Alwaght- King Abdullah II of Jordan traveled to the US while in addition to worsening economic situation at home he faces escalating tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories that have always been an influential factor impacting the social life and politics in the neighboring Jordan. Syria's developments are also part of the obsessions of the Jordanian king who hopes to find solutions to the challenges.
Eyeing political and economic support
According to the media reports, during the meetings with American officials including Vice-President Mike Pence and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the king accentuated the need for continuation of the “strategic relations” between Amman and Jordan.
Jordan is grappling with serious economic woes that have been a source of anti-government protests. According to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the unemployment rate reached to 18.6 percent in the third quarter of 2018.
The protests, started late May 2018, are yet to be over, with every now and then the Arab monarchy seeing rejuvenated demonstrations against bad economic conditions. In mid-February, unemployed youths took to the streets in Aqaba city and then the protests turned nationwide, all calling for comprehensive economic and political reforms.
But the alarm bells were set off to the government when the tribes and former politicians joined the popular wave. The tribes, seen as the traditional pillar of support to the king, take part in the protests chanting against the king, queen, and the government. Bani Hassan, Jordan’s largest tribe also took part. In a statement issued on March 1, the tribe accused the government of corruption and tyranny, accusations gained the support of other major tribes like Bani Abd and Bani Hamida.
Former military officers and politicians, many of them from the tribes, in a reaction to the government policies and behavior formed a National Pursuit Committee. Over the past two months, they published two statements calling for restrictions on the king’s powers, fight against corruption and mismanagement to save the country from further troubles.
Muslim Brotherhood, as the key opposition camp in Jordan, used the popular rallies to gain political privileges. The parliamentary members of the movement joined the demonstrations and expressed sympathy to the jobless youths.
In early April, the government tried to placate the protests by unveiling a string of king-ordered measures like a new crackdown on the corruption and a national amnesty to thousands of prisoners convicted of various crimes. But the announcement failed to ease the protests, with another large tribe calling for a million demonstrations on May 2.
In the middle of such a situation, the king sets heart on the West, and particularly, the US. This appears to be part of his discussions in Washington with the Americans.
In February last year, the two countries signed a deal for a $6.375 billion Washington financial aid to Amman, each year $1.275 billion. Its payment started in 2018 and is expected to last to 2022.
The king also thanked the US for its role in Jordan Growth and Opportunity Conference held in London in late February. Some 60 international organizations, credit funds chiefs and investors attended the meeting. The outcome was an aid package worth of $3.6 billion. The king, in fact, hopes for the realization of the participants’ promises. The donors vowed to design major reforms and measures to prompt economic growth, help Amman pay its foreign debts with international organizations’ help, and pave the way for financing projects by attracting investment.
Palestine tensions and risk of “deal of the century”
As the Trump-engineered Palestine plan is nearing its revelation, the Jordanian king in talks with the Americans raises Amman’s concerns about the implementation of what Trump administration calls “deal of the century” which is expected to kill the Arab peace initiative. Jordan is the country with the largest Palestinian migrants whose number goes beyond 5 million.
With tensions growing in the occupied lands, increase in the Netanyahu government’s pressures against the Palestinians, and the compromising policies of Jordan, which holds the Al-Aqsa Mosque custodianship, towards the Israeli violations, people in Jordan increasingly raise their voice against violations against the Palestinian rights
The organizers of the weekly protests pick a slogan for every week. January 31 slogan was “normalization [with Israeli regime] is an act of treason.” They also burned the Israeli flag on February 21 while chanting “down with Israel” and calling for the peace accord with the Israelis be revoked.
Another obsession of the Jordan leader is the Syrian refugees and the efforts to prepare the ground for their return home that can help alleviate the pressure on the Jordanian budget. But the Western countries appear to be opposing the return.
Omar al-Razaz, the Jordanian prime minister, in the London conference said the open-door policy towards the refugees cost his country $2.5 billion annually.
But his comments did not look to win the satisfaction of the West that apparently seeks to allow the crisis dragging on. Alister Burt, the British minister for the Middle East said that London understands the deep impacts of the waves of Syrian refugees on Jordan but the notion that they may return home anytime soon is impossible.
There are differences presently between Amman and Washington over Al-Rakban refugee camp on the border with Syria. While Russia accuses the US and Jordan of setting up roadblocks ahead to the Syrians’ return, Ayman al-Safdi, Jordan’s foreign minister, on January 17 hoped to see the removal of the Al-Rakban camp after the return of the Syrians to home. This issue reportedly occupied a major part of the King Abdullah’s meetings with Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, and Patrick Shanahan, the acting Secretary of State.