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Jordan’s Secular Opposition: Plan B for Jordan

For the first time, the Palestinians engaged fully in the protests, calling for toppling the regime.
Can King Abdullah II of Jordan be saved?

Can King Abdullah II of Jordan be saved?

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The Muslim Brotherhood is, therefore, the only financed and organized group to win any future elections. Even if the Brotherhood does not win a landslide victory, it will be the group most able to influence Jordanian politics, and might well forge ties to Iraq and Iran – both anti-Israel and anti-West – an event that would not be a help in stabilizing the region.

International media sources, such as those mentioned above, suggest the Jordanian secular opposition is popular and has more dominance over the protests than the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists, nonetheless, the seculars in Jordan lack the financial and media power enjoyed by the Islamists.

THE RISING SECULAR OPPOSITION

Several media outlets have confirmed Jordan’s protests were led by non-Islamist, or “secular” forces. The New York Times reported that the crowds in Amman “appeared to be largely middle class and led by organizers from the secular opposition;” [20] however, the New York times noted, however, the protesters were “palpably more timid than the mobs that ultimately brought down other Arab autocrats.”

Even though The Independent [21] reported that “The protesters…were led by activists that included the secular Hirak Shebabi youth movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and various nationalist and left-wing groups,” even before fuel prices were hiked, “a mother of all protests” took place in downtown Amman on October 5, 2013, in which the Muslim Brotherhood was one of 78 other factions taking part in the protest. [22] – an item indicating that the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is a part of the opposition and not “the opposition.”

In a recent report, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted the significance of the secular opposition in Jordan, adding that it “yet has to build the critical mass of public support necessary to truly challenge the king.” [23].

“Building support” is what the secular opposition in Jordan is trying to do. The Associated Press reports that “The opposition, which also includes Arab nationalist, communists and the largely secular Hirak movement of mostly young Jordanians, has seized on popular anger over the government’s decision Tuesday to raise prices for cooking and heating gas by 54 per cent in a bid to woo more of the population into its camp.” [24]

JORDAN’S PEACE WITH ISRAEL IN JEOPARDY?

The Hashemite regime has kept Jordan’s borders with Israel calm for the last four decades; in addition, Jordan is one of only two Arab nations to have signed a peace agreement with Israel. Will peace at the borders hold if the Hashemite regime falls?

The answer most likely depends on who will come to power after Jordan’s king steps down.

If the secular opposition in Jordan does not receive help, the Jordanian Revolution, if and when it happens, will be hijacked by the Islamists, as happened in Tunisia and Egypt.

CAN THE KING BE SAVED?

On October 23rd, 2012, Jordan’s king publicly acknowledged there were calls for toppling his Hashemite regime, [25] claiming those were made by “few”.

Evidence suggests those making the calls are not “few” [26]; and that calls for toppling the king’s regime are widespread.

Although Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, provides his suggestions for saving the king — by pressing him “to enact meaningful reforms,” “ensuring that international donor funds continue to flow,” and “providing security guarantees that he will not go the way of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak” — these proposed steps may not be easy to execute. The king has been promising reform, but delivering it far below the opposition’s expectations as, in 2011, a Brooking Institute report stated. [27].

At the same time, the US does not seem sympathetic to the King’s economic woes. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Jordan’s austerity measures, which included a dramatic hike of fuel prices, were “a necessary pain.” [28]

The king’s rich Arab allies from the Gulf States also do not seem willing to bail him out. As a recent Reuters report notes, “With protesters baying for his overthrow, Jordan’s King Abdullah might be wondering why his fellow-dynasts in Gulf Arab states are not providing the cash that could calm the trouble.[29]

Moreover, on November 15th, Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson for the US Department of State told the media, “There are concerns, economic and political concerns, and aspirations by the Jordanian people. We believe that King Abdullah’s roadmap for reform addresses these, but certainly, as we’ve seen elsewhere, there’s a thirst for change.” [30]. These messages, obviously, do not provide guarantees to the King that he will not go down the same path as Mubarak.

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About the Author: Mudar Zahran is a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan, who now resides in the UK as a political refugee.


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3 Responses to “Jordan’s Secular Opposition: Plan B for Jordan”

  1. this is an important document

  2. Marty Mensch says:

    This is very promising. I would like to see him repace the PA & Abass, which is not working. & than take all those that do not want to live in a Jewish State with us to Jordan with him. We should help with in Jordan. He sounds that he just might be the one that will bring real Peace to the entire region with our help.

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