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GIORDANIA

King Abdallah shifts on Syria

Jordan may be ready to take a more active stance against the Syrian regime but this would not be to Amman's advantage, says Nahed Hattar in Jordanian al-Arab al-Yawm

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mercoledì 4 luglio 2012 11:21

AL ARAB AL YAWM - TRANSLATION BY MIDEAST MIRROR LTD

Amman, the 3rd of July 2012 - Over the past weeks, the mood in Jordan's decision-making inner circle has changed in favor of joining the Western/Turkish/Gulf campaign against Syria.

Whereas Amman had previously been careful to pursue a flexible but clear policy of 'steering clear' of the Syrian fire, contrary signs have now begun to appear. The leaders of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood have been formally received and official discussions have been held with them.

Moreover, the return of the MIG-21 that a defecting Syrian pilot flew to Jordan two weeks ago has been unexpectedly delayed. This has led Damascus to publicly express its doubts that the Jordanian authorities have decided to subject the modernized jet to an intelligence inspection. Meanwhile, there have been (unconfirmed) reports of military preparations along the borders. There may be other indications and reports that have not yet been revealed. But the political signs we have already witnessed are most important. Thus, Jordan's official policy has somewhat unexpectedly shifted towards seeking a rapprochement with the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. The key help of Hamas was elicited to reach internal understandings.

In fact, 'the [previously banned] Jordanian citizen' [Hamas Politburo's head] Khalid Mish'al was received in the Royal Palace and by Jordan's PM. A press statement from the official Petra News Agency announced what may be viewed as a strategic understanding between the two sides based on Hamas's acceptance of the [2002/07] 'Arab peace initiative', in return for an internal role for Hamas in Jordan that would serve to lowering the ceiling of the Jordanian Brotherhood's political demands to the point of accepting the proposed review of the general electoral law - that is to say, increasing the number of seats for the national lists from 17 to 27 seats.

We still have no information about what was discussed during the two noteworthy meetings held between the Hamas and Brotherhood delegations, and the director of Jordan's General Intelligence. Hamas and Brotherhood officials have always called for dialogue with the Jordanian security apparatus. This suggests the presence of urgent files that have nothing to do with political reform, and that will remain hidden in Hamas and the Brotherhood's drawers. But we do believe that these issues are on their way to being resolved in a manner that is satisfactory to both sides.

Be that as it may, nothing will remain hidden. The important thing today is that the regional and local alliance between Amman and the Brotherhood is being cooked on a strong fire. In our opinion, this alliance has become an urgent necessity so to ensure popular political cover for [Jordanian] intervention in Syria. After all, such intervention would be impossible without putting Jordan's domestic house in order.

The Muslim Brotherhood has a Jordanian agenda. But it is willing to shelve it to ensure that Jordan will participate in its Syrian agenda. In fact, the decision in this respect is not a local one. It is in the hands Doha and the international Brotherhood organization.

Moreover, Hamas and the current that controls Jordan's Brotherhood today, have a strategic interest in reaching an understanding with Amman over Palestinian issues. In particular, Hamas outside Palestine led by Khalid Mish'al can no longer disguise its weakness and the dissipation of its political role resulting from its departure from Damascus. It can only avoid this by resituating itself on the Jordanian podium.

I believe that Jordan is now on the verge of a very dangerous domestic and foreign adventure. I believe that the bills that must be settled in order to intervene in Syria are extremely costly - first, in terms of the possibility of reviving the 1968-1970 equation [based on coexistence with the Jordanian regime] with Hamas and its local Brothers; second, in terms of abandoning the fixed principles that define Jordan's national identity; third, by creating the possibility of having to face two dangerous displacements from Syria, by which I mean the armed opposition groups and al-Qa'ida, and an intensive civilian displacement of Palestinian refugees from the Syrian camps; and, fourth, by opening up to the possibility of military intervention either in case of failure - which is most likely - or of success and the ensuing consequences that Jordan also cannot withstand.

There is an illusion that Jordanian intervention in Syria will ultimately be safe and that the Jordanian regime will be able to overcome both its political and financial crisis. However, the extent of the conflict in Syria, its ferocity, the presence of all the elements that ensure its prolongation, its historical dimensions, and its regional and international character all point to only one safe option for Jordan given its size, capabilities, and contradictions: That of steering clear of the Syrian crisis. Anything else would be extremely risky.