Many claim that the Jordanian regime has emerged from the Arab Spring relatively unscathed. For example, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan was reported as stating in Yedioth Achronot in June 2012 that the Arab Spring would not reach Jordan and even if it did, “the regime would find the right way to satisfy the people’s wishes with reforms.” Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian Palestinian pro-democracy activist who is a political refugee, currently living in the United Kingdom claims otherwise.
Zahran, who says he has an extensive following among Jordan’s Palestinian population, argues that the Palestinian majority in Jordan is “angry to the fullest and have nothing to lose.” He further claims that as a whole, Jordan is experiencing rising foment among the general population against King Abdullah II, Jordan’s head of state. In short, “the situation in Jordan is bad.”
Zahran predicts that this year will be King Abdullah II’s last year in power in Jordan and that Abdullah II’s reign will not even survive the summer.
Even the native Bedouins, who were traditionally loyal to the Jordanian monarchy, are protesting openly for the king to be toppled, he says. “They have gone as far as surrounding his palace and telling him to leave the country,” Zahran explains. “All of his photos were burned in every Bedouin area and every refugee camp in Jordan.” For the first time in forty years, the Bedouins and the Palestinians are uniting together to topple the Jordanian monarchy.
Zahran claims that the Jordanian economy is on the verge of collapsing, accelerating the problem for the monarchy. “We have an inflation rate that exceeds Somalia and Ghana, and a growth rate that is less than Somalia, at 2.5 percent,” he said. “The national debt rate exceeds 75 percent of the GDP.”
For Jordanians, this horrendous economic situation brings back memories of the economic situation in 1989, when the Jordanians woke up one morning to find that their Jordanian currency had shrunk by half. Evidently, the prices of local stores in Amman are comparable to London and Tokyo, even though income per capita is 600 dollars less than Egypt, meaning that for the first time in the last 50 years Egyptians earn more than Jordanians.
According to Zahran, such a situation is not sustainable: “Jordan is a time bomb and the economic and political pressure will eventually make it explode.”
As a result, King Abdullah is desperate to save himself, Zahran says, claiming that Jordanian intelligence has been cooperating with the Assad regime over the last two months. Zahran asserts that Abdullah “has been sending back opposition figures to Assad, which is a death sentence for them, and he has been advocating at the Davos Forum that Assad will not fall, even playing on the fear factor that if Assad will fall al Qaeda will take over.”
While the king continues to paint himself as the main opposition to radical Islam, Zahran says he has made an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood which has been helping him crush secular opposition figures.
He claims that the secular opposition in both Syria and Jordan have no interest in fighting Israel and that it is they who dominate the revolution (though he concedes that the Muslim Brotherhood, with its enormous wealth, has the best shot at winning elections because no one is financially supporting the secularists). According to him, the Palestinians of Jordan, who make up the majority of the Jordanian population, are very liberal compared to Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza.
In addition to colluding with Assad and the Muslim Brotherhood, Zahran says that Abdullah is also reaching out to Iran. In parallel, Al Quds Al Arabi has reported that Iran has already offered Abdullah assistance in developing Jordan’s uranium wealth.
“The king is playing with fire and the Iranians could easily burn up Jordan,” Zahran declares. “They don’t care, just like they did in Lebanon, and they will burn any where as long as it is not on their own soil.”
While Zahran says such developments in Jordan require Israel to question its support for Abdullah, he reiterates that he does believe that when (not if) King Abdullah falls, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood will win elections as they are “the only one[s] with the money.”
Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood owns a daily newspaper, while the secularists are banned from having their own newspapers. In addition, Zahran said that as of ten years ago, the Brotherhood had a two billion dollar trust fund which could have grown significantly since, and the Brotherhood owns private hospitals, private schools, private universities, and has vast real estate ownership. “The secularists have nothing, while the Muslim brotherhood will only need 50 million dollars to win elections.”
While Zahran does not believe that the Muslim Brotherhood would have the power to fight Israel immediately upon taking power, he nevertheless believes that they will pose a threat to Israel over the long-term, by transforming Jordan into a base where perhaps rockets could be launched into Israel. In other words, he says, Jordan would be turned into another Gaza under a Muslim Brotherhood leadership. “They will create chaos and distress similar to Lebanon, but not an all-out war.”
“There might be a coalition with Iraq and Iran,” Zahran asserts. “If they take over Jordan, they will be able to threaten the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia; they will be able to threaten Lebanon, and they could make Israel’s life miserable through a coalition with Iran and Iraq.”
Zahran claimed that those who support peace are still betting on the king and thus have not learned from what happened in Egypt, where the world silently watched and did nothing as the democratic forces were defeated in elections by radical Islamists opposed to democracy. Instead he says, they should lend support to the secular opposition.
“The pro-peace and pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. should intervene by convincing the U.S. government to talk to the secularists, just like they have been talking to the Islamists,” Zahran says. More than that, the U.S. should “provide media coverage to the secularists in Jordan and Syria and to provide a few million dollars channeled through registered organizations in the West to support the secularists in Jordan.”
“We have very limited time ahead of us,” he says.
About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."
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