Jordan Can No Longer Claim Neutrality in the Syrian Crisis

Article Summary
Jordan has been both lauded and criticized for its neutrality concerning the Syrian crisis, reports Mohammad Barhoumah, but now that it's allowed a defecting Syrian pilot to land on its soil, it may be time for Jordan to define its stance. Between the anti-Assad king and his pro-Assad supporters, what path will the kingdom take?

Nearly one year ago, King Abdullah II delivered his famous speech in which he stated that “If I were in Assad’s shoes, I would have stepped down.” A few months ago, former Jordanian government spokesman Rakan al-Majali said that the Jordanian government is not interested in “making any impact on the Syrian equation,” thus highlighting the incomplete convergence in Jordan’s official position toward Syria. This has pushed many pundits to talk about how Jordanian officials are in the “gray zone.” Supposedly, Jordanian authorities have been avoiding involvement in the Syrian crisis — as was expected and required — due to the Syrian refugees in the north of the country.

In this context, one must understand the incident about the Russian-made MiG-21 aircraft that landed a few days ago in Jordanian territory. To the surprise of those who reprimanded Jordanian authorities for their reserved position toward Syria, Amman granted a Syrian pilot landing rights in Jordanian territory, as well as political asylum.

Jordan’s swift response to the request of Colonel Hassan Marei, who landed his MiG-21 aircraft at the King Hussein military air base, left many unanswered questions about Jordan’s true position regarding the Syrian crisis. The Jordanian position has not been fully or clearly formed. While Jordanians and King Abdullah showed their strong support for the Syrian revolution, some Jordanian decisionmakers do not favor taking clear and decisive positions about the Syrian uprisings. It seems that these reserved decisionmakers believe that the Syrian regime may survive this crisis, and that relations between Jordan and Syria could go back to normal.

This group sought to bolster its reservations toward the Syrian crisis by shedding light on the potential impact of the Islamists rising to power in Syria, referring especially to how this would affect Jordan internally — not to mention the Muslim Brotherhood’s hard-line stance on Jordanian political and economic reform. Many Jordanian politicians and journalists strongly warned that severing relations with the Syrian opposition and rebels will not serve Jordan’s best interests in the long run.

Furthermore, Qatar and Saudi Arabia strongly support the Syrian revolution, and they are likely to tip the balance in favor of the Jordanian parties who firmly believe that the kingdom will inevitably be involved in the crisis along its borders. In this case, Jordan will not stand still and watch or be merely content with containing the Syrian refugee problem. Moreover, civil strife in Syria indicates that the Syrian regime will most likely collapse, given the international position on the crisis. Most importantly, this includes the CIA’s supervision of arming the Syrian opposition so that US has full control over the arming process.

The "Eager Lion" military exercises that took place in Jordan a few weeks ago are further proof that Jordan should not remain impartial on the Syrian revolution, especially regarding the potential impact Islamists could have on the kingdom or the Syrian refugee issue. Political wisdom holds that all the countries neighboring Syria, including Jordan, must consider the possibility that the Syrian regime may collapse. The jet incident reaffirmed that it is now imperative for Jordan to take a clear stance in support of the Syrian revolution.

Found in: hassan marei, rakan al-majali, syrian uprising, russian mig, russian, king abdullah ii

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