Jordan maintains calm in chaotic Middle East


[13-09-2014 04:04 PM]

Ammon News - AMMONNEWS - Wars, crises, and the reign of terror of the "Islamic State" extend to the borders of Jordan. But political and religious circumstances have helped Amman prevent IS from establishing a major presence in the kingdom.

With Iraq and Syria sinking further into war, violence in Lebanon and the recent war in Gaza continuing to affect the Middle East, Jordan resembles an island of calm in a chaotic region. Despite facing problems of its own, the small kingdom has largely managed to avoid the worst of the multiple crises in the region for years, though King Abdullah II has neither oil wealth nor a large army to count on.

More than 600,000 refugees have poured into the nation of 7 million inhabitants. The terrorist organization "Islamic State" (IS) has pushed through Iraq towards the Jordanian border. As a result, the country has reinforced its troops in the region. Nevertheless, supporters of the extremist group can also be found in Jordan and some Jordanians have left the country to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq.

There are several reasons for the relative calm in the "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan," according to journalist Daoud Kuttab. The monarchy plays a key role in maintaining calm, said Kuttab, who is also the general director of the Amman-based Community Media Network. As the government goes about its daily business and the prime minister changes, the royal family remains, which generates stability, Kuttab told DW.

Palestinians represent a majority
There is also currently no charged topic in Jordan that could endanger internal peace, Kuttab said. Though a majority of the population is of Palestinian origin, there are no serious problems between Jordanians and Palestinians, he added.

Compared to Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, the Arab Spring caused little unrest in Jordan and Jordanians openly discouraged the violent upheavals that took place in other states.

"People experience the devastation around them. They are grateful for the security and stability in their country," journalist Rana al-Sabbagh wrote in the Arabic daily "Al-Hayat." Abdullah II addressed the street protests in Jordan with "forward-looking reform steps" and by doing so has kept discontent in check.

Almost exclusively Sunni
Another reason for social peace is that denominational differences do not play a large role in Jordanian society, Kuttab said.

"Unlike Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where there are internal tensions between Sunnis and Shiites or Alawites and Sunnis, Jordan has no major conflicts between religious sects or denominations," said the former journalism professor at Princeton University. Sunni Muslims are the majority of the population and the small Christian minority lives largely in safety.

In addition, intelligence and security services are apparently very effective. According to Kuttab, they have made ​​sure that the "Islamic State" is not able to find a broad support base in Jordan. "There were some demonstrations where flags of the 'Islamic State' were raised, but these were isolated incidents," the journalist said, referring to riots a few weeks ago in the southern city of Maan.

Some Jordanian support for IS

The rapid rise of IS groups in Iraq in June and July caused widespread fear in Jordan. Many people feared that the IS fighters could advance from the Iraqi border to the south, said Osama al-Sharif of the Middle Eastern online information portal "Al-Monitor" when describing the mood in the country. The IS-vision for a caliphate also includes the Hashemite Kingdom.

In July, an online video began to circulate in which a member of a Salafist group from the Jordanian city of Zarqa vowed loyalty to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The prominent Salafist leader Issam al-Barkawi, known as Abu Mohammed al-Makdisi, turned sharply against the "Islamic State." Al-Barkawi railed against IS, saying the Sunni extremist organization kills other Muslims and is not entitled to proclaim a caliphate. Al-Barkawi had only recently been released from Jordanian custody. This led, according to Al-Sharif, to speculation that the Salafist preacher was being exploited by the government to work against the "Islamic State."

In Iraq and Syria, many Jordanians fight under the black IS banner. Different estimates range up to several thousand volunteers. But so far they play little role in their home. According to Kuttab: "I think there is a kind of unwritten agreement with the secret service: We do not hassle you outside of Jordan, but once you are in Jordan you have to behave."

The country plays an important role in the U.S. plans for an alliance against the IS fighters. US Secretary of State John Kerry met with King Abdullah II on Wednesday. Yet Jordan is not actively involved with the conflicts in its two neighboring states, Kuttab said. The head of government in Amman has excluded a direct involvement. In addition, there is public opposition to a possible troop deployment.
"Jordan will provide a lot of support services and intelligence," Kuttab said. "But I do not think you will see Jordanian troops on the ground."

*DW




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