Friday, May 13, 2022

By Daled Amos

Jordan seems to be important to US interests.

According to the White House statement announcing King Abdullah II's meeting with Biden, their get-together

will reinforce the close friendship and enduring partnership between the United States and Jordan. Jordan is a critical force for stability in the Middle East and strategic partner and ally of the United States.

But if Jordan is such a close friend of the US, why does it continue to have such a cold peace with Israel?

An even better question -- what about the ties that King Abdullah is forging with Iran?

Just last year King Abdullah II met with Egyptian president Sisi and Iraqi Prime Minister Kadhimi to announce an agreement for transporting Iraqi oil via pipelines from Iraq to Jordan to Egypt, from where it will be taken to Europe via the Mediterranean.

Dr. Edy Cohen of the BESA Center writes that this indicates that Jordan Is Now an Ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

Because Iraq is a puppet state under Iran’s control, this agreement represents King Abdullah’s “coming out of the closet” with the Islamic Republic. Exporting Iraqi oil through Jordan to Europe is simply exporting oil controlled by Iran, which rules Iraq through its network of Shiite militias and controls the country’s resources.

The day after the announcement, Jordanian state media began promoting full financial cooperation with Iran.

In addition, there is talk of allowing up to one million Iranian religious tourists to visit the village of Kerak to visit the shrine of Jaffar Ibn Abu Taleb and according to the Jordanian press, Iran has proposed building an airport in Kerak.

A Jordanian TV broadcast at the time warned of the dangers of allowing Iranians into the country as tourists.

Harold Rhode, a longtime former adviser on Islamic affairs in the US Defense Department, agrees:

Rhode draws attention to how Tehran became the dominant force in both Lebanon and Syria. It seems to be using the same strategy to take over Jordan. In doing so, “Iran is attempting to surround Israel and Saudi Arabia further.”

None of this seems to bother the Jordanian people. According to a poll by David Pollock of the Washington Institute, Jordan does not perceive Iran as a threat on the level that the Gulf Arab states do. According to the poll, only 17% of Jordanians responded that good ties with Iran were "somewhat important" and they are evenly split, at 47%, as to whether "a renewed nuclear deal with Iran" is good or bad for the area.

By comparison, despite their peace treaty, Jordan is anything but friendly with Israel. In his poll, Pollock found that

Israel remains even more unpopular than Iran among Jordanians today. A mere 10 percent or so, young and old alike, have even a “somewhat” favorable opinion about the late 2020 Abraham Accords between Israel and four other Arab states (the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan). And the same very low percentage of Jordanians agree, a quarter-century after their own formal peace with Israel, that “people who want to have business or sports contact with Israelis should be allowed to do so.” 

That Jordan seems to be warming up to Iran does not seem to bother Biden.

And why should it? 

After all, in 2019, Robert Malley -- who served as a special assistant to Obama and as White House Middle East Coordinator -- described Obama's Middle East policy like this:

[Obama's] ultimate goal was to help the region find a more stable balance of power that would make it less dependent on direct U.S. interference or protection. Much to the Saudis’ consternation, he spoke of Tehran and Riyadh needing to find a way to “share” the region. [emphasis added]

Did anyone tell Iran about this "sharing"?

Saudi Arabia now finds itself in a situation where it feels the need to talk with Iran. In light of the lengths that the Biden administration is willing to go in order to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, it is not surprising that Jordan doesn't feel it is going against the White House's wishes by opening itself up to Iran as well.

More to the point, Jordan realizes -- as do the Gulf Arab states -- that the US cannot be relied upon to defend them against the Iranian threat.

Such is the state of a "strategic partner and ally of the United States" in the Middle East today.

Last October, the foreign ministers of Jordan and Iran had a conversation by phone. According to the Tehran Times, Amir Abdollahian, the Iranian foreign minister, said that Iran favored "friendly and brotherly relations based on mutual respect with regional countries":

He expressed Iran's support for regional dialog and cooperation away from foreign interference and emphasized the expansion of cooperation among regional countries, especially Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan, as a basis and driving force for further economic prosperity and stability in the region. [emphasis added]

Considering the instability of Iraq and Syria (not to mention Lebanon and Yemen), maybe Jordan should not be in too big a hurry to join Iran's fan club. 

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