U.S.-Saudi Pressure on Jordan Opens the Way for Iran
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has traditionally been in the ‘western’ camp. It is politically attached to the United Kingdom and the United States as well as to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni majority Gulf states. The Jordanian King Abdullah II has in the past been hostile to Iran. He was to first to publicly stoke fear of a ‘Shia crescent’. But the new Saudi and U.S. plans for ‘peace’ with Israel are a threat to Jordan and to King Abdullah’s personal legitimacy. He needs to change his position. Provided with the right incentives Jordan could, eventually, join the ‘resistance’ side with Iran, Syria and Hizbullah.
The country ruled by King Abdullah has nearly ten million inhabitants but is relatively poor. It has few natural resources. The generally well educated population attracted some foreign investment in its industry. Many Jordanians work abroad and send remittances. But all that is not enough. The country needs foreign subsidies to keep its standard of living.
The King of Saudi Arabia derives legitimacy from his title as “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” in Mecca and Medina. The King of Jordan springs from the thousand year old great Hashemite dynasty. He heads the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (Foundation) and is the custodian of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. This responsibility is the only prominent function left for the Hashemite family. It is the source of King Abdullah’s legitimacy.
The changes in Saudi Arabia’s policy towards Israel and the Zionist ‘peace plan’ the Trump administration develops create a new situation for Jordan. It is put under immense economic pressure to agree to these plans.
Jordan took part in the war on Syria. While Turkey provided support for the “rebels” attacking Syria from the north Jordan played a similar role in the south. Weapon and ammunition supplies from Saudi Arabia and Qatar were shipped through Jordan and smuggled into Syria. The country welcomed the families of the ‘rebels’ as refugees and provided medical support. The “southern operation room” of the ‘rebels’, run by the CIA, was hosted in Jordan’s capital Amman.
The war interrupted the important and lucrative transportation line from Turkey through Syria and Jordan to the Gulf countries. The refugees were a burden. The once flourishing tourist business fell back. Like most other countries Jordan had expected a short war leading to ‘regime change’ in Syria within a few months. But now, seven years later, the war on Syria is a major problem for Jordan. The one million refugees from Syria led to an increase in rents while wages went down. About 20% of the working population is without a job. The war needs to end.
Jordan receives some $1.2 billion per year in military and economic aid from the United States. In earlier years it additionally received $1 to 2 billions from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. That still was not enough to compensate for the burden of the war. Since 2011 Jordan’s public debt increased from 70% to 95% of its GDP. Its budget deficit this year will likely top $1 billion.
This year Saudi Arabia held back. It gave no money for Jordan. With Trump ruling in Washington the U.S. payments are in doubt. Jordan took out a $723 million IMF loan but it came with strings attached. The IMF demands austerity from the Jordan state. Since the beginning of this year taxes on basic food staples increased by 50 to 100 percent. There were five increases of fuel prices. Electricity and water prices were also hiked. All that was not enough. Since last year the Prime Minister of Jordan worked on a new income tax law which would double the number of people who have to pay income tax. It would also introduce harsh measures against tax evaders.
Since May 30 Jordan has seen daily protests, seemingly over rising costs of living and the new income tax law. The protests were led by 33 trade unions who called for a general strike. The call for a strike was followed by many and the protests attracted quite large crowds. They demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister and an end of the income tax plans. Such protests are not especially extraordinary. The usual solution for such a situation is known.
After a few days of protests King Abdullah fired Prime Minister Hani Mulki who had insisted on the tax law. Usually that would have been enough. The people would go home, the law in question would be tweaked or abolished and the government would muddle through.
The economic situation and the income tax law may not be the only explanation for this civil strife. There are rumors that the Saudis, or the CIA, are behind them.
On May 18 the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held an extraordinary summit in Turkey to protest against Israel’s atrocities in Palestine and Trump’s plans for Jerusalem. Many heads of states took part including the President of Iran and the Emir of Qatar. Saudi Arabia and its Emirate ally sent only lower level delegations. The Jordan King had been asked (machine transl.) not to attend the summit. He went anyway:
King Abdullah of Jordan told the Istanbul summit that he rejected any attempt to change the status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
That comment went against the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. It went against the Saudi-U.S. ‘peace plan’ which will hand Jerusalem to the Zionists. But even more important from a Saudi point of view was this picture.
King Abdullah not only shook hands with Iran’s President Rohani but the two also held the first top level talks between Jordan and Iran in 15 years:
The Iranian and Jordanian heads of state have reportedly held a brief meeting on the sidelines of an special summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey.
King Abdullah II is a pro-Western monarch but Amman’s ties with the US and Saudi Arabia have recently been shaken over the issue of Palestine.
Riyadh’s reported coziness to Israel has worried Jordan which is in charge of the major Muslim shrine complex on the Temple Mount, the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Trump administration and the Saudi Clown Prince Muhammad bin Salman want Jordan to agree to their ‘peace plan’ with Israel. The Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem would come under Israeli control and would be endangered. Jewish fanatics plan to build a ‘third Jewish temple’ over the Al-Aqsa mosque. (There is no proof that a first or second temple was ever there.) Any such agreement thus threatens the legitimacy of the Hashemite King.
The lack of financial support from Saudi Arabia and the unusual demonstrations in Jordan are supposed to put pressure on King Abdullah. The Saudis and the U.S. want him to submit under the dirty deal they made with the Zionists. If Abdullah does not go along with the Saudi/U.S. plans he will have to leave. If he goes along he will lose his legitimacy.
There is one alternative. King Abdullah could change sides. He can ask Iran (or Qatar? Or maybe even Russia?) for financial support. A few billions will do. They could come in the form of industrial investments. In exchange for such economic support he would have to commit to the ‘resistance’ side. He would have to stop his support for the war on Syria. He would have to lower his relations with Saudi Arabia and take a stronger position against Israel.
But Saudi Arabia is still a neighbor of Jordan and rich. Many Jordanians work there. The U.S. protects Jordan from Israel. It is thus unlikely that Abdullah would openly take such a big step towards Iran. But there are probably ways and means to slowly move into a more neutral position.
Wherever the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have started conflicts and wars – in Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar, Yemen and Syria – Iran has won. The Saudi pressure on Jordan might have a similar effect.