Friday, January 28, 2011

Anti-Government Protests Spread To Jordan

Members of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan's largest opposition party have joined what al-Jazeera calls 'trade unions and leftist organizations' in widespread anti-government protests across Jordan.

That alliance between the Left and the Islamists is a key one, as both favor an end to western-style free market capitalism.

Jordan is similar to Egypt in having no oil to buy off a compliant population with subsidies, in being a US client state, in having a strong Islamist movement and in having a population beset by economic turmoil.

The key difference is one of tribalism.

When the British drew a line in the sand in 1923 and established the Kingdom of Jordan, it was intended to be the division between the Arab part of Palestine and the Jewish state the British had agreed to establish in Palestine under the League of Nations Mandate and later, the San Remo Agreement.

The majority of Jordan's population were 'Palestinian' - Quraysh Arabs, who were town dwellers as opposed to the Bedouin, who were desert dwellers. King Faisal, leader of the Bedouin Hashemite tribe had aided Britain in a minor way in fighting the Arab's former Ottoman rulers during WWI, and the British rewarded King Faisal's sons with thrones.

Iraq, made up of various pieces of Mesopotamia went to Ali. Jordan, comprising 80% of Palestine was given to Abdullah, the present King's grandfather who established a minority Bedouin Hashemite monarchy over the 'Palestinians' that continues to this day. Presently, even given the inevitable intermarriage, the split is roughly 75% 'Palestinian' and about 25% Bedouin, with many of the Bedouin Hashemite loyalists in key positions in government and the army.

In effect, a number of 'Palestinians' have always felt, with some justification, that they had a foreign monarchy imposed on them. This situation blew up once before, in 1970 when Yasser Arafat attempted to use the PLO to take over the country.
It failed, because the Israelis intervened at US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's request and mobilized their armor to counteract Syria's attempt to send troops into Jordan to aid the PLO. That left King Hussein free to use his army on the 'Palestinians' in a period known to the 'Palestinians' as Black September, when thousands of Palestinians were killed outright by King Hussein's Arab Legion and the PLO and Arafat were driven across the borders through Syria and into Lebanon.

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.

So the current protests not only have an anti-US and Islamist element but a tribal one as well.

It remains to be seen if the protests are going to reach the level they have in Egypt.

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