strong ties with the US.  It does not fight Israel and King A. speaks openly of Christians and Muslims getting along.  His wife the Queen, goes uncovered, and speaks of it being a woman's choice.  

I'm opening this thread because I think King Abdullah is in a unique position to explain the Arab world to the West, and the West to the Arab world and it behooves us to develop understanding of Jordan's situation in all this.

I kick it off with this:

http://www.meforum.org/6560/is-jordan-muslim-brotherhood-still-the-loyal?utm_source=Middle+East+Forum&utm_campaign=78729d5f14-K%C3%B6pr%C3%BCl%C3%BC__Nur_2017_05_02&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_086cfd423c-78729d5f14-33691909&goal=0_086cfd423c-78729d5f14-33691909


Is Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood Still the Loyal Opposition?

by Nur Köprülü
Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2017 (view PDF)
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Until the 1990s, the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood had been a tacit ally of the Hashemite monarchy. That close relationship has deteriorated, triggered in large degree by King Hussein's (R) decision to recognize and make peace with Israel in 1994. He is seen here with Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the key Islamist movement in the country, has had a long-standing symbiotic relationship with the monarchy and, until recently, was not considered a threat to the survival of the Hashemite Kingdom.[1] But the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the growth of militant Islamist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) have alarmed the monarchy and led to a drastic shift in the nature of its relations with the Brotherhood from coexistence to persecution. Will the Jordanian regime be able to contain the Islamists and, in turn, will the Brotherhood choose to challenge the throne rather than to acquiesce in its continued suppression?
The Brotherhood and the Monarchy

Probably the foremost Islamist movement in the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt. From there, it spread to other parts of the region including Jordan (1946) where it was incorporated into the kingdom's social and political fabric with some of its members even serving in cabinet. The group reciprocated by refraining from challenging the regime as had its founding organization in Egypt. Bilateral relations warmed substantially during King Hussein's long reign (1952-99) when the Brotherhood often functioned as a bulwark against anti-Hashemite forces. This was particularly evident during the heyday of pan-Arabism when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser—who politically opposed the Egyptian Brotherhood—repeatedly sought to subvert the Hashemite monarchy.

The Muslim Brotherhood provided support to the Jordanian monarchy during the 1970 Black September uprising when the regime's existence was threatened by Palestinian guerrillas like these seen here near Amman.

The Brotherhood also provided support to the monarchy during the 1970 Black September events when the regime's existence was threatened by the Palestinian guerrillas encamped on its territory. And although political parties were banned between 1957 and 1992, the Brotherhood was able to function and attract new recruits since it was registered under the law of charitable clubs and associations. With the legalization of political parties in 1992, the organization established its political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF).

This close relationship between the Brotherhood and the monarchy prevented secular and leftist parties from challenging the kingdom's policies. The lack of any other previously organized mass party and the weakness of the secular ideological platforms helped the IAF function as the key ideological and political actor in Jordanian politics. This position was reinforced by the Brotherhood's strategic bond with the monarchy, which contributed to its reputation as a moderate, nonviolent group, distinct from its Islamist counterparts throughout the Middle East. In the words of German scholar Gudrun Krämer, Jordan

    provides one of the few cases of an Arab government and Islamic movement pursuing a non-confrontational political strategy over an extended period. Traditionally, the Muslim Brotherhood has played not so much the role of opposition, but of virtual ally and, at times, of client to the king.[2]

This symbiotic relationship prevailed into the 2000s regardless of occasional frictions emanating from domestic and regional vicissitudes. The 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, for example, triggered a heated debate between the "hawks" opting to confront the regime over the issue and "doves" urging conciliation yet failed to fracture the Brotherhood's overall relationship with the monarchy.[3] Likewise, the organization remained aloof vis-à-vis the post-9/11 measures taken by King Abdullah II—who had succeeded his father two years earlier—against the kingdom's militant Salafist movement urging the overthrew of the "infidel" monarchy. Unlike the Salafists, the Jordanian Brotherhood and its political arm, the IAF, have never had an overtly militant wing despite its organic link with and support for Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood branch.

This restraint notwithstanding, relations began to sour following the November 2005 hotel bombings in the Jordanian capital of Amman, which left sixty people dead and 115 wounded. Organized by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a native Jordanian from the Salafist stronghold of Zarqa and leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) from which the Islamic State would spring, the bombings provoked a storm of anti-Salafism on the streets of Amman but could not hide the fact that increasing numbers of Jordanians had some jihadist sympathies. Though the Brotherhood had nothing to do with the attack, the Hashemites, always nervous about the stability of their throne, grew ever more suspicious of anything smacking of Islamism.

These concerns increased with the 2006 election of the hawkish Zaki Bani Irshid as the Brotherhood's deputy general-secretary and Hammam Said as the IAF's new leader, signaling to King Abdullah II an unwelcome shift. The king looked across the Jordan to see Hamas win the Palestinian parliamentary elections and taking full control of the Gaza Strip and did not like what he saw. This was especially troubling as there was a growing apprehension that the broader Muslim Brotherhood now "look[ed] to Jordan as an avenue for expanding its regional influence."[4]

In the next round of Jordanian elections in 2007, the Brotherhood's influence diminished further with the IAF capturing only six seats out of 110 in the lower chamber. The poor result was also linked to deepening divisions within the Brotherhood between hawks and doves, leading to the IAF's decision three years later to boycott the parliamentary elections and to adopt a more confrontational
approach toward the regime, thus further widening the rift between the Brotherhood and the monarchy.
Jordanian Identity and the Brotherhood

When considering Jordanian identity it is important to keep in mind the role of Islam and religion in the state/nation-building project that is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. What sets its case apart from that of most modern Middle Eastern states is that Islam was in a very real sense the main source of regime legitimacy in Jordan:

    The king's claim to religious legitimacy [has traditionally been] based on his descent from the Prophet, distinguishing his rule from that of Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts ... Jordan offers a more complex set-up, in which Islamic activism and communal loyalties [referring to the Palestinians in particular] are to a certain extent connected or interrelated.[5]

The monarchy's distinguished origin also enabled it to use Islam as an integral part of its foreign policy, notably its demand for managing the al-Haram al-Sharif holy site (and by extension—to rule East Jerusalem and the West Bank). Consequently, not only did the Brotherhood pose no existential threat to the Hashemite throne, but the regime has actually used the organization as a crutch at critical moments.

But Jordanian society also consists of two main ethnic groups: the indigenous East Bank (Transjordanian) Bedouin tribesmen and the Palestinian-Jordanians, incorporated into the kingdom in the aftermath of the 1948 war, who came to form the majority of the kingdom's population and its economic bedrock.

Notwithstanding their importance for securing the demographic and economic viability of the nascent Hashemite kingdom, Palestinian-Jordanians have been systematically marginalized and discriminated against, with their Bedouin compatriots constituting the mainstay of the regime and controlling the kingdom's political institutions and security organs.[6] Tensions between the two communities intensified after the 1967 war as the kingdom was flooded by fresh waves of West Bank Palestinian refugees, shooting to new heights in the wake of the 1970 Black September events when Jordanians of Palestinian descent came to be increasingly perceived as a potential threat to the survival of the monarchy. Relations worsened with the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty in 1994, a weakening which, simply put, represents more of a Palestinian sentiment than an East Banker Transjordanian one.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been increasingly reliant on the votes of Palestinian-Jordanians.

However, a closer look at the composition of the Jordanian Brotherhood demonstrates that both the Brotherhood and the IAF were increasingly reliant on the votes of Palestinian-Jordanians. Thus, for instance, while in the 1989 elections, 16 of the Brotherhood's 22 deputies were elected from districts with a Transjordanian majority, in the 2003 elections, only 5 of its 17 deputies came from such districts.[7] Indeed, the prevailing tension between the old and new Brotherhood is largely an offshoot of the internal split over the movement's "priorities and identities," namely perceived Palestinian needs versus those of the Hashemite-allied Transjordanians.[8]

The recent public anger at the lack of sufficient political reform has exacerbated domestic instability in Jordan over the past few years. But a new twist came to light with the appearance of opposition from the East Bank-based, largely tribal Hirak movement, which led street protests in Jordan. This may represent the most immediate challenge to the kingdom, considering that it was coordinated through East Bankers whose loyalty was long considered set in stone. Palestinians and even radical Islamists, by contrast, represent more of a potential threat than a present one. On one hand, it was East Bank activism that gave rise to a strong opposition during the heyday of the Arab uprisings, as it previously was during the 1989 and 2002 riots in Jordan; on the other, it is the radical/jihadi Islamist groups that pose a real threat to the survival of the monarchy. In this regard, the alienation or weakening of the Muslim Brotherhood—with its long history of "loyal opposition" in the kingdom[9]—and other moderate Islamist groups might have detrimental effects on the monarchy given the rise in radical Islamist activism across Jordan's borders.
The Arab Upheavals

The upheavals that have engulfed the Middle East from late 2010 found resonance in Jordan although public protests were never allowed to disrupt the country's functioning. In January 2011, thousands of Jordanians followed the example of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt and staged massive demonstrations in Amman, protesting high prices for staples, soaring unemployment, perceived government corruption, and a general lack of democracy. With the crowds directing much of their anger against Prime Minister Samir Rifai rather than King Abdullah, the crown was able to placate the protesters somewhat, first by announcing subsidies for basic goods and then by dismissing Rifai.[10]

Following the Arab upheavals, the Brotherhood never came close to demanding a complete regime change.

Despite their late participation in public rallies, the Brotherhood's demands for political change were relatively moderate. They insisted on structural changes to the constitution, including constraining the monarchy's power, removing the king's ability to dissolve parliament, and preventing him from appointing a prime minister without parliamentary consent.[11]

Yet they refrained from going beyond previous acts of protest such as boycotting the parliamentary elections of 1997, 2010, and 2013 to test the boundaries of the regime's tolerance; neither did they ever come close to demanding a complete regime change as in other regional hotspots at the time.[12]

Ballot sorting during the 2016 Jordanian elections. Tensions with the Hashemite monarchy came to a head when the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing boycotted the 2013 parliamentary elections. They also boycotted elections in 1997 and 2010 but agreed to participate in September 2016.

However, the growing splits within the Brotherhood, as well as the regime's changing perception of the movement, fostered an attitude of mutual suspicion that gradually replaced the longstanding non-confrontational relations between the group and the monarchy.[13]

Tensions came to a head when the Brotherhood and the IAF decided to boycott the January 2013 parliamentary elections, the first after the outbreak of the Arab uprisings. The groups' subsequent withdrawal from the National Dialogue Committee, set up for political reform after public rallies, furthered the strains.[14]

Then came the rise and fall of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government under President Muhammad Morsi and the movement's subsequent labeling as a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia in December 2013 and the United Arab Emirates in November 2014. When the Brotherhood's Bani Irshid attacked the Emirates' decision in a Facebook post, he was excoriated for "endanger[ing] 225,000 Jordanians living in the Emirates" and peremptorily put on trial in February 2015 under the anti-terrorism law for "disrupting relations with a foreign state."[15]

In February 2016, the Jordanian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood an illegal organization and licensed a new Brotherhood under the leadership of Abdul Majid Thunaibat (2nd from left).

A year later, in February 2016, the Jordanian government declared the Brotherhood an illegal organization and licensed a new Brotherhood under the leadership of Abdul Majid Thunaibat, a senior movement member of Trans-Jordanian origin (i.e., non-Palestinian). The following month the IAF's Aqaba office was ransacked, and, in April, the Brotherhood's offices in Amman and Jerash were closed, followed by those in the towns of Madaba, Karak, and Mafraq. The closures were linked to the implementation of a court decision "to transfer properties of the 'unlicensed' Muslim Brotherhood to the rival splinter group."[16]

The formation of the "new" Brotherhood, which attempted to re-register as the real Brotherhood and disassociate itself from its Egyptian parent organization, led to a questioning of the movement's status in the kingdom with the old Brotherhood insisting on its right to continue to operate and Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour disputing this right, arguing that the "Brotherhood in Jordan is illegal. It does not have a license of community statute and missed the right of legitimacy."[17] Clearly, the nature of the longstanding relationship between the throne and the Brotherhood had been transformed.
The Syrian Civil War and Jordan

With the onset of the Arab uprisings, the kingdom found itself in a delicate situation coping not only with growing internal opposition but also fighting the ascendancy of Islamist militancy and the escalation of radical jihadist movements such as ISIS and Jabhat an-Nusra on the other side of its borders with Syria and Iraq.

Among the effects of the Syrian civil war on Jordan, the foremost challenge has been the mass influx of Syrian refugees and their integration into Jordanian society. The presence of refugees has exacerbated the kingdom's existing economic problems. The thousands of Jordanians who attended public rallies in the wake of the Arab upheavals were not only complaining about lack of progress in democratic reform but were protesting a worsening economic environment that had accompanied the influx of Syrian refugees.

The war in Syria has increased internal instabilities and doubled the challenges the kingdom faces at the regional level.

Moreover, deepening political divisions within the country have been reflected in popular and vocal disagreement regarding the future of Syria. While Jordanian Salafi jihadists support the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, nationalists and leftists want the kingdom to refrain from any involvement in Syrian internal affairs. Still, others favor a peaceful transition that sees the gradual removal of the Assad regime. In such a divided society, the kingdom must pursue a cautious course of action, one that reduces the likelihood of military intervention.[18]

In addition, Jordan has been frustrated by Islamist activism and the rising influence of Salafists, including some who fought in Syria. According to Muhammad Shalabi (Abu Sayyaf), a prominent Jordanian jihadist, between 700-800 Jordanians have joined the fighting in Syria, many of whom had fought previously in Afghanistan and Iraq.[19] By most estimates, Jordanian Salafists number around five thousand[20] though some believe the actual number to be as high as 15,000. Thus, the war in Syria has not only increased internal instabilities but has doubled the challenges the kingdom faces at the regional level as well.
Conclusion

The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood has historically been considered a "loyal opposition" that can play a useful role within the kingdom's political system even when its relations with the regime soured following the conclusion of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty. But the Arab upheavals, especially the Syrian civil war, have forced the regime to strike a delicate balancing act between the need to clamp down on the rising tide of Islamist militancy and the desire to preserve the continued acquiescence of the more moderate Islamist elements in the rules and values of the political system.

Thus far the kingdom has managed to co-opt radical Islamist groups, including the Salafists, thanks to its relationship with the Brotherhood and its divide-and-conquer policies. It is, therefore, likely to do all that it can to keep the organization in its fold and to refrain from declaring it a terrorist group despite pressures from its Persian Gulf allies to do so. The IAF's decision to participate in the September 2016 elections and its reported severance of relations with the Egyptian Brotherhood suggest that they, too, seem to recognize the need to continue to operate within the confines of the Jordanian political system.[21]

    Nur Köprülü received her PhD degree at the Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, in the field of international relations with a focus on Jordan, and heads the Department of Political Science at the Near East University, Nicosia.

[1] Jillian Schwedler, "The Quiescent Opposition," The Wilson Center, Washington, D.C., Aug. 27, 2015.

[2] Gudrun Krämer, "The Integration of the Integrists: A Comparative Study of Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia," in Democracy without Democrats? The Renewal of Politics in the Muslim World, ed. Ghassan Salamé (London: I.B. Tauris, 1994), p. 219; see, also, Curtis C. Ryan, "Islamist Political Activism in Jordan: Moderation, Militancy, and Democracy," Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Reports, June 2008, p. 3.

[3] Author interview with Zaki Bani Irshid, Jordanian Brotherhood's deputy general-secretary, IAF Headquarters, Amman, Nov. 9, 2010; author interview with Orab Rantawi, director of the Amman-based al-Quds Center for Political Studies, Amman, Nov. 8, 2010.

[4] Robert Satloff and David Schenker, "Political Instability in Jordan: Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 19," Council on Foreign Relations, New York, May 2013, §6.

[5] Krämer, "The Integration of the Integrists," p. 219.

[6] Mudar Zahran, "Jordan Is Palestine," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2012, pp. 3-12.

[7] David Siddharta Patel, "The more things change, the more they stay the same: Jordanian Islamist responses in spring and fall," Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, Rethinking Political Islam Series, Brookings Institute, Washington, D.C., Aug. 2015, p. 6.

[8] Al-Monitor (Washington, D.C.), May 12, 2015; David Schenker, "Amman's Showdown with the Muslim Brotherhood." The Washington Institute, Washington, D.C., Apr. 6, 2016.

[9] Shmuel Bar, The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan (Tel Aviv: The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 1998), p. 19.

[10] The New York Times, Feb. 1, 2011.

[11] Tareq al-Naimat, "The Jordanian Regime and the Muslim Brotherhood: A Tug of War," Viewpoints, July 2014.

[12] Ibid; Patel, "The more things change," p. 3.

[13] Hasan Abu Haniyeh, "Jordan's strategy to fragment the Muslim Brotherhood," Middle East Eye (London), Apr. 19, 2016.

[14] Naimat, "The Jordanian Regime."

[15] Al-Monitor, Feb. 2, 2015.

[16] The Jordan Times (Amman), Apr. 14, 2016.

[17] TRT Haber TV (Istanbul), July 6, 2015; al-Monitor, Mar. 3, 2015, May 12, 2015.

[18] Khaled Waleed Mahmoud, "Where Does Jordan Stand on the Syrian Crisis?" Middle East Monitor, Sept. 16, 2013.

[19] Mona Alami, "Jordanian jihadists are on the rise," The Daily Star (Beirut), Mar. 4, 2014.

[20] The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 21, 2012; Al-Monitor, Apr. 23, 2013.

[21] The Jordan Times, June 11, 2016.



« Last Edit: May 14, 2017, 08:11:25 AM by Crafty_Dog »



Crafty_Dog

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Jordanian Jihadi knife attack
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2017, 07:16:49 AM »
a)   http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/jordanian-stabs-israeli-policeman-in-old-city-of-jerusalem/?omhide=true

Is there more complete footage of this anywhere?


b)  The second clip on this page shows terrible perimeter control e.g. that woman at 01:20 should not be where she is.


====================================
Not one of Jordan's better moments
http://www.timesofisrael.com/jordan-calls-killing-of-jerusalem-attacker-a-heinous-crime/

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2017, 07:37:46 PM »
After being mentioned by President Trump by name in his speech, I see that King Abdulah was the first to speak after President Trump.  Anyone have a transcript?  Video with subtitles or something of the like?

=================================

Until we get ahold of that, here is the result of a quick surf through youtube:

2009:  Queen Rania:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=605Syyvoqbg

2015  King and Queen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUKShbcz9aI

2015 Warrior King
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_jrH_nWTqc

2016 Queen Rania with Amanapour
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUqzQzq-o4I

2016 Queen Rania on Charlie Hebdo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHB9lv7niio (at 04:00+)

2016 King defends Trump's call for moratorium
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0y3jpv4_Uw

5 months ago
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biiHAWfWFAA

Press conference with Trump in Washington
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmTA6NZYLLM

« Last Edit: May 22, 2017, 04:31:50 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2017, 08:33:05 AM »
Jordan Intensifies Anti-Israel Rhetoric Despite Security Challenges
by Noah Beck
Special to IPT News
June 1, 2017
https://www.investigativeproject.org/6179/jordan-intensifies-anti-israel-rhetoric-despite
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 Jordan, a country that has had a formal peace treaty with Israel since 1994, has seen an uptick in anti-Israel hostility.

Last month, Jordan condemned the killing of a Jordanian-Palestinian attacker who was filmed stabbing an Israeli policeman multiple times before he was shot, calling it "a heinous crime." In September, Israeli police killed a Jordanian tourist who attacked with a knife. Jordan described this act of self-defense as a premeditated and "barbaric act of the army of the Israeli occupation."

Israeli analysts disagree whether Jordan's rhetoric is a cause for concern.

Since the second Palestinian Intifada broke out in 2000, Jordan's public statements often contradict private behavior, said Elad Ben-Dror, a Bar-Ilan University Middle Eastern Studies senior lecturer. Publicly, "the Jordanian parliament and press are fierce in their denunciation of Israel... Beneath the surface, however, there is a strong link and security cooperation between the two countries, especially with regard to the war on terrorism."

Jordanian demographics drive the public vitriol, said Tel Aviv University Contemporary Middle Eastern History Chair Eyal Zisser. Palestinians comprise half the Jordanian population, "and because the population is conservative and very much Islamic, the regime lets the public...express anti-Israeli sentiments as a way to vent and reduce...pressure on the regime."

So "cheap shots" like condemning the shooting of a terrorist in the act of trying to kill are "aimed at showing the Palestinians in Jordan [that] the Hashemites have not abandoned them," said Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. "The King expects the Israeli government" to ignore such statements. And for the most part, Jerusalem does.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently took exception. "It is outrageous to hear the Jordanian government's speaker support the terror attack which occurred today in Jerusalem's Old City," a statement released by Netanyahu's office said. "It's time Jordan stopped playing both sides of the game. Just like Israel condemns terror attacks in Jordan, Jordan must condemn terror attacks in Israel. Terror is terror."

Moreover, some anti-Israel hostility by Jordan goes beyond mere statements.

In March, Jordan released Ahmed Daqamseh, a former soldier who murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls as they visited his country. His tribe gave him a hero's welcome and he called for Israel's destruction on Al-Jazeera TV. Many lawmakers and politicians had reportedly lobbied to set him free, and doing so may have been a populist move.
Jordan also hosts "Al-Quds," the official TV station of Hamas, the Gaza-based terror group committed to Israel's destruction.

Some experts think Israel should stop turning the other cheek. "Israel is assisting Jordan economically, providing it with fresh water and [helping] in many other areas. It is entitled and even obligated to insist that Jordan moderate its criticism and certainly that it not support anti-Israeli terrorism," Ben-Dror said.

Israel should "slowly alter the rules of the game" by insisting that Jordan's monarch condemn Palestinian violence, said Bar-Ilan political scientist Hillel Frisch. "Israel has to make him sweat a little but not, of course, at the expense of his throne."

"I'm glad that Netanyahu rebuked him over the attempted murder of the policeman," Frisch said. "I'd like to see more rebukes in the future, especially regarding the Waqf guards' role in incitement on Har Habayit." Under the terms of Israel's peace treaty with Jordan, the Jordanian-run Waqf Islamic religious trust administers the Temple Mount, but has been leading efforts to deny and erase any Jewish connection to the site.

Last July, three members of the Islamic Waqf attacked a group of archeologists at the site. The harassment continued in January, when Islamic guards tried to remove an Israeli tour guide for calling the area the "Temple Mount," insisting that he use the Islamic term "Haram al-Sharif."

While King Abdullah might have an unspoken understanding with his "Arab Street" that requires regular condemnations of Israel, the sustainability of such an arrangement remains a concern. The same Islamist forces to which he panders could eventually hobble his policy objectives, or worse.

Last October, a grassroots campaign was launched by Jordanian activists to turn off the lights to protest Jordan's gas deal with Israel. The "lights-out action came on the heels of a protest march [recently] in downtown Amman that attracted an estimated 2,500 demonstrators, making it one of the largest protests in Jordan in recent years," the Jerusalem Post reported. The protests reportedly included chants against both the gas deal and Jordan's peace with Israel.

Reflecting popular opposition, the lower house of Jordan's Parliament overwhelmingly opposed the 2014 gas deal. The opposition includes leading Jordanian trade unions, Islamists, and secularists.

By indulging public opinion with anti-Israel rhetoric, Abdullah risks encouraging and popularizing the type of movement that could eventually topple him. Jordanian Islamists recently murdered a prominent Christian writer who faced legal charges for sharing a "blasphemous" anti-ISIS cartoon that outraged Muslim groups. Honor killings are increasing in Jordan.

Last November, Jordan's highest religious authority slammed as "false and insignificant" an Israeli bill to ban the Muslim call to prayer via loudspeakers during sleeping hours throughout Israel. The Israeli bill would apply to the sound systems of all houses of worship, not only mosques, and countries like India and Egypt have enacted similar limitations.

Anti-Israel hostility might be aggravated by Jordan's overall situation. Economic woes and an influx of Syrian refugees are bringing increasing instability, Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Einat Shlein warned in March.

Frisch is less concerned: "I remember from [over 50 years ago] how the pundits predicted the Jordanian monarchy's imminent fall. My take is that... [King Abdullah] has money (Saudi and Gulf) and lots of intelligence and logistical support (Israel, US, British) and the more heterogeneous his population, the more room for maneuver [he has] to play the role of arbiter."

Although Jordan has economic challenges, the regime is stable, Ben-Dror said. "Jordanians see what is happening in Syria and Iraq and appreciate the stability the regime provides. I think that most Jordanians want to preserve the status quo – the Hashemite regime. The combination of outside support for the country and the domestic support of its citizens guarantee its survival."

Mutual interests provide some insurance for Israel-Jordan relations, Eran said. Jordan needs Israeli cooperation and expertise when it comes to "security, water and...energy... [Jordan] also needs at least a semblance of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians to prevent unrest" among Jordanian Palestinians.
Indeed, that synergy may explain why Israel's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Jordanian hostility towards Israel.

"Jordan protects Israel from the east," Zisser said. "It's better to have the Jordanians as our neighbors than to have ISIS, the Iranians, the Syrians, or the Iraqis. So security is above all, and as long as the Jordanians keep the border quiet and cooperate with Israel," the rest can be tolerated.

Still, if King Abdullah views Israel as key to his regime's success, and he also needs support from the Jordanian "street" for his regime's survival, then why – despite being the most powerful figure in Jordan – has he done so little to align public opinion with his strategic objectives? If King Abdullah can order bloody crackdowns on terrorists, can't he promote more moderate thinking among the general population, by – for example – pushing the press to include fair and balanced coverage of Israel?

"The King is not as powerful as one thinks," Zisser said. "There were many protests against corruption, unemployment etc., so... [he] needs to maneuver carefully."

But Frisch disagreed: "Abdullah has been in the throne long enough to influence and shape public opinion rather [than] pander to it. He might be doing this deliberately to derail any peace process that might lead to a Palestinian state, which he certainly does not want. He wants Israel, as the strongest state on the block to contain Palestinian nationalism and radicalism."

Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.



Crafty_Dog

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Glick on Ahlam Tamimi
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2017, 01:55:53 PM »


During their meetings yesterday with Jordanian King Abdullah, did US Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security Ray Kelly or Senior Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner bring up Ahlam Tamimi?

According to the Jordanian government press release, Abdullah was there on a "private visit," whatever that is. He didn't use his vacation to go to Disney World. He went to DC to talk to them about getting Israel to make concessions to the terrorists that run the Palestinian Authority as well as about fighting terrorism.

Well, Abdullah could do more to fight terrorism if he wanted to.

For instance, he could honor the US's extradition request for Tamimi, the mass murderer behind the 2001 Sbarro resturant bombing in Jerusalem. 15 people, including 7 children were massacred in the attack. Five members of one family were obliterated.

Tamimi is an unrepentant monster. And she's working as a TV host on Hamas TV in Amman. She uses her platform to incite terrorism.

In March Jordan rejected the US's extradition request.

How can Jordan be considered an ally in the US-led war on Islamic terrorism when Abdullah hosts Tamimi in this way?

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2017, 08:39:09 PM »
Apparently King Abdullah is in Washington meeting with President Trump, Sec Def Mattis, et al.

Crafty_Dog

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Germany moves troops from Turkey to Jordan
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2017, 12:31:44 PM »
I am told that since this piece on June 6, the Germans have acted


Posted by
Editor_Ben
Editor_Ben
June 6 in The Daily Round-Up
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Turkey on June 5, but failed to obtain an authorization for German MPs to visit German soldiers at the military base of Incirlik. Gabriel said that, as a result, Germany will have to move its soldiers away from the base. German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen confirmed that German troops in Incirlik will be moved to Jordan, to the air base of Azraq.

Based on statements from Turkey yesterday, it seemed like Germany was only initiating the first practical steps towards making a real decision on this, but reports later in the day indicate that Germany has already put everything in place and is ready to make the actual move.

The 250 German troops and associated aircraft could be expected to move from Turkey to Jordan in the near future. While in military terms only a small logistical feat, it marks another continuation of the Europe-Turkey rift within NATO.


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Stratfor: Second fatality at Isreali embassy in Amman
« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2017, 06:37:19 PM »
Jordan: Second Fatality At Israeli embassy In Amman


A second Jordanian fatality has now been confirmed as a result of a shooting incident at the Israel embassy in Jordan's capital Amman, the BBC reported July 23, citing a local security source. The incident happened in a residential building used by the Israeli embassy. Those killed are believed to have worked for a local a furniture firm and entered the building before shots were fired. Thousands of Jordanians protested in Amman July 21, upset at the installation of metal detectors at a site in East Jerusalem sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #16 on: July 24, 2017, 06:01:01 AM »
The aftermath of a July 23 shooting continued to unfold at the Israeli Embassy compound in Jordan's capital of Amman on July 24, with Israeli officials continuing work to extradite the shooter, an Israeli guard, back to Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported. A high-level official is reportedly being sent to negotiate for the return of the guard, who killed two Jordanians in the incident: a man who attacked him with a screwdriver and a second man who was in the vicinity. Israel's Foreign Ministry says the guard has immunity from investigation under diplomatic conventions.

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« Last Edit: July 24, 2017, 09:05:05 PM by Crafty_Dog »

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2017, 10:53:01 AM »
Caroline Glick on the three Green Berets

Here is a video every American -- first and foremost, President Trump, James Mattis, Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner -- should watch again and again.

They show a Jordanian soldier murdering three US green berets, Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Missouri; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, of Tucson, Arizona; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Texas. in cold blood last November 4.

For eight months, Jordan refused to release the video footage of the terror attack. The terrorist received life in prison, rather than the death sentence for this action. Initially the regime said the US soldiers were drunk or trying to run the barriers at the entrance to the Jordanian base where they were serving.
The video footage shows this is a total lie. At one point they actually put their weapons down, put their hands up and pleaded with the terrorist to leave them alone saying, "We're Americans, we're friends." He kept shooting.

At another point, Sgt. Moriarty asked for help from the Jordanian soldiers.

As the video shows, the Jordanian soldiers did nothing to help them.

After the US soldiers finally neutralized the terrorist -- no thanks to the Jordanians -- the US army asked for a medivac to come in to care for the two wounded soldiers -- Lewellen was killed on the spot. It took over an hour for the helicopter to arrive and Sgt. Mcenroe and Moriarty bled to death on the ground.

A video of their comrade setting the record straight at a memorial ceremony posted by Moriarty's father is posted in the first comment.

A video of Moriarty's father demanding explanations for his son's murder is in the second comment.

Incidentally, or not incidentally, it is interesting that after all these months of refusing to release the video, the regime decided to do it -- and to convict the terrorist but not give him the death penalty -- the same day his comrades were holding the Israeli diplomats hostage and the same day the US got Israel to let arms continue to flow onto the Temple Mount by removing the metal detectors.

But I'm sure there's no connection.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60PR47rwH-A

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2017, 08:50:30 PM »
Recently I heard a story about Israel insisting upon Jordan supplying it water.  Help in tracking this down?

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #20 on: August 10, 2017, 09:00:31 PM »
Recently I heard a story about Israel insisting upon Jordan supplying it water.  Help in tracking this down?


http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Israel-PA-agree-on-water-deal-499575

This?

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #21 on: August 11, 2017, 01:00:28 AM »
Though interesting, no-- this is the PA.

I had a Syrian taxi driver (educated man in Syria) tell me an interesting story-- something along the lines of the Jordanians wanted  of a deal wherein they provided Israel w water and the Israelis said no.

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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #22 on: August 17, 2017, 07:02:18 AM »
Forum Admin

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The Jordan Times
« Reply #23 on: August 26, 2017, 05:35:12 AM »
http://www.jordantimes.com

It should be noted that the government subsidizes it, but the the Jordan Times is a surprisingly good newspaper.

Many articles of interest give a sense of where the government is looking to lead things e.g.

http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/jd1m-allocated-build-shelter-honour-crime%E2%80%99-victims

http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/children-jordanian-women-married-foreigners-be-granted-new-higher-education-rights-%E2%80%94

WW3 gets considerable coverage as well-- many items that go unnoticed here:

http://www.jordantimes.com/news/region/erdogan-vows-thwart-any-kurdish-state%E2%80%99-syria
http://www.jordantimes.com/news/region/armed-group-stopping-migrant-boats-leaving-libya

This includes big picture editorials that read like the editorial board may have been lurking here  :lol:
http://www.jordantimes.com/opinion/editorial/assessment-consider



Jihadi terrorism is consistently denounced by King Abdullah and Jihadi attacks are noted
http://www.jordantimes.com/news/world/moroccan-asylum-seeker-targeted-women%E2%80%99-finland-terror-stabbing


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Re: Jordan:
« Reply #25 on: August 28, 2017, 06:58:56 AM »
From https://clarionproject.org/trump-promises-youngstown/

“We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan…”

King Abdullah was singled out by Trump as one of America’s partners who realize the “ideology of death must be extinguished.” Yet, in a speech Abdullah gave to the U.N. General Assembly in which he addressed “extremist terrorists” and their desire to “erase human civilization, and drag us back to the dark ages,” he chided Western officials, media leaders and policy makers for not understanding the “true nature of Islam,” which he said “teaches that all humanity is equal in dignity. There is no distinction among different nations or regions or races. The Qur’an forbids coercion in religion. Every citizen is guaranteed the state’s protection for their lives, families, properties, honor, privacy, and freedom of religion and thought.”

Clearly, part of Trump’s challenge with such “American partners,” is their failure to acknowledge the extremist parts of Islam that contribute to Islamist terror – namely the lack of religious freedom in Islamic societies including Jordan (as well as a host of others who are called “American partners.”)

Islamic blasphemy is on the books in Jordan. Also, in Jordan, Jews are not even allowed to pray in private or wear hidden articles of Jewish significance.

During the recent crisis on the Temple Mount in Israel – in which Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to the mount after weapons were smuggled inside and used to kill Israeli police officers guarding the site for all worshipers — King Abdullah sided with the Waqf, the Islamic authority that administers the site and which demanded the metal detectors be removed. After the crisis was resolved (through Israel removing the detectors), Abdullah promptly pledged $1.4 million to the Waqf, which refuses to allow any prayer at the site except Islamic prayer.

===============================================

I post this because it brings up a few things I did not know, but IMHO is misleading because of things it leaves out:

a) Israel has an embassy in Amman and when a Isreali security guard killed two Jordanians under circumstances under dispute, he was allowed to leave due to diplomatic immunity;
b) King A. consistently denounces jihadi kamikaze attacks wherever they occur.  It is perfectly reasonable for him to take the tack of saying that Daesh and its ilk are not really Islam-- see Reply#7 above
c) King A. consistently manifests openness with Christianity.  Churches need not hide and the Crusader era monastery at Mt. Ebdo (where Moses got to see the Promised Land that God would not let him enter) has been lovingly restored and is hosted by Catholic monks and has been visited by the Pope.

Worth noting is that some 60% (working from memory here) of his population is Palestinian and he has over one million Syrian refugees.  Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2017, 07:02:13 AM by Crafty_Dog »

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GPF: Syria's Shattered Future
« Reply #27 on: September 08, 2017, 04:36:51 PM »
A few small, but important references to Jordan in this major piece of analysis-- the maps will not print here:


Syria’s Shattered Future
Sep 7, 2017

Editor’s Note: This Deep Dive was adapted from a piece originally produced for the Valdai Discussion Club, an institute devoted to analyzing Russia’s place in the world. The full version can be accessed here.

Summary

It’s useful to look at the past to predict the future. Little that happens in the world is truly new, and lessons can be learned from the way things transpired before. So, in trying to picture Syria’s future, observing the events that shaped present-day Lebanon is a useful exercise. Lebanon is much smaller than Syria, and its ethnic groups were more evenly proportioned before its civil war. Even so, in 1975, it went to war – and at war it stayed for 15 years. We expect Syria’s civil war – which is already midway through its sixth year – to last at least as long.

Lebanon’s post-war years haven’t exactly been peaceful either. Syria’s will be worse. The U.S. and Russia are working under the public supposition that Syria can be put back together once the fighting stops. They want a lot of the same things: to defeat the Islamic State and al-Qaida, then to build a new political system in the country. But Russia also wants to destroy any other rebel group fighting the Syrian regime, which Russia maintains is the legitimate government in the country, while the U.S. wants to form a new political system that is democratic and that excludes President Bashar Assad. They’re both likely to be disappointed. Syria is a broken country, and no amount of diplomatic handwringing or bombing is going to put it back together.

Demographic Chaos

The reason is simple: ethnic and sectarian chaos. The single-largest population group within the country is Sunni Arabs, whose main political forces are the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Free Syrian Army (not counting the large number of Sunnis who still support the Assad regime). The U.S. and Russia will not accept a political system built around either of the first two forces, and the Free Syrian Army is too weak to defeat the radical Islamists or the Assad regime.

It is impossible to know the exact demographic breakdown of the country today because of the fighting and migration, but before the war, roughly 68 percent of Syria was Sunni. Of that, 10 percent was Kurdish and the rest was Arab. Alawites made up another 11 percent of the total population. We can assume that the country remains divided between three groups: Alawites, Syrian Kurds and Sunni Arabs. The Alawites are loyal to Assad; the Syrian Kurds are loyal to the People’s Protection Units, or YPG; and the Arabs are divided – some Islamist, some champions of Assad, and all competing for influence.


(click to enlarge)

The Assad regime, the Alawites and other minorities that Assad protects will never consent to democracy in Syria. To do so would open those communities to certain reprisal by Sunni Arab forces should they come to power. The same is true of the Syrian Kurds, who, despite being the smallest and newest Kurdish population in a Middle Eastern country, have secured a de facto state for themselves and are taking as much territory as they can to try to lend strategic depth to their indefensible position on the border with Turkey. Even if an agreement emerged that all sides agreed to, the system would collapse just as the U.S.-backed political system in Iraq collapsed.

Many of the areas dominated by Sunni Arabs are in the desert, in cities hugging the Euphrates River. Attacking these cities is difficult: It requires long supply lines through the desert, which invites the kind of guerrilla tactics at which IS excels. Similarly, the Alawite stronghold on the coast is mountainous and thus very defensible. Little suggests that these dynamics will change soon.

The most likely scenario is that Syria will eventually be divided into three main areas. The first area will be controlled by the remnants of the Assad regime, which will maintain authority over the major cities and the coastal strongholds that are the Alawites’ core territories. The second area will be the Syrian Kurdish territories. There are two main pockets of Syrian Kurds: an isolated and small group in Afrin canton and a larger group in northeastern Syria, which before the breakout of war had significant natural resources and decent farmland. The Syrian Kurdish territories are on a relatively flat plain and are vulnerable to attack, both from IS and from Turkey, which has thus far not attacked the Syrian Kurds besides the occasional artillery shelling.


(click to enlarge)

The third area will be a lawless swath of Sunni Arab territory. The precise names of the groups and the ideologies they employ are almost impossible to track, but they will be fighting each other for supremacy in these areas, as well as launching opportunistic attacks against Assad forces and Syrian Kurdish forces. Fighters will continue to move across the porous Iraq-Syria border and will increasingly put pressure on neighboring countries.

IS, al-Qaida and the Power of Ideas

This Sunni Arab territory deserves a closer look, specifically at the future of jihadist forces not just in Syria but throughout the region. The Islamic State and al-Qaida are the most substantial of these forces today, but this will not always be the case. Eventually, IS and al-Qaida will lose their strongholds. They will melt back into the civilian population until foreign forces leave. Another group may arise in their place, or they may regenerate their fiefs and even try to grab more land to the south, greatly straining two Sunni Arab countries that have thus far stayed out of the fray: Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They will not be able to stay on the sidelines forever.

At its height of IS expansion, the lands it controlled amounted to roughly 50,000 square kilometers (19,500 square miles), roughly the size of Croatia. Taking into account the sparsely populated deserts and other areas where IS can operate with relative freedom, even though it is not directly in control, this territory expands to approximately 250,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Great Britain.

The U.S. State Department boasts on its website that U.S. coalition partners have recaptured 62 percent of IS territory in Iraq and 30 percent in Syria. In war, such statistics are meaningless. What matters is not the size of the territory but whether that territory is strategically important. So far, anti-IS forces in Syria and Iraq have not conquered enough territory from the Islamic State to cripple its ability to operate.

The Islamic State’s core territory is the stretch of land from Raqqa to Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria. The most recent Syrian census, done in 2004, estimated that close to half a million people lived in these two cities alone. In recent weeks, this territory has come under serious threat. Syrian Kurdish forces have closed in on Raqqa, and despite the Islamic State’s diversionary attacks, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have advanced methodically on the city. Meanwhile, the Russia-backed Syrian army has been making gains of its own. Syrian government forces crossed into Raqqa province at the beginning of June, and more important, they have begun an offensive into eastern Syria targeting Deir el-Zour and al-Mayadin.


(click to enlarge)

All evidence seems to indicate that the Islamic State has chosen to retreat from Raqqa to reinforce its position in Deir el-Zour and al-Mayadin. The SDF has made progress in Raqqa, but notably, it left the main highway heading east out of the city open. For months, reports have said IS fighters were leaving the city. When IS convoys have attempted to head west, Russia has made a point of targeting them, but there seems to be a coordinated effort between U.S. and Russian allies on the ground to push IS into a smaller area in eastern Syria that will eventually be attacked head on.

This would all seem to suggest that the defeat of the Islamic State is nigh. That would be a premature judgment. The hallmark of the Islamic State’s military capabilities has been its ability to avoid costly defeats. IS routinely retreats from positions it knows it cannot defend, regroups and then launches new attacks where its enemies are unprepared for them. If it turns out IS cannot protect its territory against the approaching forces, the most likely course of action is that IS fighters will withdraw or blend into the civilian population and give up the city without a fight. For all of the Islamic State’s religious bravado, it has shown itself to be pragmatic in its approach to war, and it would be out of character for it to make a suicidal stand against incoming forces. IS uses suicide bombs for offensive purposes; it does not view suicide in defense as any more noble than defeat.

Even if the physical caliphate is destroyed, the Islamic State’s ideology will persist in a region that is ripe for recruitment. The attacking armies are united in their opposition to IS but will find little in the way of a common cause if the Islamic State’s territorial integrity is broken. They will instead take to fighting among themselves, opening up new spaces for IS to capitalize on and return. The forces will eventually have to withdraw from formerly IS-held territories to attack al-Qaida and other targets in Syria as well, which will mean IS can bide its time. The Islamic State is playing a long game, and its religious ideology can and will preach patience to the faithful. It will not conceded defeat.

Al-Qaida’s position in Syria is more tenuous than the Islamic State’s, and as a result, al-Qaida is not seen as an equal threat and has been able to fly much more under the radar than its territorially focused offshoot. In Syria, the group has changed its name several times (the latest incarnation is Tahrir al-Sham), but it would be a mistake to call it anything but what it is: al-Qaida in Syria. Al-Qaida in Syria has tried to forge connections with other Syrian rebel groups and has captured fiefdoms of its own outside of Aleppo and Idlib. It has fewer fighters than IS, but like the IS fighters, they are extremely capable and have proved much more successful on the battlefield than any of the moderate Syrian rebel groups.

Al-Qaida is surrounded, however, by Syrian government forces. It is only a matter of time before the regime turns its attention to the group. The U.S. has said repeatedly that it plans to solve the IS problem before targeting al-Qaida, and one reason it can afford that approach is that it knows Assad and Russia view al-Qaida, which is closer to the heartland of the regime, as their more pressing problem. Once the Assad regime focuses the bulk of its forces on al-Qaida’s territories in and around Idlib, al-Qaida will gradually have to retreat and blend into the civilian population. The operation to retake these areas will come with mass executions and purges of all suspected al-Qaida sympathizers and collaborators.

The result is that likely in the next one to three years, the entities in Syria currently known as the Islamic State and al-Qaida will be dislodged from full control of their possessions. But the problem is not defeating these groups or taking their lands; with sufficient manpower and foreign support, these groups’ grip over their territories can be loosened if not broken entirely for a time. The problem is that unless a foreign force occupies these territories, the groups will reconstitute themselves and recapture the land they lost. And there is no country in the world whose strategic interests are served by holding territory in the middle of the Syrian and Iraqi deserts indefinitely.

Fighting groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida takes place on two levels. The first is the military level. Tactical difficulties stand in the way of victory, but they can be overcome. The second level, however, is the realm of ideas. That radical Islamist ideology has a force of its own is indisputable at this point. For whatever reason – the lack of economic opportunity, the history of colonial oppression, whatever – this ideology has given meaning and organization to a generation of people.

In this sense, then, the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the myriad other groups that have sprouted up out of the power vacuum left by the civil war are unbeatable, because it is impossible to defeat an idea. This is a civil war between Muslims in the Middle East. The religious wars of Europe around the time of the Enlightenment each took decades if not centuries to play out before a somewhat stable system of political entities emerged. (And even this system eventually became so unbalanced that in the 20th century it twice brought the entire world into war.) There is no reason to expect that the Muslim wars will take less time than that, nor is there reason to believe that the U.S. or Russia or any outside power will be able to subdue these forces with the right combination of coalition fighters.

The best that can be achieved is containing these forces where they are. For the U.S., preventing their spread south into countries it counts among its allies is of prime importance. For Russia, preventing their spread north into the Caucasus is the bigger priority. Either way, the two sides share an interest in keeping these religious wars confined, as much as possible, to the deserts of the Middle East, rather than the streets of Manhattan or the subway stations of St. Petersburg.
Smoke billows in the embattled northern Syrian city of Raqqa on Sept. 3, 2017, as Syrian Democratic Forces battle to retake the city from the Islamic State. DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images

When it comes to Syria, then, the U.S. and Russia are already working together even if they don’t include each other in their coalitions. The tacit coordination in the Raqqa and Deir el-Zour offensives is evidence enough of that. Neither wants to see radical Islamism spread into its spheres of influence. Neither wants or has the forces available to commit to conquering radical Islamism in Syria and Iraq – and policing the territories after the fact. The U.S. and Russia do not see eye to eye on the legitimacy of the Assad regime, but the U.S. does not have the luxury of pushing for Assad’s downfall; what would arise in his place might be far worse. The U.S. will continue to search for partners to keep IS in a cage, and Russia will continue to prop up Assad as he eventually moves on to targeting al-Qaida. And while Russia and the U.S. continue to butt heads in other parts of the world, in this part of the world, they will quietly work, perhaps not quite together, but still in pursuit of a similar goal.

Great Power Politics

But the Syrian civil war will not stay contained in Syria. Even if the U.S. and Russia succeed in keeping radical Islamism bottled up in the country, Syria has become a battleground for proxies supported by countries around the Middle East. Here, too, Russia and the U.S. share an overarching goal, but occasional disagreements may arise. The only way this could be derailed is if both sides fail to put their Cold War rivalry behind them.

The balance of power in the Middle East mattered during the Cold War – when the region was responsible for a much greater share of global oil production than it is today, and when the balance of power in all regions mattered. The region’s wars were not just local; they were between the U.S. and the USSR. But those days are over. Now, Russia is back to Soviet-era levels of oil production. The U.S. has become one of the top oil producers in the world and no longer depends as much on the Middle East. And despite U.S.-Russia tensions since the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004, there is no current conflict between the two that has the same weight as the Cold War.

Russia in 2017 is smaller, weaker and less ideological than its Soviet predecessor. This does not mean Russia has given up its position as a global power, but it does mean that a region like the Middle East is less important than it once was. Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia – all former Soviet lands – are far more important for Russia’s continued power. What the Middle East offers, however, is a chance to distract the U.S. from interfering in the regions where Russia cannot afford to lose influence, as well as the potential to inflate the price of oil – Russia’s top export – by hampering Middle East producers.

The U.S., meanwhile, has been desperately searching for a way out of the Middle East since 2007. The Bush administration tried to end the Iraq War with the overwhelming force of the troop surge, which had no lasting effect. The Obama administration tried to do as little as possible, and when it did act, its policy was largely incoherent. The Trump administration now seems to be contemplating a kind of surge of its own, which is sure to be ineffective. If Russia wanted to take over management of the Middle East and its crises, the U.S. would welcome it. The point is that the Middle East is no longer a battleground for world power. It is an annoyance that neither Russia nor the U.S. particularly wants to face.

The main threat for the U.S. is that a country or group of countries will come to dominate the entire region. Besides the threat of Islamist terrorism, the U.S. views IS and its sister groups as potential unifiers of the Sunni Arab world against the United States. It also views these groups as a direct threat to the countries the U.S. depends on to maintain a balance of power in the region, particularly Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Egypt is an economic basket case with an active IS insurgency of its own in Sinai. That Jordan has gone this long unscathed is a minor miracle. According to the U.N. refugee agency, Jordan has received over 650,000 Syrian refugees since 2011 – and those are just the registered ones. Syrian nationals now make up more than 20 percent of Jordan’s population. Saudi Arabia has built the legitimacy of its political system on all the generous services that petrodollars can buy. The decline in oil prices and the kingdom’s diminished share of global production have already manifested in significant cuts to social services and to the privileges of the royal family. Saudi Arabia is a breeding ground for the types of Islamist ideologies that have broken Syria and Iraq apart, and the Islamist groups want little more than to control the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The U.S. upended the regional balance of power in 2003, and in recent years it has tried to re-establish it on the backs of four states: Turkey, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel is too small to balance against Turkey and Iran, which makes Saudi Arabia a crucial part of the equation. Without the Saudis, the region devolves into a contest between the Turks and the Iranians, and Turkey has the edge in military strength, economic heft and geography. It would win out in the long term. The U.S. and Turkey have been allies for many decades, and Turkey is a NATO member, but Turkey is strong and growing stronger, and more and more it is disagreeing with Washington on major issues of national interest. Turkey is not yet strong enough to challenge the U.S. on these issues, but that time is coming. When it does, the U.S. will want to be sure that the Turks cannot dominate the Middle East unimpeded.

This is another area where the interests of Russia and the U.S. converge. Turkey and Russia have a long history of war between them. The most recent major incident between them was in 2015, when Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft over northern Syria. They have since resolved the dispute, but relations remain uneasy and complicated. As Russia weakens and Turkey rises, Turkey will start to challenge Russian influence in the Caucasus and the Balkans, areas that for Russia hold greater strategic significance than any country in the Middle East.

This is why Russia and the U.S. have both, to varying degrees, reached out to Syria’s Kurds. In March, the Syrian Kurds said Russia had agreed to build a base in northern Syria and to send military personnel to train the YPG. Russia’s Ministry of Defense disputed this depiction, saying it was setting up a “reconciliation center.” Whatever it is called, the construction is a symbol of closer relations.

The U.S., for its part, has come to rely on the Syrian Kurds as the largest ground force in Syria that is both able and willing to take on the Islamic State directly. The Obama administration tacitly supported the Syrian Kurds, but the Trump administration went a step further in May when it announced that it would supply them with weapons to fight the Islamic State.

Russian and U.S. support has not gone unnoticed in Turkey’s capital. In the same way that Ukraine is of fundamental importance to Russia, or that Cuba is to the U.S., the Kurdish issue is crucial for Turkey. It is also the one issue that could significantly complicate Turkey’s rise to power. The Kurds in Syria are not the problem – at least, they are not the only problem. The issue is that Kurds, with all their separatist ambitions, make up about 18 percent of Turkey’s population – about 14 million people – and most of them live in the southeastern part of the country near Syria. The Kurds are not a monolithic group; the roughly 29 million to 35 million Kurds in the Middle East speak different languages, have different tribal and national loyalties, and even have different religious faiths. But Syria’s Kurds are closely related to Turkey’s Kurds. In Turkey’s eyes, the YPG is the same level of strategic threat as IS or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party militant group, or PKK.

Both the U.S. and Russia have an interest, then, in preventing Turkey from intervening in Syria in any capacity beyond fighting the Islamic State. For one thing, Turkey is anti-Assad, and the rebel groups with which it is closest are ideologically incompatible with the U.S. and Russia. For another, Turkey would try to destroy the Syrian Kurdish statelet that has popped up during the war for fear that the spirit of independence might spread into Turkey’s own Kurdish region in the southeast, which has seen more and more clashes in the past two years between the PKK and Turkish security forces. The stronger both the Syrian Kurds and the Assad regime are, the harder it will be for Turkey to extend its power into the Levant, and the greater the balance against Turkey in the region will be as its strength grows over the next two decades.

Iran is another part of the equation, and here the intersection of U.S. and Russian interests is more complicated. The U.S. signed the nuclear deal with Iran because it needed Iran’s help to contain Islamic State forces in Iraq, but the U.S. also does not want to see Baghdad and the Shiite parts of Iraq become de facto provinces of Iran. The Americans need Iran’s help – and over the long term need Iran as a counterweight to Turkish power – but they will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. They will block any attempt by Iran to establish regional dominance, just as they would stop Turkey from forming a unified Sunni Arab force.

Russian relations with Iran have historically been fraught, but at the moment they are positive. This is in part because Iran supports the Assad regime and views every group in the region that is not Sunni as a potential proxy group. Iran’s Shiite proxies, such as Hezbollah, are also important for keeping up the fight against the Islamic State. Unlike the U.S., Russia is not too concerned with Iran’s westward expansion. It would not, however, tolerate Persian influence in the Caucasus any more than it would accept Turkish influence there.

The U.S. and Russia are not in total agreement in the Middle East, but their disagreements are not close to reaching the scale of the Cold War. And they both share a desire to limit the spread of Islamist ideology and to prevent any country or group in the Middle East from rising to challenge their interests. They will continue to compete in some ways – supporting groups in Syria that are fighting groups the other supports, for instance – but they ultimately want the same thing: for the Middle East’s problems to stay in the Middle East.

Syria’s immediate future, then, is bleak and will be marred by more years of war and Islamist insurgency. IS and al-Qaida will suffer defeats but will not be defeated. Turkey will rise. Saudi Arabia will fall. Iran will scheme. The Kurds will fight. And neither the U.S. nor Russia will be able to wash their hands of the region as this chaos unfolds.

The U.S. and Russia took different routes to Syria – the U.S. through the war on terror and a botched invasion of Iraq, Russia through a revolution in Ukraine and an unexpected drop in oil prices – but both are there to stay. They are at odds in many parts of the world, especially in Eastern Europe. But in the Middle East, they will work side by side – if not together – to eliminate IS and al-Qaida and prevent the emergence of any dominant regional power. The U.S. and Russia face different challenges from an unstable Middle East and will disagree over many of the particulars, but at the broadest level they will be working toward the same goal: a predictable balance of power. The Cold War is over, but for great powers, the world is a small place. The U.S. and Russia cannot help but run into each other.

The post Syria’s Shattered Future appeared first on Geopolitics | Geopolitical Futures.



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Glick: From Amman to Jerusalem
« Reply #32 on: December 06, 2017, 05:52:44 AM »
http://carolineglick.com/from-amman-to-jerusalem/

Five months ago, 28 year old Ziv Moyal, an Israeli security officer at Israel’s embassy in Amman, was stabbed in his apartment by a Jordanian assailant, whom he shot and killed.

Moyal also accidentally killed his Jordanian landlord, who was present on the scene.

(MARC:  This sounds rather odd to me.  Any chance that this is not the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth?  Is this the same incident that was earlier reported as something about two furniture guys shot by an Israeli or was that a different incident?)

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, incited by the state-controlled media, the Jordanian public was whipped into an anti-Israel frenzy. In short order, a mob surrounded the embassy, to which Moyal and another 20 Israeli diplomats fled immediately after the shooting.

For 24 hours, those Israeli diplomats, led by Ambassador Einat Schlein were besieged.

Despite the fact that they are barred from doing so under the Vienna Convention, Jordanian authorities demanded to interrogate Moyal. By refusing to enable the diplomats to safely return to Israel until Moyal submitted to questioning, they effectively held Schlein and her colleagues hostage.

It took the intervention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the life-threatening crisis. The price Jordan’s King Abdullah II exacted for the freedom and protection of Israel’s diplomatic personnel was high. In exchange for their safe passage, Netanyahu agreed to permit Jordanian officials to be present during Moyal’s questioning by Israeli officials. He also succumbed to Abdullah’s demand that Israeli police remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount, which had been deployed a few days before amid wide-scale violence by Muslim worshipers against Jews.

Since its diplomats were evacuated in July, Israel’s embassy has been closed. Jordan has refused to permit Schlein to return to her duties and has insisted that Moyal be tried for the death of his assailant and his landlord.

It was reported Wednesday that in the interest of ending the diplomatic crisis and reopening Israel’s embassy, Netanyahu has decided to promote Schlein to a senior position in the Foreign Ministry and appoint a replacement.

But Jordan isn’t interested in ending the crisis it deliberately precipitated.

On Thursday, Reuters quoted a Jordanian diplomatic source saying that a new Israeli ambassador “will not be welcome in Jordan until a due legal process takes its course [against Moyal] and justice is served.”

So, unless Israel criminally prosecutes its diplomat who was attacked in his home by a terrorist, Jordan will continue to breach its peace treaty with Israel and bar the Israeli embassy from operating in Amman.

Jordan’s latest round of diplomatic war against Israel took place while Abdullah was in Washington on a “working visit.”

More often than not, Abdullah, who is touted by the US as a moderate leader and a US ally, spends his visits in Washington lobbying against Israel. And, given his reputation as a moderate, he is usually successful.

This week’s visit was no different.

According to the Jordanian media – which he controls – Abdullah is devoting significant time in his meetings with senior administration and Congressional officials to attacking Israel.

Specifically, Abdullah is lobbying against President Donald Trump’s intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with US law.

By December 4, Trump will have to sign a semi-annual waiver of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.

The act requires the State Department to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If Trump doesn’t sign the waiver, the embassy will automatically be moved to Jerusalem, in accordance with the law.

Speculation that Trump may refuse to sign the waiver was raised this week by Vice President Mike Pence. In his speech at a UN event marking the 70th anniversary of the UN vote to end the British Mandate in the land of Israel and partition the land between a Jewish state and an Arab state, Pence made clear that moving the embassy is being actively discussed.

According the Times of Jordan, Abdullah told senior US lawmakers that “moving the embassy… could be potentially exploited by terrorists to stoke anger, frustration and desperation in order to spread their ideologies.”

During his visit, Abdullah also met with Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

Although Jordanian media reports of those visits did not include information regarding the possible move of the US embassy, it stands to reason that Abdullah made similar points to Pence, Tillerson and McMaster.

It can only be hoped that Abdullah’s warnings were rebuked by his American interlocutors.

Because, if terrorists are motivated to act in the wake of a US decision to move the embassy, Jordan will hold a significant share of the blame.

To understand why, it is important to remember what happened last July in Amman. Had Abdullah ordered his media organs to either tell the truth about what happened at Moyal’s apartment or simply not report the incident at all until the embassy staff were safely in Israel, the diplomatic crisis would have been averted.

Abdullah chose, instead, to stoke the passions of his people, which wasn’t difficult. Thanks to decades of antisemitic incitement at the hands of his media, school system and religious authorities, the people of Jordan are overwhelmingly antisemitic. And this suits Abdullah just fine. He, too, is largely sympathetic to anti-Israeli terrorism and terrorists.

Last March, for instance, Abdullah rejected the US’s extradition request for Hamas terrorist and mass murderer Ahlam Tamimi, the mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem.

Fifteen people, including eight children were murdered in the attack. Tamimi selected the Sbarro pizzeria as her target because of the large number of children who frequented the eatery during summer vacation.

She was sentenced to 16 life-in-prison sentences, but was released in Israel’s exchange of Hamas terrorists for captive IDF sergeant Gilad Schalit in 2011. Upon her release, she moved to Amman where Abdullah gave her the red carpet treatment. In her new home, Tamimi hosts a show on Hamas’s television station. She uses her platform to incite terrorism and indoctrinate her viewers to aspire to murder Israelis, as she did.

Several of Tamimi’s victims at Sbarro were American citizens, including 15-year-old Malki Roth and 31-year-old Shoshana Judy Greenbaum.

Greenbaum was five months pregnant when her body was blown apart.

By harboring Tamimi, Abdullah tells his subjects they are right to hate Israelis and to work toward Israel’s destruction.

This brings us to the question of Trump’s possible decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Israel’s capital.

By having his media spew a constant diet of genocidal antisemitism, Abdullah is all but guaranteeing that the terrorism he warns of will occur if Trump enforces US law and moves the embassy. So he is not speaking as a worried friend when he tells his American hosts of the dire consequences of moving the embassy. He is threatening them with an outcome for which he will have significant responsibility.

One of the reasons Abdullah feels comfortable making the argument that moving the embassy will provoke terrorism is because that is the argument that has been used successfully to block the transfer of the US embassy to Israel in the past.

But, in October, we received a clear indication that these Chicken Little warnings are untrue.

In October, Trump overruled Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster, and chose not to tell Congress that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal the Iranians were breaching. Supporters of the nuclear deal in the administration and outside of it warned that such a move would have a deeply destabilizing impact on the region and endanger the US.

As the past three months have shown, those warnings were entirely wrong.

The world did not explode after Trump rejected the received wisdom of the foreign policy establishment in Washington. Instead, the US’s Sunni-Arab allies have been empowered to join forces to combat Iran. Economically and diplomatically, Iran is far more isolated globally today than it was three months ago.

Moreover, freed from the need to pretend that Iran is a credible actor in the international community, Trump can base US policy toward Iran on reality.

No, Trump has not mapped out a clear strategy for containing and scaling back Iranian power. If he had, the US would have stopped arming and funding the Iranian-controlled Lebanese Armed Forces by now.

But, at least he hasn’t based an Iran policy on fantasy as his predecessor Barack Obama did.

Moreover, even the limited steps Trump has taken toward developing a strategy for dealing with Iran have been effective and rational. For instance, to protect the nuclear deal and maintain its claim that Iran was formally complying with its terms, the Obama administration paid the Iranian regime $8.6 million to buy heavy water that Iran produced in excess of the quantities permitted under the nuclear deal.

This week, the White House announced that it would stop this practice. As a National Security Council spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon, “The United States is not planning to purchase any Iranian heavy water. We have made it clear to Iran that it is their responsibility to remain under the heavy water limit.”

In summary, disaster did not strike after Trump bucked the collected wisdom of the entire foreign policy elite in Washington, including his top three national security advisers. To the contrary, things improved. By basing his policy on reality, Trump expanded his maneuver room, empowered US allies and began basing US policies toward Iran on reality.

By the same token, if Trump disregards Abdullah’s threats posing as warnings, and disregards the advice of Abdullah’s many friends in Washington, and moves the US embassy to Jerusalem, the sky will not fall. By recognizing the basic fact that Jerusalem is and always will be Israel’s capital, Trump will give himself the ability to develop Middle East policies that are similarly grounded in reality.

By calling the bluff of the myriad experts that insist recognizing reality will bring war, Trump can expand US power, credibility and deterrence in an unstable region. Far from causing a war, Trump can diminish the chance of war by demanding that Jordan and other disingenuous allies stop empowering jihadists and terrorists.

To this end, rather than heeding Abdullah’s threats of violence, Trump can tell Abdullah to prevent that violence by ending his media’s antisemitic incitement; extraditing Tamimi to the US; accepting the credentials of the Israeli ambassador; and reopening the Israeli embassy in Amman.

Truth is a powerful weapon. Once you base your foreign policy on it, there is no limit to the potential effectiveness of that policy in preventing war and expanding the prospects of true and lasting peace.


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Stratfor: Jordan and Jerusalem
« Reply #33 on: December 08, 2017, 03:57:14 AM »
Jordan, where Palestinians make up nearly half the population, will also have to deal with the fallout from Jerusalem's new designation. Just five months after a security guard at the Israeli Embassy in Amman killed two Jordanians, one of them by accident, the United States' announcement will further fuel outrage in Jordan against Israel. Jordanians will take to the streets to try to force their king to justify the existence of the country's 1994 peace treaty with Israel. At the same time, the powerful Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood will capitalize on the incident to gather strength in the country's parliament while eroding the monarchy's legitimacy. Attacks on the monarchy, in turn, could slow, if not reverse, Jordan's efforts at structural economic reform.

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Jordan Times on Jerusalem vote
« Reply #35 on: December 22, 2017, 04:48:19 PM »

World countries support justice despite intimidation

Dec 21,2017 - Last updated at Dec 21,2017
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Might does not make right. This was expressed clearly by the vast majority of the world countries when they defied pressure and intimidation and voted at the UN General Assembly in favour of a motion rejecting a US decision to recognise the occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) emergency session on Jerusalem was convened Thursday specifically to overrule the US veto earlier this week of a Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling the US decision as null and void and urging Washington to rescind it.

True, the General Assembly resolution does not have the force of law, being only a recommendation. Its political import and implications are, nevertheless, far reaching.

UN General Assembly resolutions reflect the conscience and the will of the international community at large on issues that threaten regional or international peace and security.

The just adopted UNGA resolution once again referred to Jerusalem's unique spiritual, religious and cultural features and viewed the holy city as a final status issue to be freely negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Like the just defeated UNSC resolution, the UNGA resolution deeply regretted recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem, thus alluding to President Donald Trump's controversial position on Jerusalem without naming him.

The operative paragraphs of the resolution reaffirmed past UN resolutions on Jerusalem and considered any decision or action that "purports to alter the character, status or demographic composition of Jerusalem as having no legal effect and therefore null and void".

The overwhelming support to the resolution came therefore as a strong rebuke to the US for its defiance of practically the entire international community.

Yet the US remained defiant. President Trump said in so many words on the eve of the UNSC's debate of the issue of Jerusalem that he is issuing an ultimatum to all nations which oppose his position on Jerusalem by threatening to cut down or withdraw  completely US financial or economic aid to them. So much for democracy and free will!

This intimidation along with extortion tactics continued during the consideration of the same issue by the UN General Assembly. US Ambassador Nikky Haley, in defiance of the world community and the principle of justice, said that the decision about where the US embassy would be located is strictly a US decision that the UN cannot and must not interfere with, warning that her country was “taking names” of countries opposing its decision. Haley was thus ignoring the many UN resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the fact that Jerusalem is an occupied city, that the US was supposed to be playing the role of an “honest” broker of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and that justice will eventually be achieved for the Palestinian people no matter how long it would take.

Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of the UNGA did not think like the US and did not cave in to Washington’s pressure and intimidation, voting for what they thought was right.

Never before in the history of the UN did any member of the UN openly dared to intimidate other member states to follow in its footsteps or face the consequences! This open extortion tactic is alien to the UN and should be avoided at all costs especially by a permanent member of the UNSC irrespective of the merits or demerits of the criticisms levelled against the UN and its members.

What the US administration should have done under the circumstances is to inform the UNGA that it will take due note of its resolution and give it appropriate consideration instead of maintaining a defiant posture.

The friendly US people are not to blame for the decision by their administration and should be aware that instead of siding with one party of the conflict, their country can be a strong force for achieving justice and consequently peace.

They have to realise that the 12 million Palestinian people — half of them living on their land  between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea and the rest in the diaspora — will not vanish in thin air, will not accept any substitute for their homeland and will not relinquish their rights to Jerusalem as the capital of their state. They are ready to do it peacefully, or to wait no matter how long it takes.

Their aspirations, as shown by Thursday’s vote, are supported by the overwhelming majority of the world countries who still believe in justice and peace.

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GPF: King Abdullah removes two brothers from top army posts
« Reply #36 on: January 02, 2018, 11:26:43 AM »
Jordanian King Abdullah removed two of his brothers, Prince Faisal and Prince Ali, from top army posts. The palace has since warned that it would take legal measures against anyone who propagates “lies and false claims” in social media about the removals. What’s really behind the shake-up? What is stoking the palace’s fear about instability?

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Jordan Times: Jordan's foreign relations
« Reply #37 on: January 02, 2018, 11:34:09 AM »
second post of day:

Jordan’s foreign relations

Dec 31,2017 - Last updated at Dec 31,2017
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In recent weeks, there has been much commentary in Jordan on the importance of taking a new approach to Jordan’s bilateral relations. Strategically, it is imperative that Jordan continues to diversify its options, but this must be done with a clear plan and idea rather than clichés and propaganda.

Global political dynamics have shifted, particularly with respect to the Middle East. From the Syrian crisis to the first dual Chinese and Russian UN Security Council veto in 2012, the ground has been shifting beneath us for a few years now. We must rebuild our bilateral relations based on these changes, and the potential changes over the coming years.

Clearly, for a country like Jordan making a radical change in bilateral relations is not possible. The Jordanian alliances with Gulf states and the US are historic and cannot be changed in one day. However, we must face the new dynamics in the region and build relationships with new power brokers and influencers.

Political policies should be based on building economic independency so for a dependent economy like Jordan’s, it is difficult to fathom any radical shifts in alliances. We must consider and devise ways to move towards economic independence, including an effective food security plan. We are so reliant on US aid, that three ministers and the President of the Aqaba authority hosted a red carpet ceremony a few months ago to receive a donation of wheat from America.

Our bilateral relations must also reflect our geography and our neighbours, particularly as they have a great impact on our internal politics. If Jordan is to have any influence in the rebuilding of Syria and Iraq, then we need to consider how to transform the north of the country into an industrial and commercial hub for rebuilding Syria.

However, in order to be able to attract industrial investment from Europe and Asia, we must have a strategy for engaging with and rebuilding relations with Damascus.  We need a similar strategy for Iraq. We have the potential to attract large agricultural and energy projects, but we need strategic cooperation with Russia, China and Germany to bring that investment in.

We must diversify our options, through long-term strategy and vision and finding mutual interests with new and diverse political players. We cannot follow populism, short-termism or the easiest path to our next aid donation. By the same token we cannot follow calls to build relations to Iran in response to US policy as there is no clear path to a better outcome for Jordan.

Jordan clearly needs to reconsider its policies and bilateral relations. However, a new approach must be focussed on establishing economic independence, building industry and better outcomes for Jordan and its people. We cannot engage in petty regional or global politics, as that is likely to leave us as we are now, relying on aid and donations and forever reliant on others.

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2013 KASOTC
« Reply #38 on: January 18, 2018, 12:10:32 PM »


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/magazine/sleep-away-camp-for-postmodern-cowboys.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130721

The men of Team America were missing an assault rifle. “Everybody pulled a rifle, right, guys?” Eric asked. A 38-year-old ex-Navy lieutenant, he had blond hair to his shoulders and a few days’ worth of deployment stubble.

 “We’re supposed to have eight,” Brian said. He and Eric worked SWAT together in Virginia and sometimes hunted together, too.

Brandon, 33, had six 9-millimeter Glock pistols stuffed in his pockets. He surveyed the room: “Two . . . four . . . six. . . . “

Carey, a sniper, tried to stifle a laugh. “Good thing they don’t have a counting event.”

It was a spring Saturday at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (Kasotc) in Jordan. The members of Team America were in their barracks after a morning at the range, cleaning their guns so the desert sand wouldn’t jam the actions. Kasotc — it rhymes with aquatic — sits in the blasted-out canyon of a rock quarry on Yajouz Road about 15 miles north of Amman. It’s a state-of-the-art counterterrorism-training base, with 6,000 acres ringed by sentry towers and razor wire. The sound of gunfire echoed off the limestone cliffs, spooking the sheep on nearby bluffs.

Team America were at Kasotc for the fifth-annual Warrior Competition in which 32 teams from 17 countries and the Palestinian territories would compete against one another on mock missions. Organizers have referred to it as “the Olympics of counterterrorism”: over the next four days, the teams would raid buildings, storm hijacked jets, rescue hostages and shoot targets with live ammunition, all while being scored for speed and accuracy. It was a stage-managed showcase for the 21st-century soldier — not the humble G.I., but the post-9/11 warrior, the superman in the shadows, keeping the world safe from murky threats. Bill Patterson, a former U.S. Special Forces soldier who oversees training at the base, said, “When you’re on that Black Hawk at 2 in the morning, on your way to target, and the bad guy you’ve been hunting for months is in that building, and there’s 25 guys with machine guns and only 6 of you — that’s a thrill you’ll never forget.”

Around 11 a.m., two Boeing Little Bird attack helicopters roared overhead, sending the base’s resident black tabby scurrying for cover. It was time for the opening
ceremony. As the teams gathered on the parade ground, they sized one another up. The Swiss team, the Skorpions of the Zürich Stadtpolizei, looked like off-duty ski instructors in their matching black jackets and mirrored sunglasses. The Lebanese Black Panthers, the SWAT team for Lebanon’s Internal Security Force, strutted in black hoodies and combat boots. The Jordanian special ops team stood straight-backed in their red berets, quietly confident in their home-field advantage. And the Russians, a bunch of ex-Spetsnaz and K.G.B. members who now worked for a private bodyguard service based in London and owned by an Iranian, showed off Chechen bullet wounds and waved the flag of the Russian Airborne. Its motto: “Nobody but Us.”

Everyone agreed that the Canadians would be tough. They were from Canada’s Special Operations Regiment. Recently back from a tour in Afghanistan, they sported combat beards, intimidating tattoos (Revelation 6:8, “And behold, a pale horse: and its rider’s name was Death”) and the kind of burly frames that come from carrying big guns over tall mountains for weeks at a time. “They look like the dudes from ‘300,’ ” a member of one of four U.S. teams said. Another said, “They look like werewolf lumberjacks.”

But most eyes were on the Chinese. China had two teams, both from the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force. The Snow Leopards were the favorite: formerly the Snow Wolf Commando unit, they were a counterterrorism squad established ahead of the Beijing Olympics. There was a rumor going around that they had been to eight more-specialized competitions and never finished lower than second. (The Chinese maintained this was their first competition.) They marched to the mess hall in formation and did push-ups for fun. By comparison, the American teams — three Army and one Marine Corps, who were at that moment posing for team pictures and smoking cigars — looked like high-school kids on a field trip.

Page 2 of 7)

Team America, with their anonymous uniforms and nonregulation scruff, were the competition’s wild cards. The Dutch marines were pretty sure they were Deltas. The Canadians thought they were SEALs. During the ceremony, a Kasotc representative accidentally introduced them as “American Special Forces,” adding to the intrigue.
The truth was, Team America wasn’t actually called Team America. It was a nickname they chose for themselves, after the movie by the “South Park” creators — a sendup of patriotism that they knowingly repurposed as actual patriotism. Their official name was Team I.D.S., for International Defense Systems — a military supplier that specialized in tactical equipment and ballistics gear. In keeping with the corporate outsourcing of war, I.D.S. was a sponsor of the competition. The team was here not to represent the United States, but to promote the brand.

“Our guys are SEALs, S.R.T.” — special-response teams — “SWAT, ex-Secret Service,” Sebastian Van Duin, a consultant for I.D.S., said. He was a former intelligence specialist from the French Foreign Legion, who knew the team’s leader, Fred, from a job overseas. (What kind of job? They would rather not say.) A former special agent for the Department of Homeland Security, Fred had chased boats in the Caribbean, drug traffickers through Peru, a sniper in post-Katrina New Orleans and gunrunners in Iraq. For the Warrior Competition, he assembled a crew of guys he knew from his time as an S.R.T. commander in Washington, D.C. Most were ex-military: Brian, 35, had served in an elite Coast Guard unit, and Carey, 35, was an antiterrorism sniper in the Marines. Because they still worked in law enforcement, some undercover, they asked to be identified by their first names. One of them, A., did sensitive work for the government and asked to be identified only by a middle initial. Most of the other teams also requested anonymity for their members for security reasons.

These were self-proclaimed “regular guys” who chewed tobacco, talked camo patterns and sometimes educated one another in the ways of the world. (“Dude,” Brandon said one afternoon, “I just saw two Jordanian guys holding hands! They do that?” “Dude!” A. said. “That’s how you know that’s your bro!”) In idle moments, they would cast themselves in the kind of action movies that celebrate the soldiers they want to be: Brandon was Kevin Bacon. Fred was Bruce Willis. Carey, the “funny, fat guy,” was Jason Statham, “plus 40 pounds.” And A. was Matt Damon — the trained killer.

After some speeches by the Jordanian brass, the teams watched a demonstration by Jordan’s renowned counterterrorism unit, the 71st. A dozen commandos in black balaclavas stormed an Airbus A-300, while a dog named Nero apprehended a bad guy in a bite suit. The finale was a big gun battle that lasted five minutes and involved about $10,000 worth of live ammunition; but, for safety reasons, the spectacle unfolded on a shooting range that no one in the stands could see. It sounded very impressive.

Afterward there was a reception with tea and carrot cake, and the soldiers mingled with diplomats and military attachés. Over in a corner, Team America plotted how to smuggle a bottle of whiskey onto the base. “Hey, look,” Eric said, “they’re giving out free Cokes.” He walked over and stuffed a few in his pockets, to use as mixers later.

The Kingdom of Jordan is shaped like a holstered gun, which isn’t a bad metaphor for the country as a whole. A constitutional monarchy with a well-trained military and a relatively secular population, it is — for now — one of the most stable countries in a very volatile neighborhood: Syria to the north, Israel to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south, Iraq to the east. Jordan’s intelligence agency, the G.I.D., is a close partner of the C.I.A. in the Arab world, and over the past five years, the United States has given Jordan more than $3.3 billion in aid and pledged an additional $200 million to help cope with the refugees who have poured over the Syrian border since August.

Page 3 of 7)

Kasotc was aid of a kind, too. The base was built by a U.S. construction firm on land donated by the king and paid for by a Defense Department program that provides weapons and infrastructure to friendly foreign governments. In the opening-day speech, Frank Toney, a retired U.S. brigadier general and commander of the Army Special Forces, who now works as Kasotc’s director, said, “We believe that if your partners are strong, then you will be strong.”

Training at the base is handled by the Jordanian armed forces and the ViaGlobal Group, a military contractor based in Annapolis, Md., and the base is staffed by ex-Army Rangers, Deltas and SEALs. (They don’t like to talk about it, but they helped teach the actors playing SEALs in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”) A week of training at the for-profit Kasotc can cost up to $250,000, including lodging, meals and ammunition; the Warrior Competition, however, was free to any team that could get there. “This is a marketing tool for Kasotc,” Patterson said. “We’re advertising our capabilities.”

Most countries send their elite teams to the Warrior Competition — the Malaysian special forces, the French Commandos Parachutistes de l’Air — but the United States often sends infantry regulars. Several Special Ops veterans said they wouldn’t risk tipping their capabilities. “Even when we train guys, you never teach them all the tricks,” one said. “Who knows? We might be back fighting them in a couple of years.”

There was another U.S. presence at Kasotc, this one more subdued: a couple hundred Army troops in combat fatigues, who spent their days lifting weights and smoking cigarettes and trying not to be noticed. They had come to Jordan to plan for a possible spillover of the Syrian conflict. The troops did most of their work in an aluminum-sided building with blacked-out windows and satellite dishes on the roof, separated from the rest of the base by concrete barriers and barbed wire. An Army M.P. stood guard nearby, shouting, “Don’t look over the wall!” at anyone who got too close.

One afternoon, on the patio outside the base’s store, two of these American soldiers sat at a table, drinking Red Bulls and snacking on Doritos. A Kasotc promotional video was playing on a video screen, and they watched it with interest. In one scene, a group of trainees practiced evasive maneuvers on the driving track. In another, they shot their way down a mock city block while explosions went off around them.

“Dude,” one said, “I want to do that!”


The other nodded glumly. “All this cool stuff, and we can’t do any of it.”

Luca Locatelli for The New York Times

Members of “Team America,” from left: Matthew, Fred, Sebastian and Brian.

The next morning, the Chinese jumped out to an early lead, winning the first three events. They were well on their way to winning the overall trophy. Watching them conquer an event called Method of Entry — breaking down three doors, scaling the side of a building, shooting a series of steel targets and sprinting back to the start — was simultaneously impressive and terrifying. Team America, who spent the previous night in their barracks drinking contraband rum, had trouble getting inside: they wasted five minutes trying to open the door the wrong way and finished near the middle of the pack.

At 12:45, the call to prayer sounded over the loudspeaker, and the teams went off to have lunch. A sign on the mess hall read, “Reminder: no weapons inside the dining facility.” When the Canadians learned they had placed second in a shooting event, sandwiched between the two Chinese teams, they joked that the third-place team was off somewhere getting 30 lashes. (They were actually doing wind sprints.)

That afternoon, during their downtime, the teams checked out the event’s vendors. Part of the draw for sponsors at the Warrior Competition is that they can show off their products to their target audience. The competitors play soldiers while on break from playing soldiers while on leave from being soldiers. If someone wanted to shoot a SIG716 rifle or knock a door off its hinges with a tactical breaching ram, he could do that. If he wanted to fly a small, unarmed drone that fit inside a suitcase and retailed for $200,000, he could do that, too. And if he wanted to try his hand at the AA-12 — a fully automatic 12-gauge shotgun (tag line: “Don’t Fight Fair”) capable of firing 300 rounds a minute — he could do that, too. Unless he was a member of the one of the Chinese teams, in which case it would be a violation of the U.S. State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Brian wanted to try the shotgun. “Let’s go shoot that shotty!” he said. He squeezed off five rounds and grinned. “That’d be hell on a whitetail.”

(Page 4 of 7)

That night, everyone loaded onto buses for a team mixer at the Intercontinental Hotel. “I hope they have karaoke,” Carey said. He turned to A. in the seat behind him.

“How do you say ‘Call Me Maybe’ in Arabic?”

 “Ismeh robbama?” A. said. It meant, literally, “My name is Maybe.”

When they arrived, the reception was in full swing. The Malaysians were on the patio, drinking juice. The Russians were at the bar, definitely not drinking juice. There was tuna carpaccio and crudités and little ceramic bowls of gourmet potato chips. Outside, Sgt. Shkendije Demiri and Capt. Brittney Ray stood chatting in their uniforms. Demiri and Ray, both in the U.S. Army, are the first two women in the history of the competition. The Arab teams, in particular, seemed to love them. “They all want to take photos with us,” Ray said. “It’s like seeing a unicorn.”

Ray was an M.P. and platoon leader who graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and qualified for one of the Army teams by being a top pistol shot. She had also trained as a sniper and spent the previous afternoon teaching several Jordanians how to shoot. Demiri was a reservist who worked as a firefighter in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. She had been in the country a few months, doing joint training with the Jordanians, and said she had an enjoyable conversation with the Palestinians. “I’m trying to get them to bring a woman next year,” she said.

Back inside, Team America was talking hockey with the Russian Spetsnaz members. A. finished his second glass of red wine and looked across the room. “I’ll see you later,” he said. “I’m gonna go talk some Arabic with my Iraqi brothers.”

A. never called his unit by name. They were “the program” or “the community.” You would not have picked him out of a lineup. About 5-foot-10 and a little thick in the middle, he had a permanent look of pensive amusement. If you didn’t know better, you would think he was just Fred’s buddy who tagged along — which, in a way, he was.

A. grew up on the East Coast — “upper-middle-class, white, Mayberry.” He went to college and got a white-collar job, but after Sept. 11 he was compelled to enlist. “I didn’t want my grandkids to learn about 9/11 in history class and come home and say, ‘Hey, Granddad, what did you do when those savages flew planes into our buildings?’ and be like, ‘Nothing,’ ” he said. “I wanted to get my jihad on.”

A. served two tours in Iraq. The first was at the time of the surge, and there was a lot to do. He would go on two or three raids a night, targeting bomb makers, I.E.D. experts and money men. A. was an assaulter: he and his teammates would blow open a door with a strip of C4 then cover one another while they cleared the room. The missions were always capture or kill, he said. It was a tossup which way it would go. A. enjoyed his first tour in Iraq. He learned Arabic, fell in love with the people and the food. But by the second, he grew frustrated. “We used to hit a house like, boom,” he said. “Get the dude, grab anything that looks important and we’re out.” But now, he said, there were so many regulations that they couldn’t do their jobs. Sometimes he couldn’t even use his sledgehammer. “We actually had to do a soft knock on the door, instead of assaulting it,” he said incredulously.

A. left his unit when his commitment was up the following year, then spent some time in Afghanistan as an unarmed contractor before coming home. He said he didn’t miss it much. Granted, the nighttime raids were “pretty awesome.” “But you gotta remember,” he said, “your opportunity to do that is really small. Everyone got spoiled, because we had an unprecedented decade of two wars.” A. said he had a hard time relating to the average American, especially armchair patriots who didn’t join the fight when they had the chance. He said he felt more kinship with the Iraqis. He also drew a distinction between Special Ops guys who joined up when he did and those who enlisted during peacetime. “Pre-9/11, there were probably guys who didn’t even want to go to war — they just wanted to go on cool trips,” he said. “It’s just a different mind-set when you join up knowing you’re gonna get it on.”

Page 5 of 7)

A. was the kind of soldier even soldiers looked up to. Fred called him “the ghost” and “the invisible man” and their “special friend.” Sometimes A. played along, telling tales about blood-splattered Iraqi swimming pools and war-zone pranks that inevitably began, “So there I was. . . .” But more often than not, he seemed uncomfortable with the attention. “These are just competition teams,” Brian sniffed one afternoon. “A.'s not a competitor — he’s a killer.” A. gave a halfhearted smile and looked away.

On the third day, the Warrior Competition staged a pair of night events. A full moon hung low over the mountains, and the parade ground was illuminated by spotlights. Team America waited its turn at an event called Hostage Rescue, outside a big, Abbottabad-like compound in the center of the base. The objective was to blow a door with an explosive charge, rush inside, shoot some targets and escape with the hostage; basically what A. had done in Iraq.

A. was lying in the dirt with his eyes closed, using his helmet as a pillow. I asked if being here felt surreal — the desert compound, the moonlight, all the shooting. “Nah,” he said. “This is theater. It’s totally contrived.” Then he told a story from his time in Iraq. Members of his unit were hunting one of Saddam’s executioners, and an Iraqi civilian they were working with offered to help. A. said the Iraqi told him: “I know this guy. Give me a gun and a car, and I will kill him!” A. said he responded: “Dude, I hear you. And it sounds like a good idea to me on so many levels. But my government will put me in jail.”

As the men checked their helmets and body armor and loaded magazines into their M4s, Fred called them together to outline a battle plan. Moments later, Eric shouted, “Fire in the hole!” and blew the door. They moved through the building, clearing each room by firing two rounds into 3-inch-by-5-inch paper targets. From outside, you could track their progress up to the second floor by the steady pop of rifle fire.

A. grabbed the hostage — a 180-pound dummy — and the team raced back downstairs. Outside, in the glow of the spotlights, they whooped and high-fived over their score: zero misses in just over three minutes, the fastest time so far. Someone joked that they should change their name to the International Death Squad. Their daring night raid had been a success; all that was missing was the film crew.

In the van on the way back to the armory, A. struck up a conversation with the Jordanian driver. It turned out that he had worked with the Americans in Iraq. A. asked where.

“Ramadi,” he said. “2003 to 2006.”

“Oh, man,” A. said. “You were getting it on! Did you go out with them?”

“Sometimes,” the driver said. He didn’t elaborate, and A. didn’t ask.

For the first few days of the competition, friendships formed along geopolitical lines. The Americans hung out with the Canadians. The Russians hung out with the Kazakhs. The French kept to themselves, and the Chinese really kept to themselves. But as the days went on, people started to loosen up. The Greeks and the Palestinians played soccer together. The Americans and the Iraqis talked about Tupac. The Arab teams started rooting for each other, cheering, “Yalla, yalla!” — Let’s go, let’s go! The Canadians, inspired, added their own twist: “Yolo! Yolo!” (which is slang for “you only live once”).

One afternoon, the Swiss Skorpions were basking in the sun, sipping hot chocolate from a paper cup. “Not bad,” one said. He checked the back of the packet and smiled. “Nestlé. It’s Swiss.”

A few tables over, Brian swapped his American flag patch for a Canadian one. “We’re gonna need ‘em when the North Koreans come,” he said. Next to him, Carey was showing off pictures on his iPad: there he was with his Marine unit in Nairobi after the 1998 embassy bombing (“We were hunting Bin Laden before he was Bin Laden”), and there were his three kids dressed up for Halloween (one as a soldier). “Hey, want to see a picture of me and the president?” he asked. He swiped to a photo of President Obama and the first lady at an event in Virginia. “So there’s the president,” he said, then zoomed in on a tiny black dot standing on a rooftop, “and there’s me!”

(Page 6 of 7)

Sitting nearby was an officer named Mohammed, who described himself as a commander in the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force. He was bald underneath his black beret, and his eyes were hidden behind mirrored sunglasses. On his arm was a patch bearing the unit’s symbol: an eagle perched on a skull. He joined Saddam’s army as an M.P. when he was 17 and stayed until the second Iraq war. He enlisted again in 2004, after the regime’s collapse and now was fighting groups hostile to the Americans and to the new Iraqi government.

The I.C.T.F. is based in Baghdad, where there were more than a dozen bombings in the previous month alone. A wave of attacks on the 10th anniversary of the American invasion had left 60 people dead in the week before the I.C.T.F. team came to Kasotc. “It’s a dangerous job,” Mohammed said. “But the pay is very good. And what we have faced before is much more difficult.” He said they wanted to win the competition like everyone else. But mostly they were here to learn new tactics. “This is not a vacation for us, like it is for some of the other teams,” he said, gesturing vaguely toward the Swiss.

Mohammed said he had seen friends die, but he stayed in the army to provide his wife and children with a good life. He had four children; the oldest, a boy, was 15. I asked if he hoped his son would join the army someday. “No,” he said. “I lived the life of a soldier. I know how hard it is.” Instead he hoped his son would grow up to be a pharmacist or an engineer.

The last morning of the competition dawned cloudy and cool. As a few teams were finishing up the final event, word began to circulate that King Abdullah was on his way. Abdullah commanded the Royal Jordanian Special Forces before he was king, and the military is still close to his heart. A certified pilot, diver and parachutist, he frequently travels the country in a helicopter he pilots himself. He often visits his namesake base. “This is his baby,” Patterson said of Kasotc. “I’m not gonna say he’s just like George Bush, because some people would be offended — but he’s very proud of his country, and he loves his men.”

Two camouflaged Black Hawk helicopters circled overhead, followed by the arrival of the royal motorcade, six black Lexus S.U.V.'s with identical license plates. The king popped out and shook hands for a few minutes, a Jordanian TV crew trailing him. He tried his hand at the pistol range and hit every target.

That afternoon, A. went to say goodbye to the Iraqis. They were staying in a dorm at the end of a dusty gravel road. Issa, the sniper, greeted him at the door with a big hug: “Welcome, welcome.” The Iraqis had just finished showering, and they were in various states of undress: briefs and towels and shower shoes. The room smelled of sweat and cologne.

Issa sat down on a bunk next to A. and gave him some gifts: an Iraqi Army watch and a small I.C.T.F. flag. “Thank you,” A. said, bowing. “Shukran.” Then he opened his backpack and passed out his gifts: a combat knife for everyone, along with his extra shirts, pants and other gear.
“It’s too much!” Issa told him. “It’s too much, man.”

A. shook his head. “I don’t need it anymore,” he said. “I’d rather see you have it.”

A. and the Iraqis traded Facebook info and promised to keep in touch. Back at Team America’s barracks, the guys were playing spades and drinking screwdrivers. “Where you been?” Carey asked. A. told them, and they said they wanted to donate their gear, too. Only Brandon seemed unsure: “They’re not going to use it on Americans, are they?”

A. said these were the good guys. Brandon nodded. “If you’re good with it, then so am I.”

At 6 p.m. sharp, the teams boarded buses to go to the Four Seasons for the awards banquet. While they waited, some of the U.S. Army personnel were pushing tires around the soccer field. “Look at these ding-dongs,” Brian said. “What are they doing, Jazzercise?”

“Army guys are so weird,” Eric said.

On the way into the city was a slaughterhouse, which was reputed to have some of the freshest shawarma in town. Just as the bus drove by, one of the slaughterhouse employees walked over and shot a sheep in the head. “Did you see that?” Carey asked, his eyes wide.

A. smiled. “That was awesome.”

Page 7 of 7)

On stage at the hotel’s grand ballroom, two dozen trophies were laid out: 500 pounds of custom bronze, cast in the shape of Spartan helmets, crests and all. “Pretty pimp, huh?” Bill Patterson said to Fred.

 “Really pimp,” Fred said. First there was an all-you-could-eat buffet, and then a slide show with a soundtrack by Linkin Park. When the awards started, the Snow Leopards were the big winners: they had taken first in 5 of the 12 events. They spent almost as much time on the stage as the master of ceremonies. When Team America finally broke the Chinese winning streak and collected a trophy for Hostage Rescue, the other teams let out a relieved cheer: “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

When the Snow Leopards got back up to accept their award as the overall winners, the room went quiet. Gracious in victory, the Chinese team handed out gifts: T-shirts and gym shorts stamped with the logo of the People’s Armed Police Force. In the lobby, Brian checked the tags. “Ha,” he said. " ‘Made in China."’

After the banquet, the Canadians, an Army team and Team America headed across town for a nightcap. In the taxi, A. tipped $5 on a $5 fare. (“That’s why they love us,” he said.) There was a bar in the basement of the Grand Hyatt, called JJs, that was supposedly pretty nice. Inside, everyone had to pass through a metal detector — the legacy of a 2005 suicide bombing in which a terrorist under the direction of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi blew himself up in the Hyatt’s lobby, part of a synchronized assault on three Amman hotels that killed 57 people.

A Gathering of Warriors in the Desert

Rounds were bought, stories were swapped. As the party wound down, one of the Army men came up to A. He was 38, a major; he had never seen combat. The front of his blue shirt was dark and wet where someone had spilled a whiskey and Coke. The major asked A. which branch he was in, and A. said had been in the Navy. They chatted for a few minutes about the week, about the competition. The major said he had the time of his life. “I gotta tell you,” he said. “I’ve been in the Army for 14 years, and I think this may be the highlight of my career.”

If A. had any thoughts about armchair warriors or guys who just wanted to go to cool places, he kept them to himself. Instead, he raised his glass of Amstel and smiled. “That’s awesome, man.”

Josh Eells is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal. He last wrote for the magazine about Jack White.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Israel apologizes
« Reply #39 on: January 19, 2018, 04:55:38 PM »


 

Jan 19, 2018 | 19:28 GMT
Israel: Government Sends An Apology To Jordan
(Stratfor 2018)



In Stratfor's 2018 Annual Forecast, we said that external players such as the United States and Egypt would continue attempts to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. As part of this effort, the United States appears to be offering firm support in exchange for encouraging Israel to maintain peace with its neighbors, such as Jordan.

See 2018 Annual Forecast

As Israel grows more secure about the Trump administration's support, the country has begun mending fences with its neighbor, Jordan. Israel recently sent Jordan a memorandum expressing regret over the killing of two Jordanians at Israel's Amman embassy during the summer. Following the incident, Israel brought home the security guard involved in the killing, while Jordan closed the embassy and sought criminal charges. The affair has tested the relationship between the two, as Jordanians have pressed King Abdullah II to demand the return of the security guard so he can face trial.

Israel's rare public apology has given the king a chance to reopen the embassy and still maintain domestic support. In a region where symbolism remains politically potent, the apology benefits both sides by allowing Abdullah to claim a victory in the name of the victims, while also letting Israel show commitment to its peace treaties with its neighbors. Furthermore, the memorandum underlines just how high a premium both Jordan and Israel place on maintaining peace with one another (even after Abdullah condemned the U.S. declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital).

Washington's decision on Jerusalem and its increased pressure on Iran both likely contributed to Israel's unusually conciliatory mood. Such evidence of U.S. support has Israel's right-wing elements feeling more secure about the stability of their country than they did when former U.S. President Barack Obama was in office. The Trump administration, which is getting high marks from everyday Israelis, may well have leveraged that support by encouraging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to patch up relations with Jordan, a move that would benefit ongoing U.S. attempts to broker a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.

The current U.S.-Israel dynamic has precedent: former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who did not have a reputation as a peacemaker when he entered office in 2000, famously withdrew settlements and troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005 under pressure from President George W. Bush. Sharon's bold move would have been unthinkable if not for the reassurances he received from Bush, another American president popular in Israel for his perceived willingness let the country solve security challenges on its own terms.

But if the United States is hoping a patch-up between Jordan and Israel will nudge along the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it's overlooking obstacles within the Palestinian camp. Political parties Hamas and Fatah have yet to make a unity deal, as the two sides maintain opposing stances about how to respond to the American decision on Jerusalem. And without an established Palestinian representative, peace negotiations will struggle.

Still, Israel can overlook that for now. A secure frontier with Jordan, with whom it must cooperate to secure water supplies as well as prevent militant infiltration, is currently a greater priority. So, with an apology and an expression of regret, Israel has prevented the further disruption of that relationship. 


Crafty_Dog

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Glick on King Abdullah
« Reply #41 on: January 23, 2018, 07:07:55 AM »
Some links to click on in the article at http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2018/01/22/jordan-king-abdullah-disrespects-america-can/


Vice President Mike Pence met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan on Sunday and praised the U.S.-Jordan alliance. In particular, Pence applauded Jordan’s role in the campaign that defeated the Islamic State caliphate in Syria and Jordan.
Abdullah was less enthusiastic.



Sitting next to Pence, Abdullah reinstated his outspoken opposition to President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and committing the U.S. to moving its embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with U.S. law.

Last month, Abdullah attacked Trump’s move and referred to it as “null and void.” In the weeks that followed Trump’s December 6 announcement, Abdullah went to Europe to lobby European governments to oppose the American move.

At least in part as a result of Abdullah’s lobbying efforts, U.S. allies like Britain and France were among the 178 nations, including Jordan, that voted on December 21 for the U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning America for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Sitting with Pence Sunday, Abdullah said, “Today we have a major challenge to overcome, especially with some of the rising frustrations” in the wake of Trump’s move on Jerusalem.



He said the goal of Pence’s trip must be “to rebuild trust and confidence” in America’s commitment to establishing a Palestinian state.

The most notable aspect of Abdullah’s role in the campaign to castigate Trump’s policy towards Jerusalem is that he owes his regime’s survival to the U.S. and Israel.

The U.S. provides Jordan with more than $1.5 billion a year in military and civilian aid. The Trump administration has pledged to maintain aid levels in 2018.

As Jordan expert David Schenker noted in a briefing last September, Jordan is one of the poorest states in the Arab world. Only a quarter of its adult population is gainfully employed.

Israel ensures the regime’s survival by providing Jordan with water and natural gas.



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There are more than 2,800 U.S. troops in Jordan. U.S. forces in Jordan use the kingdom as a base for anti-ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq. They are also tasked with protecting Abdullah’s regime.

Pence’s forbearance of Abdullah’s slights Sunday was in keeping with America’s consistent tolerance for Abdullah’s deeply problematic behavior.

On July 23, 2017, a Jordanian terrorist in Amman tried to stab Ziv Moyal, an Israeli embassy officer, with a screwdriver in Moyal’s apartment adjacent to the Israeli embassy compound. Moyal shot and killed his assailant. He also killed his landlord, who was present at the scene.

Moyal quickly sought refuge at the Israeli embassy. Within moments, all of Israel’s diplomats had converged there to avoid revenge attacks and to evacuate to Israel for safety.

Wild press reports claiming that Moyal had murdered two Jordanians in cold blood brought angry anti-Israel rioters into the streets. Protesters quickly surrounded the embassy compound, and effectively held Israel’s diplomats, including Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, hostage.



Under international law, Abdullah was obliged to protect the diplomats. But he refused, for nearly 24 hours.

A few days before the event, Muslim terrorists at the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem murdered three Israeli policemen. Israel responded by installing metal detectors at the entrance to the mosques to make it more difficult for worshippers to smuggle weapons inside the mosques.

Jordan serves as the Islamic administrator of the mosques on the Temple Mount. Rather than support Israel’s move, Abdullah condemned it.

But with Israel’s diplomats in danger, the Trump administration cut a deal with Abdullah to save them. In exchange for an Israeli pledge to remove the metal detectors at the Temple Mount, Abdullah sent his military forces to the embassy to extract the diplomats and enable them to cross the border to Israel.

In other words, to save the lives of Israel’s diplomats, the Trump administration convinced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make concessions to Jordan, which directly benefited terrorists like the ones who murdered the Israeli police officers.



Israel hoped that once the mob had dispersed, Abdullah would allow its diplomats to return and resume normal operations at its embassy, in conformity with the terms of its peace treaty with Jordan. But Abdullah would have none of it.

Abdullah insisted first that Israel replace Ambassador Schlein. Netanyahu finally agreed to replace the senior diplomat in late November. But then Abdullah ratcheted up his demands.

He insisted that Moyal be tried for murder, and that Israel apologize for the incident and compensate the families of the Jordanian landlord and Moyal’s assailant.

Over the weekend, the Jordanian media reported that Israel had accepted its demands. Israel reportedly agreed to pay millions of dollars in restitution to the families and officially apologized.

Netanyahu clarified that the government had “expressed regret” for the lives lost. A government source said Moyal will not be tried for any crime. Israel confirmed that it transferred $5 million to the Jordanian government.

Netanyahu thanked President Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and his chief negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, for closing the deal with Abdullah that will enable the Israeli embassy to reopen.

But Abdullah’s refusal to protect Israel’s diplomats was in line with his general support for anti-Israel terrorism.

In 2011, Israel freed more than a thousand convicted Palestinians terrorists to secure the freedom of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli army sergeant who had been held hostage by Hamas in Gaza for more than five years.

Among the terrorists Israel freed was Ahlam Tamimi.

Tamimi masterminded a suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in August 2001. Fifteen were killed in the attack, and seven of the dead were young children. Tamimi specifically chose the pizzeria as the target of the bombing because it was a popular place for parents with small children during summer vacation.

Two of her victims were U.S. citizens. One of the 122 people wounded in the attack was an American woman who has been in a vegetative state ever since.

Following her release, Tamimi moved to Amman, where she received a royal welcome from Abdullah’s regime. She was also given a television show. On air, Tamimi routinely calls on her viewers to follow her example and murder Israelis.

In January 2017, the FBI placed Tamimi on its most wanted list. The Department of Justice formally requested her extradition to stand trial for the murder and maiming of U.S. citizens.

Jordan signed an extradition treaty with the US in 1995. Last March, Jordan rejected the U.S. request for Tamimi, claiming the treaty was unratified. The power to ratify treaties in Jordan belongs to the King.

So just in the past ten years, Abdullah has rejected a U.S. extradition request, and has lobbied the Europeans to condemn Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He facilitated the siege of the Israeli embassy. He leveraged a hostage situation to undermine Israel’s counterterrorism efforts at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. He extorted blood money from Israel.

Yet rather than stand up to Abdullah, the Trump administration gives him a pass for everything.

And it has been right to do so.

Because it has no better option.

According to a 2014 Pew survey, 85 percent of Jordanians are anti-American. A 2006 Pew study found that 100 percent of Jordanians are anti-Jewish.

Abdullah and his Hashemite tribe are a minority among Jordan’s Bedouin tribes. And the Bedouin as a whole are a minority in Jordan where, according to the Congressional Research Service, Palestinians make up 55 to 70 percent of the population.

If Abdullah is overthrown, there is little likelihood that a successor regime will be pro-American.

With Abdullah in power, the U.S. is able to project its power from Jordan throughout the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. If the Pentagon concludes that it is necessary to close down its Air Operations Headquarters at Udeid air base in Doha, Qatar, Jordan could serve as the site of a replacement base.

None of this would likely be the case under a different regime. The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest political force in Jordan outside the regime.

So despite his double-dealing, the U.S. is better off supporting Abdullah than abandoning him.

This dismal situation is even more frustrating when you consider that Abdullah is arguably America’s most stable Arab ally.

And that’s the essence of the problem. America’s alliances in the Arab world are with regimes, not with nations. During his tenure in office, George W. Bush tried to overturn the equation with his democracy agenda. The devastating results of his strategy are still haunting the region and the U.S.

So long as majorities reject the values of liberal democracies generally, and hate the U.S. specifically, there is little chance of America leading a democratization movement that will result in anything positive. Minority regimes may make unreliable allies. But popularly elected regimes that embrace bigotry and reject the U.S. and democratic values will reliably be enemies.

In Abdullah’s case, while his dependence on the U.S. ensures his loyalty, his regime is inherently weak because he lacks popular support. To avoid widespread unrest, Abdullah proclaims and occasionally adopts extremist positions against Israel and the US and in favor of terrorists.

Abdullah benefits twice from his hostile policies. On the one hand, he keeps his opponents at bay by satisfying their anti-Americanism and hatred of Israel. On the other hand, by encouraging the public to hate America and Israel, he makes it less likely that any pro-American alternatives to his regime will emerge that could reduce U.S. and Israeli dependence on him personally.

To modify his behavior, the U.S. can and should demand that Abdullah bar anti-American and antisemitic incitement in his state-owned media. He should be required to extradite Tamimi to the U.S. and run programming explaining why she is a terrorist, not a hero.

Such steps can begin to move back the dial of anti-Americanism and antisemitism in Jordan, if only minimally.

Over time, such basic steps may diminish Abdullah’s perceived need to buy off the mob at his gates with pro-terror policies and reduce America’s need to accept his double-dealing, as Pence was forced to do on Sunday in Amman.

Caroline Glick, an IDF veteran and graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Jordan balances budgets and borders
« Reply #42 on: February 07, 2018, 11:43:41 AM »
The news media is replete with information about immigration from Syria to Europe and, as small as the numbers are, to the United States. In 2016 the United States admitted only 14,333 Syrian refugees, according to the U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), a number that amounts to just four-thousandths of a percent of the total U.S. population. Germany has accepted 360,000 Syrians to date, 0.4 percent of its total population, while Turkey is hosting more than 2,814,600 Syrian refugees, 3.75 percent of its population. But the 1.27 million Syrian refugees living in Jordan today make up a full 13 percent of the kingdom's population.

Over the past 70 years, Jordan has welcomed refugees from war-torn geographies nearby. Many remain in refugee settlements, but others have settled permanently in the country. The Jordanian government and its citizens — as hospitable a people as most in the region — bear a substantial socio-economic burden in caring for the Palestinians, Iraqis and Syrians who wind up in their midst. During a recent visit to the kingdom, where I've lived and whose people and cultures I deeply respect, I was surprised to hear local residents talk about the personal sacrifices they feel they are making to maintain the well-being of displaced people. Even some of my most compassionate and hospitable friends there are beginning to experience discomfort and wonder how long their country's charity can last.
Bearing the Burden in Silence

According to the UNHCR, 80 percent of refugees in Jordan today live below the poverty line. As that population grows, new stresses affect the local, native population — Jordanian Jordanians, as they sometimes call themselves. The price of white pita bread, for example — a staple in virtually every home — went up nearly 60 percent during the last weekend of January after 20 years of subsidies ended. That followed other austerity measures and a tax hike guided by the International Monetary Fund designed to help reduce Jordan's public debt. But apart from a protest in Salt, a small city west of the capital of Amman, the Jordanian Jordanians' response to the price rises was generally self-contained.

"Beware the silence," a friend said over dinner in Amman last month just before the cuts went into effect. "The people will not protest cutbacks in food subsidies or the advantage given to Syrian refugee families. We will support the king because he is strong on Jerusalem. But inside we are angry."

I'll get to Jerusalem. But first, what advantages does she mean?
Helping Neighbors in Need

To avoid a humanitarian crisis of hunger and thirst, aid organizations such as the World Food Program distribute dry goods, bread and vouchers to Syrian refugees. The vouchers include coupons worth about $14. Jordanians tell me some Syrian refugees will sell them to locals at a premium. At the same time, water — already scarce at an annual supply of 145,000 liters (38,305 gallons) per person — is rumored to be diverted from local residents to refugees.

My friend travels the length of Jordan frequently, visiting women's centers and monitoring youth programs, including programs that serve refugee populations. She checks in with Syrian refugees, some of whom have integrated into Jordanian society with help from family members who came before the war, and some of whom live in tents or trailers in sprawling, ragged, overcrowded temporary camps. Everywhere she goes she engages people in conversation.

"Don't you want to go back now that Aleppo is secured?" she asked in a training meeting with 15 professional Syrian women. Some of the women had been judges in Syria, others were professors.

"They all said, 'no,' they didn't want to leave Jordan," she told me. Many of the children that are illiterate, she said, arrived in the country that way. "It's not that Jordan doesn't offer an education to refugees. Syria didn't provide it to its own," she stated. Some Jordanian primary school students now get only a half-day of class each day. Syrian students get the other half.

"How long can Jordanians sacrifice?" my friend wants to know.

The attitudes I describe here may not be universal. The stories may have more rumor to them than truth. Yet surely there is some truth. And in a region where perception often is acceptable as reality, this idea about refugees from Syria perpetuates tension and ill will.

"How long can Jordanians sacrifice?" my friend wants to know.

Still, so long as King Abdullah II stands strong for Jerusalem, it's likely that Jordanians will support him and his government. Jerusalem is a point of pride and heritage for Jordanians of all stripes — Christian, Muslim, Palestinian and the rest. Jordan held the holy city after the creation of the State of Israel until 1967, and since then, the country's king has been "custodian" of Jerusalem's Aqsa Mosque Complex, or Haram al-Sharif ("Noble Sanctuary"). For Jordan, the city is a symbol of the sacred and of staying power.

King Abdullah II's immediate reaction to the United States' announcement that it would relocate its embassy to Jerusalem was to advise President Donald Trump that the move would have "dangerous repercussions for regional stability." In an interview with Fareed Zakaria on Feb. 4, he was more diplomatic: "I think we have to look to the future of what we want for Jerusalem. Is Jerusalem a city that ends up dividing us, which I think would be catastrophic for mankind, or is it a city of hope that brings us together?"
Investing in Jordan's Priorities

Whatever the answer to his questions, Jordan will continue in the meantime to juggle the needs of its refugees with those of its citizens, balancing budgets and borders to preserve stability in uncertain times. On Feb. 1, the country's government, along with EU and U.N. agencies, endorsed the Jordan Response Platform for the Syria Crisis. The initiative "seeks to compensate Jordan for the burden it has borne due to regional crises by securing sufficient grants and concessional financing to address the general budget needs over the next three years." Recognizing the hard realities and rumors coexisting in his nation, the Jordanian prime minister declared, "Together we must invest in Jordan's priorities to help the government provide for those who sought refuge within our borders without undermining the needs of our citizens and our development. This is critical for Jordan's stability, security, and resilience."

Offsetting the cost of providing haven to those in need and maintaining a national standard of living, however, is itself an expensive endeavor. Price tag: $7.3 billion.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Jordan buckles under the weight of refugees
« Reply #43 on: February 07, 2018, 11:46:13 AM »
second post-- March 2016 background context to the preceding post:

A joke of uncertain origin imagines that former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir had a complaint with God. "He led Moses through the desert for 40 years to the only place in the region that had no oil!"

That is partly true. Israel has recently discovered sources of fossil fuel. But its neighbor Jordan — an important part of Moses' trek — is truly bereft of liquid gold. In fact, Jordan is bereft of almost any natural resource besides sun and historical sites that are the envy of Greece, Rome and Egypt: Umm Qais in its northwest corner showcasing a second-century basalt amphitheater and perfectly preserved Byzantine mosaics; Jerash, with the best standing colonnaded street outside Rome; Madaba, home to the imaginative and surprisingly accurate sixth-century mosaic map of Jerusalem; a plethora of crusader castles; and the incomparable Nabataean capital, Petra.

But a tourism economy cannot make up for a lack of lucrative natural resources. Especially not now. The Islamic State looms at Jordan's gate. Refugees consume an increasing share of the nation's land, patience and essentials for survival. Even legendary Jordanian hospitality — giving without measure and invitation without introduction — is taxed to the breaking point by fleeing Syrians joining the Iraqis and Palestinians who sought sanctuary in Jordan before them. The tiny Hashemite kingdom — only slightly smaller in acreage than the state of Maine — is keeping its balance so far in a rising sea of chaos to the north and east. But to maintain its equilibrium, Jordan will need assistance to host the refugees arriving each day.
Resources Stretched Thin

For most of its history, Jordan has welcomed the tired, poor and huddled masses. Homeless and tempest-tossed refugees from the Palestinian territories arrived in 1948 and 1967. More began coming from Iraq in 1991, still dazed from bombs and sanctions, with their numbers swelling after 2003. For the past four years, scarred and scared people of Syria have poured over Jordan's northern border. Jordan's population, under a million in 1960, has now reached 6.9 million. Half the population is Palestinian, and now almost 21 percent is Syrian.

Mazen Homoud, Jordan's ambassador to the United Kingdom, takes pride in the fact that his nation is at the forefront of the global fight against terrorism. He wrote in the London-based Daily Telegraph, "We are a leading member of the international coalition fighting Daesh and all those who promote a hate-based ideology." But he also noted that the international community has delivered only 34 percent of the money pledged to fund Jordan's Syrian Refugee Response Plan, meeting only a fraction of what it costs Jordan to host refugees. With economic growth above 3 percent, Jordan is considered a middle-income country, ineligible for direct support. But its projected budget deficit for 2015 was 3.5 percent of gross domestic product. Most of the Syrian refugees are not living in Azraq, Zaatari or other refugee encampments; instead, they are hosted within Jordanian communities, working, attending schools and benefiting from national health services.

Jordan's population, under a million in 1960, has now reached 6.9 million. Half the population is Palestinian, and now almost 21 percent is Syrian.

And water? Jordan is already the fourth-poorest country in the world in terms of water resources. When I lived in Jordan in 2009-2010, we flushed the toilet only when needed and showers were short. Rainwater harvesting was the talk of the day, along with solar power. "When a country like ours imports 96 percent of its energy, it makes a big difference when we suddenly have to provide for 1.4 million more people," says Homoud.

Jordan is allied with the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The prospect of a weakened Jordan is a major concern for all. Yet although its government is far more stable than those of Syria or Iraq and its security forces have proved effective, if Jordan finds itself unable to care for its refugee population, there could be trouble.
A Complex Past, Present and Future

Like many of its neighbors, Jordan was established as a nation state at the end of World War II. Its 1946 independence from the United Kingdom turned sovereignty over to the descendants of Sharif Hussein bin Ali of Mecca's Hashim family. Since 1921, members of the Hashim family had been patient regents to the Iraqi and Jordanian thrones promised by British and French allies. They were denied kingship of Syria, despite a nascent pan-Arab parliament's election of one of Hussein's sons, Faisal, as its leader.

It was not until after World War II that the promise was honored. Seemingly arbitrary borders were drawn for Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, Israel and Iraq. Complicating the matter, according to California State University professor David Klein, was that to weaken Arab nationalism,

    "Britain blocked Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf by severing the territorial entity, 'Kuwait' from the rest of Iraq in 1921 and 1922. This new British colony, Kuwait, was given artificial boundaries with no basis in history or geography. King Faisal I of the new Iraqi state [who was denied Syria as noted above] ruled under British military oversight, but his administration never accepted the amputation of the Kuwait district and the denial of Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf."

We remain haunted by that truth: Iraq has lost over 155,000 civilians, and nearly 5,000 U.S. soldiers have died there. Meanwhile, many of Iraq's war-weary survivors have fled to Jordan.

Iraq's Faisal was the younger brother of Abdullah I, eldest son of Hussein, who became the first king of Jordan. That story is a geopolitical soap opera that deserves greater attention than it will get here. Suffice it to say that from their shaky start on the east side of the Jordan River, the Hashemites have presided over Jordan and maintained their steady rule since the country's independence in 1946.

A dearth of natural resources and declining tourism in Jordan is putting a terrible strain on the economy, while external political challenges keep the population on edge.

Today's complexities seem to leave yesterday's in the dust. A dearth of natural resources and declining tourism in Jordan is putting a terrible strain on the economy, while external political challenges keep the population on edge. Jordan confronts reality nobly. But how long can that last?

A surge of the arts and culture that came with middle-class Iraqis fleeing their homeland was initially welcomed in Amman. But the honeymoon was short; wealthy Iraqis began building neighborhoods and rental rates rose. Towns in northern Jordan already feel the impact of crowding and employment competition, as skilled Syrians work for less and children become beggars. They worry about the possibility of recruitment to extremist groups among discouraged, disenfranchised youth.
Addressing the Wrong Problem

But rather than support Jordan's immediate need to provide food, water and shelter to hundreds of thousands of refugees, Riyadh plans to step up its military involvement in the Syrian conflict. At a news conference late last year, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the creation of an Islamic military coalition. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said the deployment of ground troops to fight the Islamic State is still a possibility.

The United States, having provided Jordan with economic and military aid since 1951, to a total of approximately $15.83 billion, continues aid in both arenas. In a nonbinding three-year memorandum of understanding between Washington and Amman, the United States pledged $1 billion annually in assistance, subject to the approval of Congress. The act also authorizes the use of U.S. Department of Defense funding for security along Jordan's borders.

But not water for the people who are thirsty there.

At the Zaatari camp, each refugee family is allotted three to four loaves of bread per family member. Rice, oil, lentil, bulgur and other rations are distributed to each family every 15 days, along with 9 Jordanian dinars' worth of coupons per person to buy items not included in the camp's distribution list. For people accustomed to strolling the balmy streets of Damascus in the evening, enjoying the scent of wisteria and lilac, rations and tents are stark privation. Instead of striving for good grades at school, young refugees are faced with the task of scrounging up clean water for their families.
The Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees.
The Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees.
(KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)

Emergency supplies will not be sustainable should conflict persist. What are Saudi, U.S., European and Jordanian plans for five to 10 years down the road? Certainly, improving conditions for displaced persons closer to home is preferable to seeing flotillas flounder across the Mediterranean. What about long-term considerations of economics, available water, permanent housing, jobs and goodwill in hostile conditions? What about returning to "life as normal"?

A delegation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on a study tour in Turkey in January 2015 found that for Syrian refugees:

    "The problem is that even though this is an international refugee crisis, the international community is only providing funding to meet 29 percent of the refugees' needs. With very little livelihood, refugees — especially those who recently arrived — struggle to secure adequate housing, food, and medical care. And many refugee children, instead of attending school, work at a quarter the minimum wage under poor working conditions to help support their families."

There are campaigns underway to stem the impact of trauma and the tide of recruitment to extremist groups, but I will save those for a future column. For now, I suggest only this: With vision and commitment, trauma recovery efforts may become instrumental in mitigating the anger and mistrust that leads people to terrible acts of terror against perceived enemies and against their neighbors. These are the areas that Saudi Arabia and its allies ought to invest their billions if they hope to interrupt the cycle of anger that feeds the emotional poverty of hate.

Moses did not lead his people across the desert for 40 years to find oil; he aimed to bring them to safety, prosperity and wholeness. It is time to revisit that purpose.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Understanding Jordan's Strategy
« Reply #44 on: February 07, 2018, 11:47:42 AM »
Third post

June 2013


Summary

With Bashar al Assad's forces in Syria making gains against the Syrian rebels in recent weeks, Jordan's need to maintain a pliable foreign policy in relation to the Syrian civil war has become increasingly clear. Jordan's strategy thus far has been to play a diverse set of relationships off each other, and Jordanian actions will continue to be defined by realities as they develop on the ground in Syria.

Jordan's dependence on the United States and Gulf Cooperation Council countries for energy, aid and investment means it will continue to support those countries' efforts to aid Syrian rebel forces. But unlike the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan does not necessarily have a strategic interest in seeing a complete collapse of the government in neighboring Syria — such a development could mean that jihadist fighters currently focused on Syria would turn next to Jordan. Instead, Jordan will do what it can to prevent the jihadists fighting in Syria from spilling across the border and will also take measures to stem the tide of refugees, who are overwhelming Jordan's ability to take them in. If the momentum of loyalist forces against the rebels continues, Jordan will continue to become less supportive of the rebel cause without fundamentally turning against it.

In the past month, there have been three notable developments that on the surface seem to suggest a shift is underway in Jordan's relationship with the Syrian rebels. First, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi traveled to Amman on May 7 for talks with King Abdullah II. In a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Salehi said both Iran and Jordan agreed that dialogue was necessary between the Syrian government and the opposition and that jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra should be excluded from the talks. Judeh also downplayed the presence of international troops in the kingdom, despite the fact that the United States deployed approximately 100 soldiers to a regular army headquarters in Jordan in April. Iran is one of the al Assad regime's biggest supporters, and the public display of cooperation with Iran illustrated Amman's diplomatic flexibility when it comes to its role in the Syrian conflict.

Amman has also begun to take steps that indicate it can no longer handle the daily swell of refugees crossing into Jordan. On May 25, Jordan closed Jaber, one of its main border crossings with Syria, blaming fighting between Syrian troops and rebels for the closure. But Jaber and the rest of Jordan's border with Syria has remained closed since, the first time in the Syrian civil war that Jordan has denied access to Syrian refugees.

It is unclear how many refugees are currently living in Jordan; the United Nations estimates the number to be close to 450,000, but other reports cite significantly higher figures. A Jordanian official said May 29 that almost 60,000 of the refugees had returned to Syria, either to fight al Assad or because conditions in refugee camps were so deplorable. The refugees have strained Jordan, which struggles just to supply energy and water for its own population. Water scarcity issues have become particularly acute, with Jordan forced to buy water from private wells and to truck water to various villages. If Jordan's ability to supply water to its population continues to diminish, the rural poor could begin to migrate toward Jordanian cities in order to access water, which could result in instability.

Further complicating the situation, Jordan has been threatening to reduce costly subsidies on electricity to help address its budget deficit, and as recently as May 29, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said such a move was "imminent." But electricity is another resource strained by the refugees, and the potential for shortages during the upcoming hot summer months combined with higher prices for domestic consumers could encourage popular discontent with Jordan's government as it did in November 2012.

Map of Syria and Jordan

Finally, momentum in the conflict has shifted in recent weeks from the rebels to loyalist forces, particularly in al-Qusayr but also in the approaches to Damascus and in southern Syria, which borders Jordan and is an important area from which the rebels can advance toward Damascus. As early as January, Stratfor noted that weapons such as the M79 Osa rocket launcher and the RPG-22 were making their way to Syrian rebels via Jordan and that Jordanian cooperation on the ground had aided the rebels in Daraa and Sweida governorates. On April 26, loyalist forces captured the town of Otaiba, east of Damascus. In so doing the Syrian army effectively severed key rebel supply lines for staging attacks in Damascus. And while there is no concrete evidence that Jordan itself has lessened or stopped shipments of weapons to the rebels, the Syrian army made a successful push to capture the town of Khirbet Ghazaleh near the strategically important, rebel-controlled city of Daraa in early May. At the time, there were rumors that one of the reasons the rebels had failed to hold the town was that a Syrian opposition group reportedly supported by Jordan had failed to supply adequate weapons.
A Change in Policy?

Jordan's recent actions ultimately are about the current state of the conflict between loyalist and opposition forces in Syria. First, there are the significant gains that Syrian loyalists have made in recent weeks. This is in large part due to the considerable external support of Iran and Russia, both of which continue to deliver much-needed materiel to al Assad's forces. It is also due to the presence of foreign Shiite fighters such as those from Hezbollah, which has led the way as the loyalists have pushed to regain control of the city of al-Qusayr, a strategically important location in Homs governorate. (Without Homs, Damascus would be cut off from its main supply lines and from the Alawite-dominated coast.) The reality that the Syrian civil war will be a protracted conflict and that al Assad could endure for some time prevents Jordan from simply choosing to support one side over the other.

In addition, the Syrian rebels have shown themselves to be an incoherent entity at best. There has been significant dissension within Syria's main opposition National Coalition — in fact, on June 3 the Syrian Revolution General Commission actually withdrew from the coalition. Syria's jihadist fighters are also divided, as evidenced by Jabhat al-Nusra reportedly requesting that Salafist-jihadist groups in Jordan not send fighters into the fray without first consulting al-Nusra. It is particularly surprising that al-Nusra, which proclaimed in April that it was part of al Qaeda in Iraq's network, would potentially deny an important resource, able fighters, when loyalist forces are making gains. Al-Nusra also generally has less control in southern Syria on the border with Jordan and feels it is losing the ability to control the jihadist fighters operating under its umbrella, either because of differing ideology or because of infiltration by hostile sources posing as jihadists.

The presence of jihadists on its borders is of particular concern for Jordan because of the intellectual linkage between al Qaeda in Iraq and Jordan. Jordanian Salafist Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi was the spiritual mentor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder and original leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. Not even Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Cooperation Council states, the strongest backers of the Syrian opposition and the countries that put pressure on Jordan to let them supply Syria's rebels, have an interest in empowering jihadists such as al-Nusra or al Qaeda in Iraq to the extent that they could assume regional influence. On the one hand, Jordan does not want to give these Salafist-jihadists reason to target the Jordanian regime; on the other, letting these forces gain experience in Syria could have negative ramifications in the future.

On a superficial level it would appear that there has been a shift in Jordan's Syria strategy, but in truth, Amman's greatest commitment throughout the duration of the conflict has been to its own security and not one particular outcome. In February and March, reports surfaced that Jordan had been increasingly active in supplying weapons and training to Syrian rebel fighters. At the time, the Syrian rebels were pressing their offensive against al Assad, and Jordan felt it necessary to increase its support of the rebels, in part because of pressure from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states. However, while this was happening, Amman was reportedly still maintaining its political contacts with Syrian Alawites and other politically relevant actors in the country.

Now the loyalists have been able to develop some momentum on the battlefield. While some of Jordan's public policies appear to betray a newfound support for al Assad, Jordan is still operating in a middle ground to the extent it can and is putting its own security first. In fact, the United States announced June 4 that it might deploy a Patriot missile battery and an unspecified number of F-16s in Jordan following a regional military exercise — not exactly the behavior of a country that is turning its back on the Syrian rebels or supporting an Iranian view of the situation.

Ultimately, there are two things Jordan is most concerned with as it deals with the fallout of the Syrian conflict. Jordan wants to limit spillover into its territory, in particular from radical Salafist-jihadists who would foment unrest in the kingdom and from refugees, who are straining Jordan's already thin resources. At the same time, Amman wants to maintain its positive relationships with its regional neighbors and foreign patrons. That means supporting a political settlement that would keep al Assad in power while at the same time aiding U.S. and Gulf Cooperation Council efforts to depose al Assad. Syria's civil war will be a protracted conflict and momentum will shift back and forth between the combatants as it takes its course. Jordan's outward disposition will vary based on who has the advantage in the conflict. As long as the balance of forces is relatively equal, Amman will find itself in the tricky position of supporting both sides.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Jordan allows weapon flows to Syrian rebels
« Reply #45 on: February 07, 2018, 11:50:45 AM »
Fourth post

Moving further back in time  Feb 2013

As Syrian rebels try to close in on Damascus, increasing numbers of jihadists and militants are becoming active in southern Syria near the Jordanian border. Jordan is worried that the presence of these fighters could embolden its own Islamist opposition if Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime collapses. However, Amman also has an interest in developing constructive relationships with the rebels that are fighting against the al Assad regime. In the service of these relationships, Amman has decided to allow weapons transferred from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies into Syria in exchange for much-needed economic aid from Gulf Cooperation Council states. There is evidence that significant weaponry has been flowing from Jordan into the southern Syrian governorates of Daraa and Sweida. Rebels fighting in southern Syria are using weapons like the M79 Osa rocket launcher, the RPG-22, the M60 recoilless rifle and the RBG-6 multiple grenade launcher. While the United Arab Emirates is the only Gulf Cooperation Council country that has delivered its share of the total promised $5 billion in aid to Jordan so far, Stratfor sources have indicated that Saudi Arabia will ensure that the rest is delivered. Riyadh has offered Amman an additional $500 million this year in return for allowing military support to cross the border into Syria. Jordan has been very cautious about allowing this, but Amman has little choice — the rebels will be present in the area for the foreseeable future, and it is better for Jordan to forge connections with them rather than become a target if al Assad eventually falls.


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Stratfor: Jordan-- protests over price hikes
« Reply #47 on: March 04, 2018, 09:03:13 PM »

Jordan:

Protests over price hikes in Jordan continued into the weekend. The prime minister reshuffled his Cabinet to soothe public anger. None of this is outside the pale – this is the sixth government reshuffle since May 2016, and protests happen in Jordan occasionally. But the country has been unique in that it hasn’t been affected by the chaos around it. Is Jordan coming apart?

•   Finding: The protests are a response to a growing government budget deficit and debt that has caused it to seek restructuring help and credit from the International Monetary Fund. As part of the restructuring plan, Jordan is being forced to cut subsidies to more than 150 staple goods and commodities including bread and to raise prices on several others. The government is trying to offset the rising prices with direct cash transfers to low-income citizens, but the problem is structural and isn’t going to disappear unless the country is able to fix its finances before popular discontent grows. There are no broad calls to overthrow the monarchy, but in interviews Jordanians are expressing their frustration that the royal family is continuing to live prosperously while the average citizen is being forced to suffer cost increases to bring the budget in line.

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Jordan: Petra
« Reply #48 on: March 06, 2018, 10:00:55 PM »

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GPF: March 2017
« Reply #49 on: April 02, 2018, 08:11:17 AM »
By Kamran Bokhari

Given that the Islamic State is increasingly losing territory, the world’s focus is on the efforts to dislodge the jihadist regime from its capital in Raqqa. Most observers tend to view the anti-IS campaign as a linear process that over time will lead to the destruction of the jihadist entity. But it is dangerous to assume that IS will simply go quietly into the night. Jordan is one place where IS could strike in order to draw in the Israelis and thus complicate and widen the conflict.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported on March 8 that Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, is deeply concerned about Jordan’s stability. Israel’s envoy to Amman gave a pessimistic assessment of Jordan in a briefing to Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot in October. The two officials discussed the situation in Israel’s eastern neighbor, which has seen several hundred thousand Syrian refugees cross its border. Eisenkot reportedly told colleagues that he was disturbed by what he learned from Schlein about Jordan, which shares Israel’s longest border.

JORDAN-IRAQ-SYRIA-CONFLICT-IS-DEMO

Jordanian students shout slogans and wave national flags on Feb. 5, 2015 in the capital Amman during a rally against the Islamic state and in reaction to the death of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh (on the placards) by the group’s militants. KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images

These developments are important for two reasons. First, Jordan already faces a number of threats. In December, we highlighted why we thought Jordan might destabilize. Sandwiched between the West Bank, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, the small country is vulnerable to multiple geopolitical pressures. Jordan could face threats from IS on two of its borders, and its vulnerability to this threat is compounded by its weakening political economy and large presence of Islamist forces.

Second, Jordan is Israel’s only neighbor that thus far has remained stable. Hezbollah in Lebanon has long threatened Israel’s northern frontier, and in the last several years the civil war in Syria has given rise to IS, al-Qaida and many other jihadist groups that pose a danger to Israel. On its southern flank, Israel has to worry about Hamas and since 2011 the instability in Egypt. With Jordan also in the process of destabilizing, Israel has a lot to worry about, especially given that a majority of Jordanians are of Palestinian origin.

Israel has a special security relationship with Jordan that goes back decades, even though formally the two had hostile relations until the 1994 peace agreement that established formal diplomatic relations. Israeli-Jordanian security cooperation, however, has been predicated on the fact that Jordan took on much of the responsibility of containing potential threats. That Israeli officials are worried about Jordan’s future stability is an indication of how precarious the current situation is.

It is unclear what has caused this concern among the Israelis. However, it is not simply the burden of taking in 657,000 Syrian refugees (this is the official figure, though the actual number is likely higher). It is rather astounding that the number of refugees Amman has absorbed equals 10 percent of its population, yet the country has not faltered. Jordan has been in an unsettled position for a while and geopolitically there’s plenty of reason to suspect it already has been considerably weakened. But to understand the nature of the threat that Amman now faces, one has to place Jordan within the context of the war to defeat the Islamic State.

IS is under a great deal of pressure in both Iraq and Syria. It has lost considerable territory in recent months. However, the jihadist entity is not without resources and has been preparing for an assault from the international coalition. IS is a formidable political entity and is not going to disappear overnight.

It has demonstrated that it has formidable organizational capabilities and is shrewd when it comes to strategic planning. Many expect IS will be pushed out of Mosul and then lose Raqqa. However, IS likely is planning for these challenges and has a strategy to deal with these threats. It would be naïve for the coalition trying to defeat IS to believe otherwise. IS has shown that when it is attacked by superior forces it will shift the battle to a time and place more advantageous to its position.

For this reason, it must strike where it is least expected. At the same time, such a place must be vulnerable to instability and within IS’ reach, and it should provide potentially significant dividends. Jordan is one possible target. In recent weeks, Jordan has seen unusual IS activity on its borders with Syria and Iraq. On Feb. 24, IS forces attacked checkpoints on the Iraqi side of the Jordanian border, and on Feb. 20, an IS-affiliated group called the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army took control of territory in southern Syria along the Jordanian border.

These incidents alone are not enough to create chaos in Jordan. They are, however, indicative of IS’ strategy. It is going to try to attack a weak spot and attempt to use the regional distrust of Israel to its advantage. There is no better way to get the Israelis involved than to launch attacks in Jordan. IS knows that Israel cannot ignore a serious destabilization of the status quo in Jordan.

It is not clear that such a situation will necessarily arise. However, this scenario is not beyond the pale if we factor in Israeli imperatives vis-à-vis Jordan, Amman’s internal and external circumstances and IS’ need to defend its caliphate. These factors as well as the recent indicators mentioned above suggest IS may be turning its sights on Jordan.