Or is it that King Abdullah II of Jordan received the go-ahead to begin his part in the Syrian crisis during his “private” visit to London?
What happened to make Amman begin to hold meetings and adopt measures – all aimed at repositioning itself and enlisting in the “Qatari Front”?
First, this means that Amman, domestically speaking, has veered towards an understanding with the Muslim Brotherhood and those who support muhasasa – a quota system for the allotment of top government posts based on ethnic criteria.
Second, this implies rapprochement between Amman and Hamas, on the one hand, and Amman and parties hostile to Syria, on the other – particularly as it relates to the Palestinian and regional scenes respectively.
The Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of the Mursi victory to launch a massive public relations blitz to expand their influence.
To this end, they portrayed the results of the Egyptian election as though they herald the advent of God’s will and the rise of the Brotherhood in all Arab and Islamic countries – while ignoring the real circumstances surrounding this election.
Hammam Said, Comptroller General of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, said that Mursi’s win in the presidential race “is a victory for Islam and Muslims”. Meanwhile, Hamza Mansour, the head of the Brotherhood’s party, the Islamic Action Front, said Mursi’s victory was “God’s doing.”
On Monday, 25 June 2011, the Brotherhood opened their headquarters to the public, receiving congratulations for Mursi’s victory. But the surprise came when the Chief of Justice, Ahmad Hilal, the Royalist Islamic figure known for his former aversion to the Muslim Brotherhood, attended the reception. Hilal, too, had words of praise for Mursi’s victory.
This was the first gesture from the Royal Court that indicated its acknowledgment of political developments in Jordan and the region.
But the Brotherhood’s victory, after all the “reassurances” the Jordanian officials received that it would not happen, was a surprise that shook the corridors of power in the country. It may prove that the Americans have made up their mind and decided to stand behind the Brotherhood.
The King thus summoned senior officials in the state, including the prime minister, and the speakers for the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although they had just passed the electoral law rejected by the Brotherhood, the King asked that the law be revised to increase the number of seats in the nationwide electoral district based on proportional representation, from 17 to 27. According to leaked reports, the King expressed his dissatisfaction with the representation of Jordanians of Palestinian origin in parliament.
In truth, changes in the official Jordanian attitude towards the Brotherhood had begun before Mursi won the election in Egypt. While Mursi’s victory was being celebrated, it was revealed that intensive meetings had been held between Jordanian officials and senior leaders of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
No information has been leaked regarding the understandings reached by the two sides during those highly secretive meetings, which were also attended by some leaders of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.
Amman was quick to end nearly a decade of estrangement with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. At what it sees as the eleventh hour before the fall of the Assad regime, Amman will provide the Syrian Brotherhood with more than a staging ground near Damascus, and more than logistics: a political agreement over the period that follows the shaping of the new Syrian regime, and the subsequent relations between the two countries.
First, the Syrian Brotherhood wants Jordan to provide the necessary and multi-faceted backing for them to be the core constituent of the next regime in Damascus. This is the option that Jordanian officials believe is the best one for avoiding chaos and tackling the problem of al-Qaeda’s entrenchment in neighboring Syria.
And second, Amman wants to rearrange bilateral relations and receive a slice of the pie that is the anticipated post-Assad political process.
What followed with respect to official Jordanian rapprochement with the Muslim Brotherhood was public, nay was intended to be public and celebratory. Suddenly, the doors of the Royal Court were opened to the head of Hamas’ Political Bureau Khaled Meshal. This “Jordanian citizen” was received on a presidential level.
The climax of the sudden love affair between Amman and Hamas took place in the cemetery in Sahab, near the Jordanian capital, when Meshal and his companions, along with a large crowd, attended the burial of Kamal Ghannaja, a senior military official in Hamas.
Ghannaja was assassinated by Mossad in his residence in Damascus.
The sanctity of that conglomeration, supplemented by the Brotherhood crowd and the politically significant presence of Meshal and his companions, represents a founding moment for the next stage in Jordan. Its expected broad features can be drawn as follows:
The first feature involves heavy organizational expansion by Hamas and its Muslim Brotherhood wing in the refugee camps. In this regard, a widely circulated report by a former intelligence chief predicts that political recognition of Hamas in Jordan will encourage 15 to 20 thousand youths in the refugee camps to join groups aligned with Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood.
Second, there will be a de facto political and organizational fusion between Hamas and the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, led by the pro-Hamas wing currently dominating both the group and the party.
This will create a popular political bloc made up of a majority of Palestinian Jordanians. The bloc would then play a progressively growing role in Jordanian politics, starting with the elections, the formation of cabinets and not ending with security issues – all reminiscent of the role of Fatah in Jordan between 1968 and 1970.
The above will lead to a third feature, whereby the Hamas-Brotherhood bloc would provide leverage for the Jordanian regime – on the ground against the mounting opposition in East Jordan; to push down the ceiling of demands for democratic change; and to curb radical social demands in the provinces. But this bloc, having all the prerequisites for growth, will become over the long term a driving force for consolidating overt Palestinian presence in both Jordanian politics and the Jordanian state. What’s more, this bloc will help formulate realistic liberal-Islamic proposals for Jordan as an alternative homeland for the Palestinians.
We are facing, then, a founding moment for a setting which, should it become an established reality, will lead to the explosion of internal contradictions in the country, miring it in civil strife and political chaos.
Yet this bleak outcome could well be seen sooner rather than later, if the Syrian regime collapses or the Syrian state disintegrates into chaos. Such a situation is expected to lead to two waves of migration in the direction of Jordan that would do away with what is left of its internal stability: One involves the Palestinians of Syria, who would radically alter the demographic equation in favor of the vision for an alternative homeland being formulated; and the other involves the influx of weapons and terrorist groups who would take advantage of the despair and anger among the marginalized segments.
The King is aware, along with the ruling elite and the state officials, of the outlines of these risks and scenarios. Nevertheless, there are counter-factors at play, which had overlapping roles in pushing the establishment towards what could be considered a suicidal scenario. These include:
First, the growing sharpness of the slogans and the open-ended nationalistic tendencies of the popular protest movement in East Jordan. This portends the risk of an East Jordanian national identity crystallizing separately from the Hashemites with radical inclinations, both socially and politically.
All the elements of power at the disposal of the Royal Court, including the political, military and security institutions belong to that particular identity, in terms of composition, affiliation, loyalty and ethnic fervor – more so than they belong to the structure of the state.
With this in mind, the adventure with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the Palestinian Jordanians appears the safest option for the Court in the foreseeable term, despite its inherent risks. This is especially the case as such an option does not require the regime to offer any profound social concessions regarding, for example, its neoliberal policies or the interests of the compradorial classes – which as it turns out are an integral part of the structure of the regime and the ruling class.
We are probably seeing today, then, a new trade-off between the Royalty and the alternative homeland scheme. The loss of the West Bank in ’67 to the Israelis took place in the name of the glory of fighting in one front alongside President Gamal Abdul-Nasser. Similarly, the loss of the East Bank, nearly half a century later, to the Palestinian elites, will not be less glorious – but this time on board the Islamist bandwagon.
Another factor is the helplessness felt by the Jordanian establishment, as its perception of the odds of the Assad regime surviving became bleaker.
Today, sources in this establishment say that areas under the control of the Syrian government are rapidly shrinking, with defections and terrorist attacks intensifying and reaching the heart of Damascus. They even cite the theatrical well-photographed appearance of the former head of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalyoun, in Syria, as an omen of the impending collapse of the Syrian regime.
Russia has explicitly denied Western reports that spoke about a Russian-American understanding over a transitional phase without President Assad. Despite this, the Jordanian establishment, which has yet to assimilate the depth of the strategic transformations on the world scene, chose a pessimistic explanation for the ambiguity resulting from the conflict of Western and Russian statements.
Then there is the sharp crisis beleaguering the treasury in Jordan, the result of a whole decade of systematic looting, failed policies and dubious privatization schemes as well as wasteful spending. This crisis cannot be remedied except through a deep social contract with a focus on the people of East Jordan, or a radical political solution within the framework of the Qatari scheme for an Islamist alternative homeland for the Palestinians.
Finally, international pressure for political reforms in the country gave the Royal Court two options: Either democratic change, or compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood on a basis that enshrines their bilateral partnership under the umbrella of the continuation of absolute monarchial rule.
What made the second solution more favorable is that the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is, politically and organizationally speaking, intricately linked to Hamas in the Diaspora. The latter, by abandoning Damascus, had in fact lost much of its political influence among the Palestinians in favor of the Hamas branch within the Palestinian territory.
Consequently, it had no option but to hold a deal with the Jordanian regime, to recover some of its influence through Jordan, in return for granting the regime an excellent opportunity to use Hamas to put its own house in order.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
Nahed Hattar is a Jordanian writer.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect al-Akhbar’s editorial policy.