Jordanian attempts to reengage with the region should be done based on a long-term strategy that aims to leverage the advantages of its borders, following several years of wearing the cost of regional chaos, that in many ways Jordan is still facing. Jordan’s geography represents an ongoing opportunity to play a key role in connecting the region. This is critical and essential for a country like Jordan to reinvent its position and find new political opportunities to demonstrate value for allies and have a positive impact on Jordan’s economy.
The border with Iraq seems to be on the top of the Jordanian agenda. A lot of effort is required in order to deal with the new political reality in Iraq, but it is an important point in time to consider how best to rebuild close cooperation between the two countries. Jordan must quickly take an approach that promotes a positive image of itself within Iraq, a clear opportunity for this is to assist with managing COVID-19 by offering medical supplies and sanitiser. In parallel, Jordan can capitalise on the great respect for the Hashemite family amongst the Arab Shia, separate to any political issues associated with Iran.
Jordan should also consider proactive steps to assist with the eventual settlement in Syria. While the chaos is ongoing, it will not last forever, and assisting the major powers to identify and implement solutions to bring the crisis to an end can position Jordan to demonstrate value. Until then, there is also an opportunity to assist those in the south of Syria facing COVID-19 with critical medical assistance, as well. Good relationships and positive impressions from Syrians living in border towns and in the south of the country will serve to strengthen the border in the future.
With Saudi Arabia and the gulf countries in general, Jordan should continue to find common ground in interests based on the new regional dynamics. Jordanian-Saudi relations are highly important for both sides, this was clearly expressed by His Majesty King Abdullah who received recently the Saudi Ambassador to Jordan describing the relations between the two countries as deep, historic and strategic on all levels.
Meanwhile, Jordan can leverage the current situation as a US ally and a country close to other western powers, Jordan should position itself as a source of potential solutions to bring the Palestinians to the table. The issue of the custodianship of the holy sites in Jerusalem is a clear demonstration that Jordan can in good faith engage with both the Muslim and Christian world. A Hashemite guardianship of the holy sites makes practically, historically and culturally.
The region is going through significant changes. The US administration is keen to break the ice in the Arab peace process, but maintaining the peace on the ground between the countries that are geographically, politically and demographically connected, as well as working together to maintain regional security. This is the real peace on the ground. However, Jordan should not be positioned as a representative or partner of Ramallah alone. Jordan’s power lies in open doors with all players, bringing new ideas that can be attractive for international and regional powers. It is this path that ensure an active role with benefits from all sides.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh