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Crafty_Dog
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« on: May 14, 2017, 09:46:24 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, 10:11:25 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2017, 10:12:16 AM »

From two years ago

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/world/middleeast/tribes-at-center-of-effort-to-free-jordanian-pilot.html?_r=0
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2017, 10:15:26 AM »

https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Jordan_Patel-FINALE.pdf

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« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2017, 09:16:49 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/
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« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2017, 09:37:46 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, 06:31:50 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2017, 10:33:05 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.
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« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2017, 07:01:15 PM »

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Jordan-considering-banning-Wonder-Woman-over-Israeli-star-Gal-Gadot-495026

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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2017, 10:13:02 PM »


http://ammanmessage.com/foreword/
http://ammanmessage.com/preface/
http://ammanmessage.com/introduction/
http://ammanmessage.com/
http://ammanmessage.com/the-three-points-of-the-amman-message-v-1/


« Last Edit: June 28, 2017, 10:43:10 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2017, 03:55:53 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?
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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2017, 10:39:09 PM »

Apparently King Abdullah is in Washington meeting with President Trump, Sec Def Mattis, et al.
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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2017, 02:31:44 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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« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2017, 07:35:09 PM »

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/17/middleeast/jordan-us-soldier-deaths/index.html

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-jordan-usa-idUKKBN1A20SM?il=0

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/politics/report-us-green-berets-jordan/index.html

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« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2017, 07:56:08 PM »

http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/31/u-s-jordan-discuss-placing-patriot-missile-batteries-in-jordan/
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« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2017, 07:57:34 PM »

Third post

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/06/politics/khaled-khoja-free-syrian-army-u-s-support/index.html
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« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 07:58:57 PM »

fourth post

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/03/middleeast/jordan-border-security-isis/index.html
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« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2017, 08:37:19 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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« Reply #16 on: July 24, 2017, 08:01:01 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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« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2017, 11:01:12 PM »


https://sofrep.com/86384/eagle-murder-three-green-berets-video-jordan-doesnt-want-see/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlZx7pWeJC0
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« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2017, 12:53:01 PM »

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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« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2017, 10:50:30 PM »

Recently I heard a story about Israel insisting upon Jordan supplying it water.  Help in tracking this down?
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« Reply #20 on: August 10, 2017, 11:00:31 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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« Reply #21 on: August 11, 2017, 03:00:28 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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« Reply #22 on: August 17, 2017, 09:02:18 AM »

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Technical Director.
robertburgee@gmail.com
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« Reply #23 on: August 26, 2017, 07:35:12 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  cheesy
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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« Reply #24 on: August 26, 2017, 07:43:43 AM »

second post

https://www.facebook.com/prentice.crawford/posts/1429099530531211?comment_id=1429100323864465
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« Reply #25 on: August 28, 2017, 08:58:56 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.
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« Reply #26 on: September 06, 2017, 05:15:52 PM »



https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/why-king-abdullah-chose-jews-as-his-bodyguards.422612/
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« Reply #27 on: September 08, 2017, 06:36:51 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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« Reply #28 on: September 11, 2017, 07:47:52 AM »

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« Reply #29 on: September 12, 2017, 11:25:50 AM »

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« Reply #30 on: September 27, 2017, 11:56:07 AM »

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