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Jordan: Maintaining Stability amid the Fires

Jordan: Maintaining Stability amid the Fires

Monday, 5 April, 2021 - 06:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The situation in Jordan wasn’t turbulent, neither in its relations with its neighbors, nor in its relations with its citizens. Jordan allows expressions of differences and opinions, whether through parliament or in the streets. It has overcome several tests in the past.

Absent was the severity of practices adopted by neighboring countries, even if the Jordanian security forces have maintained their power due to their efficiency in collecting information and sensing dangers. Jordan is an image of stability for countries in the region and the world. The ardor of its public has not reached the level of threatening the public system or destabilizing institutions.

Perhaps it is this stable image that led the world to quickly rally around Jordan when its suddenly announced on Saturday night the arrest of prominent figures “for security reasons.” Arab and international reactions underscored support for Jordan’s stability and the role of its king in consolidating it. The attention was doubled when official statements on Sunday pointed blame and doubts at former Crown Prince Hamza bin al-Hussein and talked about an attempt to undermine Jordan’s stability. The tense hours endured by Amman demonstrated that stability will prevail and that it is safeguarded by the Jordanians and regional and international community.

Jordan was born a hundred years ago. It was not an easy birth in this difficult part of the world. Some were quick to judge, saying the country was built on shaky grounds, that it will be plagued with concerns and need constant maintenance. The problem is not limited to modest natural resources, but to the daunting geographic location. It is a combination of destinies that cannot be tackled with shocks.

The king of Jordan always had a challenging task of limiting the impact of regional developments on the kingdom. Jordan’s veins are connected to the Palestinians, whose plight was a turning point in our region in the 20th century. Its veins are connected to Iraq, which has been plagued with revolts, wars and division. It is also connected to Syria, whose map, role and ambitions have been taken over by major players.

Experience has proven that Jordan has two weapons that help ease its concerns during tense times. The first is the direct relationship between the king and people, which serves as protection during fateful crises and ensures the safety of the country. The second is its arsenal of international relations that provides cover to Jordan’s stability in spite of the turbulence in the region. King Hussein played a major role in sharpening these internal and external weapons. The ability to resort to them during dangerous times helped maintain Jordan’s security. The king of Jordan had to create a role for his country that was greater than the size of its people and economy. The role was fateful and vital in allowing the country in defending its existence, especially when talk emerged over the “alternative nation” and Israeli attempts to resolve the Palestinian problem by wronging the Jordanians.

King Abdullah II inherited from his father two keys that forge stability in a country that has often been surrounded by regional fires. The first key is listening to the people, no matter how loud or harsh they became. It is the boldness to turn to the people, to talk and rationalize with and persuade them of hopes and aspirations. This means a willingness to accept criticism, review decisions, change governments and laws and accommodate with the age and developments.

The second key is the continuous follow up of international developments and major policies and their relations with neighboring countries and regional hotspots.

When the two keys were used, their results shaped Jordan’s role as a promoter of moderation and coexistence in a region that is often swept with recklessness, extremism and costly adventures.

The management of Jordan is an open test. Those with the final say need skills to lead during storms, while making sure that the brakes are working and deepening the conviction among Jordanians that stability is a wealth that makes up for the natural resources that the kingdom lacks. This does not mean that the country is without problems, flaws, corruption and negligence. Addressing these issues, however, has always been within the boundaries of stability. The Jordanians have seen for themselves refugees who have sought asylum in their kingdom from neighboring countries that have been beset with wars, foreign intervention and extremists.

Before coming to power, the king undergoes strict training to hone his military skills and ability to endure, take initiatives and strike. After ascending the throne, he goes through a series of experiences that makes ruling Jordan seem like a series of endless tests that require a high degree of skill in addressing challenges.

The experience of King Abdullah II, who ascended the throne in the late 20th century, was never easy. A year after coming to power, the second Palestinian intifada erupted and was confronted with brutal force that killed off the last hopes of peace. Soon after, he had to contend with an even harsher test on September 11, 2001.

King Abdullah’s jet was flying over the ocean when Osama bin Laden’s planes flew into the symbols of New York and Washington’s success and pride. When his jet landed, the king realized that we would have to content with a changed America and world.

Another shock took place when the American army ousted Saddam Hussein from power and paved the way for the Iranian flood in the region. No sooner had the Iraqi embers faded that the Arab Spring revolts erupted. Jordan had to withstand its own spring without bloodshed and to derive lessons from the bloody spring in Syria and thwart ISIS plots after it had thwarted al-Qaeda’s. With every new earthquake, Jordan braced itself to help refugees pouring into its territories and to withstand a new burden.

It is no secret that Jordan had recently been enduring mounting difficulties, such as economic problems caused by a lack of resources, the rising burden of regional crises and growing losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Added to that is the seeming dead end in resolving the Palestinian issue and mounting sense that Syria will not end its plight any time soon. Amid these circumstances, the recent developments took place in Jordan to once again remind us of the importance of its stability and strength of its ruling institution in continuing its mission in creating stability.

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