Home inSight Jordan’s Volatility Alerts the USA to Middle East Reality

Jordan’s Volatility Alerts the USA to Middle East Reality

Yoram Ettinger
SOURCEThe Ettinger Report
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein (R) in Amman. (Photo: AFP)

Jordan’s domestic upheaval involved some Arab countries, members of the royal Jordanian family and other prominent Bedouins, who were arrested and charged with an attempted regime change.

A regime-change in Jordan could transform the strategically-located country – between Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel – into another haven for Palestinian and Islamic terrorism. It would threaten the existence of the current regimes in Saudi Arabia, all other pro-US Gulf states and Egypt, advancing the interests of Iran’s Ayatollahs, Turkey’s Erdogan, the Muslim Brotherhood, China and Russia, while traumatizing regional stability and with dire Western and Israeli national security and economic consequences.

Jordan’s inherent political and ideological vulnerability has been fueled by intra-Bedouin fragmentation and conflicts, dating back to 1921, when the Hashemite Bedouin family was imported to Jordan – from Hejaz in western Saudi Arabia – by the British Empire, and imposed upon the indigenous Bedouins of (mostly southern) Jordan.  Furthermore, Jordan’s Bedouins are deeply divided, geographically, tribally, culturally, ideologically and religiously, with some of the southern tribes considering the Hashemites “carpetbaggers” from the Arabian Peninsula, Westernized and straying away from Islam and pan-Arabism by concluding a peace treaty with the “infidel” Jewish State.

Moreover, 70% of Jordan’s population are Palestinians, while Palestinian leaders (e.g., the PLO, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas) view Jordan as an artificial entity, the eastern (78%) part of Palestine. Hence, Palestinian active involvement in subversion and terrorism in Jordan and occasional attempts to topple the Hashemite regime, such as the civil war in September 1970 and the 1989 wave of terrorism.

Therefore, Palestinians have been involved in the Muslim Brotherhood’s political and terroristic subversion in Jordan, as they have been in the Brotherhood’s operations against the regimes of Egypt and the Gulf States.

In addition, ISIS veterans of Iraq and Syria civil wars have settled down in Jordan, and many Islamic terrorists are among the 2 million Iraqi and (mostly) Syrian refugees, who have been absorbed in northern Jordan.

This Jordanian upheaval sheds light on the following fourteen-century-old features of the Middle East:

  • Family, clan and tribal loyalty supersede national loyalty;
  • Political volatility, unpredictability and instability;
  • Domestic and regional fragmentation;
  • Transient (minority) despotic regimes susceptible to coups;
  • Regimes ascend to – and lose – power through violence;
  • Non-democratic regime-change;
  • Kleptocracy;
  • Violent intolerance (towards the “infidel” and fellow “believers”), internally and regionally, religiously, ethnically, ideologically and geographically;
  • No intra-Arab peaceful-coexistence, domestically or regionally;
  • No Western-style human rights and democracy (no freedom of religion, speech, press, association).

Middle East Context

The current tremor in Jordan is one of the ripple effects of the Arab Tsunami, which has rampaged the Arab Street since 2010/2011. The Arab Tsunami has been fueled by centuries of internal and regional ethnic, religious and ideological violence, exacerbated by hate-education, political corruption, despotism and human rights violations.

In fact, the 2021 reality in two of the historically most powerful Arab countries – Syria and Iraq – documents the fragility of Arab regimes. The violent collapse of the political order in Syria and Iraq has set them on a chaotic course of disintegration, delivering a glaring warning to every Arab regime.

Arab leaders who were perceived to be Rock of Gibraltar-like rulers, were violently overthrown.  For example:

  • Iraq’s King Faisal II was executed by the military in 1958, followed by the execution of General Qasim in 1963, and a military-Ba’athist regime, featuring Saddam Hussein, who officially assumed leadership in 1979 and was hung in 2006;
  • Egypt’s King Farouk was toppled by Major General Naguib and Colonel Nasser in 1952, General Mubarak was deposed by the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012/13, which was then forced out by General Sisi in 2013;
  • Libya’s King Idris was ousted by Colonel Qadhafi in 1969, who was lynched by an Islamic mob in 2011, and succeeded by a series of civil wars which still linger on;
  • Iran’s Shah was violently removed by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1978/1979;
  • Sudan’s military rulers were deposed by a coalition of military rebels, political activists and Islamists in 1964 and 1985, followed by a 1989 military coup by General Bashir. He was deposed by a joint military-civilian uprising in 2019, which led to a fragmented civilian leadership, supported by some military elements and opposed by Islamist organizations;
  • Yemen has experienced a series of civil wars and violent regime changes since 1962;
  • Tunisia’s President Bourguiba was removed, in 1987, in a bloodless coup by President Ben Ali, who fled the country during a 2011 coup, which yielded a Muslim Brotherhood government.

The scope of intra-Arab/Muslim violence is documented by the 11 million Muslims killed via wars and terrorism since 1948, of which 35,000, (0.3%) died during the Arab wars against Israel, or one out of every 315 fatalities.

Approximately 500,000 Syrians have been killed since the March 2011 eruption of the civil war, in addition to some 7 million refugees. Two million Sudanese were killed, and 4 million displaced, during the 1983-2011 genocidal civil war. 200,000 Algerians were killed during the 1991-2006 civil war. One million people were killed during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. 300,000 Iraqis were killed by Saddam Hussein, in addition to the 150,000 killed by Bin Laden’s carnage in Iraq. 200,000 Lebanese were killed in internal violence – inflamed by Palestinian terrorism – during the 1970s and 1980s.  80,000 Iranians were killed during the 1978/79 Islamic revolution and more are executed and decapitated routinely by Iran’s Ayatollahs.

The Bottom Line

According to Prof. Fouad Ajami, the late Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, who was one of the leading Middle East scientists (The Arab Predicament): Middle East reality constitutes “a chronicle of illusions, despair and politics repeatedly degenerating into bloodletting.”

Thus, in the pursuit of peace, alliances and interests, well-meaning western policy-makers tend to sacrifice the perplexing Middle East reality upon the altar of convenience, oversimplification and wishful-thinking, which has fueled regional fires.

Connecting the dots of the boiling Arab Street exposes the systematic failure of well-intentioned peace negotiators, who mistake the Arab Tsunami for a liberty and democracy-driven Arab Spring. They believe that a signed agreement can override a 14-century-old shifty and devious political culture.  They ignore the fact that intra-Arab conflicts – not the Arab-Israeli conflict – have been “the Middle East conflicts,” and that the Palestinian issue has never been a core cause of regional turbulence, neither a crown-jewel of Arab policy making, nor the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Connecting dots in the Middle East reaffirms the non-Western security requirements for Israel, which must withstand the (Middle East) worst-case-scenario, not the (Western) best-case scenario. Hence, security requirements must respond to relatively-frequent and unpredictable occasions, when peace accords are abrogated. Moreover, security requirements must bolster Israel’s posture of deterrence in a region prone to transient regimes, policies and agreements.

Connecting the dots on the stormy Arab Street highlights Israel’s unique role as the only effective, reliable, unconditional, democratic and stable ally of the USA, whose military and technological capabilities have become a unique force-multiplier for the USA without the need to station additional GIs in the region, while producing for the US taxpayers an annual-rate-of-return of a few hundred percent on the US annual investment in Israel (erroneously defined as “foreign aid”).