Weathering the crises
Khaled Al Shogran- The Jordan Times
It is rare indeed to see any region in the world that is as geopolitically and geo-strategically important as the Middle East. This reality makes the region a centre of attraction of the international powers. In addition to its abundant oil and gas resources, the strength of the Middle East lies in its location as a place where all world’s cultures, religions and civilisations meet. The political and economic importance of the Middle East makes it a significant link between the West and the East.
From ancient times till today, the great powers has vied to bring the Middle East under their sphere of influence through direct occupation with boots and fleets or through establishing permanent military bases.
In fact, the great powers’ competition has made the Middle East an arena of conflicts and confrontations that serve their interests. The military mobilisation and political alliances against the supposed enemies and proxy wars have turned the region into an open arms market. However, the interests of the people of the region and their right to a decent life or development and peace are absent in these political calculations and competition.
Aspects of instability resulting from the superpowers’ competition for hegemony over the Middle East has brought with it many factors that negatively affected Jordan. The most important of which is that it affected the country’s exports and imports, as well as trade and the flow of Jordanian products into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Europe.
The Saudi-Qatari rift has also affected Jordan’s exports and imports. The Kingdom has also suffered from several waves of forced migration due to conflicts and wars in the region, which constitute a major pressure on the country’s economy, the provision of services, infrastructure and security. Its continuation will definitely affect the country’s demography and development plans.
On the political front, Jordan has been entangled in multiple regional crises, which have diverted its diplomatic efforts. This has affected Jordan’s policymaking processes, not to mention the negative consequences and pressures resulting from the strife and attempts to mobilise and act alongside the superpowers on these issues.
The Palestinian cause
The creation of Israel on Palestinians lands in 1948 has been the direct cause of the Middle East’s instability and insecurity.
Of course, Jordan was the first country to suffer from the consequences of the creation of Israel as it received large numbers of Palestinian refugees following each war Israel launched to occupy more territories in 1948 and in 1967.
What is more destabilising in the Middle East is Israel's determination to change the realities on the ground by taking more land, establishing more illegal settlements and, more dangerously, igniting conflicts through continuing attack on Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
In this context, Jordan has never suffered economic and political pressures as the present time and all with the aim of forcing the Kingdom to abandon its historic role of internationally recognised custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
It can be said that the most dangerous aspect of the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue without a just solution for all parties is to keep the door of instability in the Mideast open.
This plays into the hands of extremist groups to recruit more followers under the pretext that the efforts of Arab and Islamic states to realise Palestinian independence have failed to bear fruit.
The Arab Spring
Jordan, like other Arab countries, witnessed wide protest movements that adopted all the demands of the rest of the people in the region, including reform, fighting corruption, public freedoms and improving the living conditions. But these protests did not last long nor develop into any kind of confrontation with the state. This was mainly due to the fact that authorities in Jordan dealt with these protests in a civilised way. At the same time, Jordanians feared the replications of frightening scenarios in neighbouring countries.
As a result of protests engulfing the region, Jordan received more waves of refugees, whether from Iraq, Syria, Libya or Yemen, until the population of Jordan, according to the population census in 2016, reached 10 million, while it was supposed to increase naturally to 9 million by 2030.
This put immense pressure on the limited resources, infrastructure, services and development plans as well as security challenges associated with refugee exodus.
Moreover, Jordan has to face mounting challenges emanating from the presence of terror cells and the spread of weapons.
The competition among regional powers on the Middle East has played a key role in making the region always prone to instability. There is an ongoing struggle between Iran and Israel to dominate the region. At the time Tehran is working on spreading its influence in the region through the establishment of extremist Shiite militias in various countries and providing them with money and weapons. Israel is exploiting the gap in Arab-Iranian relations to fuel a conflict and present Tehran as a common enemy.
For its part, Turkey plays an important role in the Middle East, where it tries to impose its hegemony, although it has strong diplomatic relations with both Iran and Israel. While Turkey is working by all means to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state next to it, Israel on the other hand is trying to establish an entity opposing both Ankara and Tehran.
Israel on the other side seeks to be the dominant regional power in the Middle East, and is working hard to ensure that no country, including Iran, is qualified to possess the deterrent military power that makes it a rival force.
Jordan, which suffered from the threat of terrorism and regional instability, has repeatedly warned of regional rivalry that takes its toll on development and stability