Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syria and the Jordanian silence | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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While launching furious criticism at the Russians, Chinese, Lebanese and others who have adopted negative or weak positions, everyone is trying to avoid blaming Syria’s neighbor Jordan, despite the fact that people are being slaughtered on its borders.

The situation in Syria will affect its two neighbors Jordan and Turkey regardless of their positions, but as matters get more serious and the results more complicated, the two neighbors remain semi-ambiguous, adopting a policy of an ostrich burying its head in the sand in the hope that the danger it does not want to address will bypass it. The journey from the Jordanian border to the Syrian capital by car takes on hour, little more than 100 kilometers, and this explains the extent of the huge impact posed by the situation in Syria, and the danger that it represents for Jordan.

The Border States will not be immune from what is happening in Syria, but they are continuing to wait for the regime to be overthrown or for the revolution to die out. At first, the Turks raised the ceiling of everyone’s expectations, but then were satisfied as usual by entering into a battle of words. As for Jordan, which promised to have an opinion on every political matter, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon for example, it has maintained its silence. It even remained silent when the shelling of Daraa could be heard on the Jordanian side of the border.

Here I am trying to understand Jordan’s political isolation towards the extremely serious situation in Syria. Jordan fears the Syrian regime because it knows that it would not hesitate to ignite chaos by sending its militias and Shabiha over the border, and by mobilizing some of its forces inside Jordan, but we know that the overwhelming majority of the Jordanians are standing with the Syrian people, and not vice versa. Perhaps the reason for Jordan’s silence is because it is not keen on the fall of the Syrian regime, fearing the assumption of power in Damascus by extremist religious groups, thus disrupting the Jordanian arena.

We cannot give a state with such limited potential, like Jordan, more responsibility than it can bear, but at the same time there is no realistic justification for its negative neutrality. If it remains neutral, Jordan will find itself distanced from any positive impacts on Syria’s future, and by getting involved to some extent; it will be in fact defending itself and its interests.

The Jordanians have given the Syrian regime more than a year in the hope that it would reform or resolve its problems, but it has failed and the fires have now reached the heart of the capital Damascus. Many military apparatuses have moved to Damascus in preparation for the battles ahead, and the army has occupied the Abbasiya football stadium. All indicators suggest that the regime will die by the end of the year, and if it lives longer, it will have lost control of most of the country. The al-Assad regime has committed a series of mistakes that are reflected in its reality; a regime incapable of reconciliation and based on security and military repression.

I don’t mean that Jordan should do what Turkey has declined to do, i.e. get involved in a clash with the Syrian regime, but it should support the Syrian people across its border.

Where is Jordan’s stance on what is happening and what will happen in Damascus?

Jordan played a positive role in the Iraq crisis, whereby Amman became the capital for the peaceful opposition, leaving the road open for fleeing remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, whilst the Jordanian capital also served as Baghdad’s political and economic lung before and after its fall.

We know that Jordan will not affect whether or not the regime will fall in Damascus, and that it does not want to be a party in the conflict, but the Jordanians can have a large margin of influence on the Syrian situation in political and humanitarian terms. The regime’s policy of besieging Syrian cities and rural areas means that the tragedy has become more intense, but this will not stop the change coming to the country.

The other point is that Jordan will not be threatened by what may happen in Damascus as much as it will be threatened by the continued existence of the al-Assad regime, which has been a source of disturbance for the Jordanians for the past 40 years. No believes what the Syrian regime is promoting, namely that Jordan fears it because it is legitimate, flexible, moderate, tolerant and successful in very difficult circumstances.

A real danger could manifest itself in one of three cases: Syria could descend into a civil war because of the overwhelming state of indecisiveness, extremist groups could seize power, or the country could become divided. The regime, or a part of it, would only remain in the case of a civil war or the division of the country. Jordan is not able to influence these scenarios, but at the same time it will feel the heat emanating from them.

Leaving matters to decline further is certainly the greatest threat to Jordan’s interests. Here we have to differentiate between the Syrian case and what happened in Iraq. The latter case was administered by the largest army in the world, and the Americans, despite the harm they have caused, successfully prevented the emergence of a famine or a failed state, and prevented the export of the Iraqi crisis to Jordan. The Syrian situation is completely different, and with the weakening or collapse of the central authority there is no one to protect the neighboring countries from the eruption of the Syrian volcano. If its neighbors refrain from helping it, Syria could become another Somalia, and this is the natural consequence of ignoring an ongoing crisis.