Vitalising of the Amman-Baghdad political and diplomatic channels; this is not sufficiently descriptive of the scale of expected shift on foreign Jordanian policy over the coming months of 2017; the pending changes will constitute a steady but culminating turn in the Kingdom’s position towards the region and its cases.
What variable drive these changes?
In short, the relatively varying approach of the US administration, which differs from the outgoing office’s views on the relationship with Russia as well as on Syria. The US-Russia rearrangement is imminent, estimated within months, coupled with the advancement of international coordination in the administration of the Syrian situation, in hand with new Russian-Turkish agreements, and the crystallisation of the Russia-Iran regional axis.
Notwithstanding, there is an expedited military effort to finish ISIS in Iraq, in addition to a pivoting Turkish turn in the region, including the initiation of a full on confrontation with ISIS, forgoing their support for the former ‘Nusra Front’, now known as Fath al-Sham, and major revaluation of Turkish interests and priorities in Syria.
Either one of the above bundle of impending changes has to do with the military advancements of the Syrian Regime and the Iranians in Syria, pending the Astana conference, as expected, to investigate the horizons of a political resolution, with the relative success of the ceasefire.
What are the outcomes? Well, the Arabs are completely out of the Syrian game. The four new poles have risen; Turkey, Russia, Trump, and Iran. The world has given up on the priority of overthrowing the Syrian regime, in exchange to prioritising ceasefire and getting rid of ISIS. Also, there is the growing influence of Iran in Iraq and Syria, evidently, bring Iran as a primary player in the regional field today, and soon on our borders.
Meanwhile, the Arab system is disintegrating, and discords are intensifying between Saudi and Egypt over Syria and Iraq.
So, how will all that reflect on the strategic and security prospects of Jordan?
When it comes to National Security and maintaining interests in Syria, Jordan is betting big on ties with Russia, and on the possibility for political, peaceful resolution in Syria, spurring from the core of new regional and international accords, which would reflect positively on Jordan, and particularly on the southern Syrian front, which is still maintaining the status quo, barely, for the past two years, enabled by a bundle of unofficial and unwritten Jordanian-Russian agreements.
But what if the peaceful diplomatic efforts fail? What then?! Expectedly, the southern Syrian frontier will up to the top of the Iranian and Syrian list of priorities, incurring a direct threat to Jordan’s national security, be it in terms of refuge or in regards to the armed conflict closing in on our borders; that is in addition to invaluable opportunity it poses for ISIS to finally dismantle the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the south of Syria.
What will Jordan do? Will a “Veto” against military incursion; be it Iranian or Hizbullah, be possible, given the massive turn on the ground? This should be risen by the decision makers.
My estimations is that Jordan will lean more towards neutrality over the coming phase, especially after the Aleppo shock.
With oil prices receding and the Gulf financial situation culminating, Jordan is seriously considering opening up to Iraq, which has always been one of Jordan’s main economic windows. Likewise, Jordan is looking into the possibility of investing in the reconstruction of Syria.
If we consider these interests strategically, as a way out of Jordan’s current economic crisis, the vital question would be: could any of that be done without advancing bilateral ties with Iran? And is there a price to pay for that?
To cut through the chase, the only way into Iraq and Syria now is Tehran. But Jordan has not the luxury of forfeiting critically vital interests with Gulf Countries; politically, economically, and above all, economically; to begin with, over half a million Jordanians working there!
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.