Monday, November 26, 2012

The Next Islamist Domino - Jordan


Jordan and King Abdullah appear to be next on the Islamist hit list. And the Obama administration seems to be sending signals that it tacitly approves.

Jordan has been at a tipping point for quite some time, partly because it's a U.S client state (which doesn't sit well with a significant part of its population whom consider King Abdullah an American tool) and partly because of its peculiar history and tribal aspect.

There have been protests with Muslim Brotherhood participation for two years now, but the most recent outbursts were large riots across the Kingdom that spread across the Kingdom and called openly for King Abdullah's ouster. In spite of brutal suppression by the King's security police and numerous arrests, the unrest, referred to as the "The November Intifada" is only growing.

Adding to the turmoil were remarks on November 19th by Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner, who stated at a press conference that there was "thirst for change" in Jordan and that the Jordanian people had "economic, political concerns," as well as "aspirations." Needless to say, this sent a clear signal to King Abdullah's foes and to America's remaining allies in the region that just like Egypt's Mubarak, the Obama Administration is willing to cut Abdullah loose in favor of an Islamist regime.

The unrest was ostensibly over an end to government subsidies that have led to increases in fuel prices and other staples,but it's been festering for quite some time. Here are the two main factors involved.

Jordan, like the other Arab nations of Egypt, Tunisia and Syria without oil wealth had been keeping things quiet by subsidizing the price of food staples and cooking oil. The skyrocketing prices of these items on the world market combined with the rising economies of countries like India and China have made this an impossible solution to continue. Where it used to be Indians and Chinese who suffered when food prices rose dramatically, now it's the Arabs without oil wealth who are at the bottom of the chain because of their dysfunctional economies, and it's no coincidence that with the exception of Bahrain and Libya where there were tribal issues involved, all of the Arab Spring revolts have been in countries without oil wealth. It's also worth noting that in the only the two countries with oil resources that experienced Arab Spring unrest, the Bahrain revolt failed miserably, and that the one in Libya only succeeded because of extensive U.S. assistance.

To cut it down to one a short paragraph, no matter what you're hearing from the usual suspects, the Arab Spring isn't about a hankering for democracy. It's about the price of goods and food.And the Islamists are capitalizing on this (with the help of an Islamist-friendly American administration) by telling the Arab Street that all it's going to take to fix things is a return to hard line Islamism and sharia.

The second factor is similar to the one operating in Syria, longtime rule by a privileged minority caste. In Syria, it's the Shia Alawites ruling over a predominantly Sunni population. In Jordan, it's Bedouins ruling over Palestinians, or Qurayshi Arabs, to give them their proper name.

Here's a little history.

Back in 1923, Britain decided to solve the Palestine question of fulfilling their League of Nations Mandate to create a Jewish state in Palestine by partitioning the territory. They set 79% of it aside as the Arab part of Palestine, everything east of the Jordan River, and removed those Jews who had settled in that area. Everything west of the Jordan was supposed to be the Jewish State, as set down in the San Remo Agreement in 1924 between Britain and the League that modified the terms of the original mandate.

The British then attempted to kill two birds with one stone by placing the present king's grandfather, also named Abdullah on the throne as Jordan's ruler. This original King Abdullah was a Bedouin, the son of the Hashemite Sharif of Mecca Hussein, a British client. His Jordanian subjects, however, were Quraysh or town Arabs, an entirely different group who today identify themselves as Palestinians.

Thus, what was supposed to have become the Arab Palestinian state became a place where almost 80% of the residents were saddled with what amounted to an imported foreign aristocracy that quickly took charge of the leading positions in the military and government and reserved these positions for themselves.

This has manifested itself over the years in the assassination of the original King Abdullah in 1951 on the orders of Palestinian leader Haj-Amin al Husseini and in Yasser Arafat and the PLO's attempt to overthrow Abdullah's successor, King Hussein in 1970. That attempt was ruthlessly suppressed by King Hussein's Bedouin troops in his Arab legion, but tension and divisions between Jordan's Bedouin ruling class and their Palestinian subjects has remained.Even today, the Hashemite Bedouin monarchy is trying its best to even the odds by arbitrarily depriving Palestinians of Jordanian citizenship who have held it for years.

The $1 billion in direct U.S. aid King Abdullah receives helps,but it's not enough by itself to bridge the financial gap, and has only served to demonize the regime to the Muslim Brotherhood and many of the Palestinians. Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups in neighboring Syria up the ante.

While the Muslim Brotherhood does not have full control of the Jordanian opposition to King Abdullah, (Palestinians, especially those in refugee camps are a significant factor), the Muslim Brotherhood and its salafist allies are the only group that is well financed and organized enough to win any future elections and take control of a new Jordanian regime if the King falls.

And the pressure on King Abdullah's regime will be especially intense if the Islamist dominated Syrian resistance successfully overthrows the Assad regime and puts most of Syria in the hands of the Islamists, something the Obama Administration is working towards diligently.

The future?

If this goes as I foresee and King Abdullah's regime is overthrown, it will almost certainly be replaced by an Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood led regime similar to Egypt's, with the full connivance and backing of the Obama Administration.

The current Arab occupied parts of Judea and Samaria will likely merge with Jordan, since they will almost certainly be under Hamas rule in the near future and there's no deal Israel can offer the Palestinians the Palestinians would accept that doesn't severely compromise Israel's security . The U.S. will have lost yet another ally in the region. No matter how much 'daylight' President Obama wishes to create between Israel and America to appeal to his new Islamist friends, congress is not likely to go along with it completely and the Islamist regimes themselves are not pro-American in the least.

Whatever loyalty they have will be dependent on how much baksheesh in the form of aid America is willing to cough up, and even that is not likely to suffice for long barring a complete break with Israel.Don't be surprised if Egypt and an Islamist Syria once again becomes a Russian clients.

Israel will almost certainly steer a much more independent course and find new allies as their massive oil and gas finds come online next year, most likely China.The downgrading of the US-Israel alliance by the Obama Administration will be seen as a major foreign policy error in the future, since it will also send a message to the Saudis and the GCE countries that America is an unreliable ally. Since President Obama remains hostile to domestic energy creation from oil, coal and gas, expect oil prices to go up and take the prices of food and goods along with them.

The peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan may survive de jure a bit longer, but they're essentially history. Israel has a worthless piece of paper, the Arabs have the land, and in Jordan's case, the land and the water. So there's no real need to pretend anymore.

The Middle East will devolve back to pre '67 status, with Israel surrounded by hostile Muslim states. The only difference is that instead of secular, quasi-Marxist leaders, the leaders will be hard line Islamists.

The creation of an Islamist Caliphate in the Arab world  was something Hassan al-Banna, who created the Muslim brotherhood in the 1920's only dreamed about.The Obama Administration has made considerable progress in making that dream a reality.


B.Poster said...

"...the Arab spring isn't about a hankering for democracy. Its about the price of food and goods..." The "goods" specifically are the price of oil. This is spot on. The first step to solving any problem is to correctly identify what the problem is. Since the premise held by the US government and the news media is wrong, it is unlikely they will come up with the correct solutions to the problem. These problems go far beyond any thing a simple change in government to "democracy" or any other form of government can fix. While America cannot solve these problems by itself, it could help signficantly by increasing its oil production and its refining capacity. By increasing its oil production it would increase the supply of oil on the world market which would lower the price of oil which would help the situation in these Arab countries without significant oil supplies. Additionally, the US could relax its rules requiring gasoline to be made with an ethanol blend that comes from corn. Since gasoline providers must use corn in developing gasoline, this corn is unavailabvle to consumed as food. Since the US is a major agricultural provider, this drives up the price of food on the world market. Relaxing these requirements would mean more food on the market which would lower the price and would provide much relief for these Arabs. An additional problem here is one of stability. While the Arab spring rages, this creates an unstable situation in the Middle East which is one of the major suppliers of oil on the world market. Faced with a real risk of the distuption of these supplies this acts to futher drive up the price of oil which hurts these people even more. As a major oil importer, the main interest for the US in the Middle East is to promote stability. By increasing the supply of oil and relaxing the requirements to use ethanol based fuels this should lower the price of oil and food which will increase stability in the Middle East and will help the struggling Arabs as well. Furthermore the more stable Middle East that would result from will help lower the price of oil still more which will be all the more beneficial for the Arabs of these countries. Additionally, Israel acting as a buffer against Islamists would play a major role in stabilizing the Middle East. If America interferes less in Israel's affairs, that puts Israel in a better position to do this.

Anonymous said...

Abdullah I was the current king's GREAT-grandfather. His grandfather was forced to abdicate in favor of his son because he was schizophrenic. King Hussein, the current Abdullah's father, and the previous Abdullah's grandson, took the throne at the age of 16. (He was with his grandfather when Abdullah I was assassinated a year earlier.)

Rob said...

Thanks for the correction, anonymous.