Israel and the United Arab Emirates’ move to establish formal diplomatic ties as Israel has agreed to suspend a plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank is part…
During his recent visit to Jordan, Turkish President Erdogan spoke of the Jordanian role in Jerusalem. However, he did not mention the Hashemite custodianship over the holy sites, which is interesting given the perceived Turkish support of the Hashemite custodianship of al Aqsa Mosque.
Erdogan’s visit comes at a time where Jordan is drifting from its strategic alliances with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. This drift is particularly stark in dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, as these allies are taking steps to list the organization as a terrorist group while they are coming to power in municipality elections across Jordan. Of particular note is in the city of Zarqa, which represents a base of the radical Islamic doctrine. Any perceived support or even lack of opposition to the Brotherhood could send negative messages to Arab countries while edging closer to the Turkish government.
Turkey’s regional strategic position currently faces several major challenges. Firstly the dynamics in Syria have turned against them while the US is positioning ever closer to the Kurds and the potential for an independent state. Losing positioning in Syria is one thing, but the potential for Kurdish independence is a clear territorial threat to Turkey. In addition, Erdogan’s major ally in the Muslim Brotherhood are being targeted by the Arab countries and increasingly isolating Turkey politically, especially when combined with their supportive position on Qatar.
Erdogan is clearly seeking engagement in Jordan to counter the isolation from the rest of the Arab countries. For Jordan, this may well be the breaking of the ice for a traditionally lackluster relationship with Turkey. What we must be careful of in this though is that we do not send the wrong message to our Arab allies, and trigger isolation from them as well.
Jordan needs to diversify its options and open communications channels and engagement with all key players in the region, including Turkey. We can leverage our geographically strategic position in the region, but it must be part of a clear strategy that outlines what we want to achieve and where we want to position ourselves.
Jordan is increasingly being isolated politically, so a clear exit strategy from the current political situation is required. It will be challenging to rebuild ties with Syria and Iraq, but that is key given the shared borders. The deterioration of relations with Israel is also a serious challenge that must be addressed, as is the relationship with Saudi Arabia, which continues to head in the wrong direction.
With all the challenges that Jordan faces, what is needed is a new progressive vision that includes serious changes. Jordan needs a new direction and key to this is more credible people in the political system, as new policies are unlikely with old faces.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh
The roots of the tension between Qatar and other GCC countries go back several years to the Arab Spring. During this time, the GCC countries felt that Qatar was playing an active role in feeding the discontent, and the dispute was resolved with the transition of power of the Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to his son Tamim in 2013. As part of this transition, Qatar provided assurances of a shift in the role they played in the region.
The following year, the Gulf countries were not content with the progress and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain all withdrew their ambassadors from Doha and called for similar sanctions that have been applied this week, including the cutting of diplomatic ties and closing all land, sea and air borders with the Gulf states.
The events of this week are the culmination of these tensions that have been playing out over the last four years. Qatar is accused of supporting extremism, which they have not made any effort to counter. In fact, Doha has undertaken aggressive media campaigns against Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia through the wide network of media outlets that they sponsor.
The issues with Qatar span the Arab world, as the impacts are felt across the region. The main players have tried over several years to promote change in Qatar, to no end. While it may appear reactionary, this process has been playing out for many years, and Qatar has not sufficiently responded to ease the tensions or address the concerns of their Arab neighbors.
This process of isolating Qatar is part of a systematic plan that is likely to attract international support. The move comes immediately following President Trump’s visit to Riyadh where he called for an Islamic coalition to fight terrorism and radicalism.
These developments place much greater pressure on Qatar to shift its policies and actions. The promises of the past are no longer going to be enough, and Qatar will need to provide concrete actions in order to avoid further complications for its relationships within the region and internationally, which will fundamentally impact on its economy.
From a Jordanian prospective, Jordan is fully aware of the current situation and recognize that it is no longer a Gulf conflict, but one that impacts all Arabs. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt are key strategic allies for Jordan, so it was very logic for Jordan to consider a supportive position on this issue.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh