Slipping into Jordan?

Slipping into Jordan?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The Middle East is focused on the continuing human tragedy in Syria; the growing potential military test between the Israeli Air Force and the new Syrian defensive radar and weapons systems; the U.S.-Russia confrontation over the escalation of Russian weapons transfers to Syria –read Hezbollah, Iranian, and radical Al Qaeda linked groups in Syria; the intense Iranian engagement in Assad’s war with the rebels; and the Israel and the West’s brinksmanship struggle over Iran’s nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, there is another rapidly emerging crisis in Jordan which for the Israelis at least may be strategically and tactically very dangerous. 

In no way does the looming crisis in Jordan have the immediate explosive potential that many of the other confrontations could and might present, but Israel may very soon be surrounded by extremely hostile enemies on three sides. There is a reasonable prediction that Hezbollah and radical Islamists could be soon positioned in Israel’s North (Lebanon and Syria) at the same time that Israel faces a growing radical, Egyptian Government-encouraged, military force stationed in the Sinai.  This is joined by the growing instability in Iraq, as no governmental authority appears able to maintain calm between the Shiites and the Sunnis. The sectarian violence in Iraq appears today to be as dangerous and potentially destructive as was the fighting which was present there during the worst years prior to the U.S. withdrawal.

It is, however, in addition to these countries of dangerous instability that Israel is now aware that it needs to watch for the growth of radical movements in Jordan.  It is specifically this development when joined with the other ones surrounding it that makes Israel increasingly vulnerable. According to the UN Refugee Agency there are now almost 500,000 Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan across the Syrian border, and the Guardian reports there are now over 1 million refugees in all of Jordan. (Jordan’s own population only totals 6.1 million people.)

At the moment the humanitarian crisis is huge. To date only a fraction of the monies pledged to feed, cloth, and house the Jordanian refugees has actually arrived. This presents the perfect environment for a radical response. While the preponderance of the refugees are women and children,  Jordan, Israel, and the U.S. all assume that among these refugees are certainly radical Islamists as well.  Assuming they begin to assert themselves and make demands, the King may not be able to sustain his independence against the radicals.

The potential is real that in the very near future Israel could well face threats along all of its borders, something it has not had to address in almost 40 years.  Like King Abdullah, Israel understands that a potential over-throw of the liberal King may well be in the cards, producing another radical Islamic state along Israel’s borders.

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