Is Hashemite Jordan fixing to go all the way - the other way?
Long a friend of the West and the conservative monarchies of the Middle East, Jordan's continuing failure to democratize its politics, reform its economy and properly plan for the thousands of refugees that daily cross its borders have led to increasing tensions in the country.Pic - "Jordan’s future NEVER looked certain!"
Jordan has a population of more than 6 million, contains few natural resources and is overly reliant on aid and loans from rich neighbors in the Persian Gulf and long-standing allies in the West. Following its loss of the West Bank during the 1967 war with Little Satan, Jordan has slowly abandoned its longtime claims of sovereignty over it.
It has remained largely neutral in regional politics, though it allied strategically with Saddam Hussein's Iraq on more than one occasion and cultivated increasingly friendly ties with President Bashar Assad's regime before the outbreak of conflict in Syria in 2011.
Although Western audiences often regard Abdullah and his equally charismatic late father as exemplars of moderation and rationality in a sea of religious extremism, weekly protests today show that Jordanians are growing weary of the palace's hollow democracy talk. Frustrated and discouraged by the ever-shifting Cabinets that rarely deliver on their promises, reform-hungry Jordanians increasingly view the pandering monarch with a skeptical eye.
And the global financial crisis, waves of refugees from neighboring Iraq and Syria and failed economic reforms have hit the country hard. Food prices have skyrocketed, economic growth has been halved and unemployment stands officially at 12%, and unofficially hovers around 30%.
So far, public outrage has been limited to weekly Friday protests in cities such as Amman, Maan and Karak.
But the disastrous revolutionary examples in Syria and Egypt, coupled with the continuing influx of refugees, have left the country in a tense stalemate. What seemed like the inevitable march of the Arab Spring three years ago is now a cause for pause and deliberation among local activists, and a nationwide protest movement is unlikely.
Abdullah thus far has successfully persuaded many of his citizens to obey the dictates of living for God, king and country. But he and the coterie that surrounds him have little to offer those Jordanians who desire a greater voice in politics and different approaches to governance. To what degree the palace and its allies can continue to rule a fractious citizenry while appeasing external supporters is the crucial question that shapes short-term political dynamics in Jordan.
The persistence or deterioration of Jordanian stability will not only have inescapable repercussions for the country's citizenry but also for the geopolitics of a region that continues to confound American policymakers.