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Ed Webb

Jordan, Facing Royal Crisis, Is a Banana Monarchy Falling Apart on America's Watch - 0 views

  • While some allege a real conspiracy tied to Saudi meddling, most analysts believe that the entire affair was a manufactured crisis designed to distract a public enraged about the ruling monarchy’s worsening mismanagement over the past decade. The pandemic made the already-stagnant economy worse, spiking unemployment from 15 to 25 percent and raising the poverty rate from 16 to a staggering 37 percent. Fruitless promises of democratic reform from Abdullah have led nowhere. With tribal activists regularly criticizing the king—the ultimate act of transgression—the monarchy is responding not with better policies and more transparency, but by doubling down with heightened repression.
  • Like all autocracies, Jordan has little tolerance for popular opposition. Moreover, most of the Arab monarchies suffer from dynastic infighting. Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Bahrain have all seen powerful hard-liners muffle dissident princes over the last decade. Kuwait’s Sabah monarchy has been rocked by coup conspiracies and succession disputes
  • It has surrendered much of its sovereignty with a new defense treaty—inked in January without the Jordanian public’s knowledge—giving the U.S. military such untrammeled operational rights that the entire kingdom is now cleared to become a giant U.S. base.
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  • History shows that when sponsoring a client dictatorship becomes a sacred pillar of Washington’s foreign policy, client rulers become extremely dependent upon U.S. support, prioritizing their relationship with Washington over their own people. In Jordan’s case, the government has preserved U.S. dominance in the Middle East and protected Israel while neglecting Jordanians’ own woes.
  • Policymakers fear that reducing any part of their support will destabilize their client state, which could not survive without it. The only option is to perpetuate the current system, even though that regime’s own policies are clearly destabilizing it.
  • Jordan’s transformation into a U.S. dependency began during the Cold War. Washington replaced the fading British in the late 1950s as its great protector, a logical move given the need to back anti-Soviet regimes everywhere. Jordan had no oil. However, so long as Jordan endured, it could be a geopolitical firebreak insulating Israel and the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula from the radical forces of communism and Arab nationalism.
  • Washington helped build the Jordanian state. Foreign aid was one mechanism. In many years, U.S. economic aid exceeded all domestic tax revenues, the only thing keeping “Fortress Jordan” from collapsing into insolvency. While Jordan today receives support from many donors, including the International Monetary Fund, U.S. economic support remains uniquely fungible: It comes mostly in cash, it is guaranteed, and it now exceeds $1 billion annually.
  • the U.S. Agency for International Development began designing and operating much of Jordan’s physical infrastructure in the 1960s, doing the basic task of governance—providing public goods to society—for the monarchy. When Jordanians get water from the tap, no small feat in the bone-dry country, it is because of USAID. Even the Aqaba Special Economic Zone, a mega-project aimed at turning the Red Sea port city of Aqaba into a regional commercial hub, was funded and designed by U.S. technocrats.
  • The General Intelligence Directorate, glorified by Western journalists as an Arab version of Mossad, spends as much time smothering Jordanian dissent as battling terrorism. It owes much of its skills and resources to the CIA.
  • Of course, being a U.S. protectorate brings occasional costs. Dependency upon Washington’s goodwill, for instance, gave Abdullah little room to halt the Trump administration’s “deal of the century.” That provocative plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma incensed Abdullah, as it favored Israel’s land claims while sidelining Jordan’s traditional front-line role as mediator to the conflict.
  • Washington cannot imagine any other kind of Jordan, because it never had to. It may yet learn the hard way.
  • The Middle East remains a revolutionary place, as six of its autocratic rulers have lost power to mass uprisings in the last decade. Whether Jordan is next depends upon if the monarchy can fundamentally rethink its approach, rather than fall back upon the United States for affirmation.
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    I hate the "banana monarchy" label, but otherwise Sean makes some good points here.
Ed Webb

Israeli citizen stands trial in Jordan as tensions simmer - 0 views

  • The trial of Israeli citizen Konstantin Kotov started Dec. 2 in the State Security Court of Jordan. He stands charged with crossing illegally into Jordanian territory last October.
  • Kotov’s trial comes in the context of high tensions between Jordan and Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing his intention to annex the Jordan Valley and repeated Israeli violations of Jordanian sovereignty over holy sites including incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque, settlement expansion and the administrative detention of Jordanian citizens in Israel.
  • Jordanian army held military exercises simulating an Israeli invasion Nov. 25. The drill was dubbed “Swords of Karama” after the battle near Karama village that Israel lost to the Jordanian army and Palestinian factions in 1968. The exercise was attended by King Abdullah and security leaders and members of parliament.
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  • On Nov. 10, Jordan recovered from Israel the Baqoura lands in the Jordan Valley by refusing to renew a 25-year lease under a peace agreement between the two countries. A day later, Abdullah publicly prayed in his military uniform.
  • According to analysts who spoke to Al-Monitor, the source of the tension lies far beyond the borders of the Middle East. It has to do with the US administration proposing its "deal of the century," which favors Israel at the expense of the peace process it purports to further. Jordan sees the two-state solution as a fair solution consistent with its interests.
  • “Legitimizing settlements and moving to annex the Jordan Valley is not an Israeli decision, it is an American decision. Israel cannot take this step without US approval. Therefore, it is with the US that Jordan has a problem.”
  • “Jordan deals with Israel based on political and economic issues. It is at odds with Israel regarding the Palestinian cause but is moving forward with bilateral economic projects.”
  • Jordan has a strong relationship with members of the US Congress, but not with the administration. Abdullah has met President Donald Trump only once because of his position toward Israel.
  • A quarter of a century after the signature of the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel on Oct. 26, 1994, their relationship remains lukewarm amid popular and parliamentary demands pressuring the Jordanian regime to end it.
  • Jordan is courting the European Union to condemn Israel’s violations and face the US bias toward Israel
Ed Webb

Israelis praying at Petra shrine sparks outrage in Jordan - 0 views

  • The Jordanian government on Aug. 1 closed a shrine dedicated to the prophet Aaron near the ancient Nabataean city of Petra. The move followed a burst of public outrage sparked by videos and photos circulating on the internet showing a group of Jewish tourists praying at the site. 
  • Suleiman Farajat, commissioner of the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA), had said in an Aug. 2 statement that the photos shared online date to 2013, but that the videos of Jewish men praying were more recent. Farajat remarked that the PDTRA had closed the site after learning that some 300 Israeli tourists had been planning to visit the shrine. At least five Israelis were able to enter the tomb, having been permitted access by guards. Farajat stressed that the authority will not allow non-Islamic religious ceremonies at the site. He asserted in his statement that the tomb has nothing to do with Judaism historically or archaeologically.
  • an Israeli tour guide for one visit had denied that any of the tourists had prayed and said the trip had been coordinated with Jordanian authorities
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  • These events have come to light in the wake of a public build-up of suspicion and hostility toward Israel over the nebulous, US-sponsored peace plan dubbed the “deal of the century,” which most Jordanians view as a threat to their country. Jordanians have also been critical of the agreement signed in 2016 for Israel to provide Jordan with natural gas over a 10-year period. Lawmakers, led by the Islamist bloc Al-Islah, have been pressuring the government to cancel the deal.
  • “The small Muslim shrine on top of the high peak at Jabal an-Nabi Harun was constructed in 1330 by the Mamluk Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad.” She added, “There is a tomb inside the shrine, but there is no evidence whatsoever that it actually belongs to Aaron. Such shrines to prophets and virtuous men were built at many places by the Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans to enforce the Muslim identity of the state and to vent political discontent by the local populations.
  • in July the Royal Film Commission in Jordan had approved the shooting in Petra of “Jaber,” a controversial, fictional film whose storyline has Jews settling in the city after the Exodus from Egypt. Jordanians railed that the “Zionist script” fabricates an Israeli claim to the ancient city. Under public pressure, a number of Jordanian actors withdrew from the project, and on Aug. 3, the director, the Jordanian-born US national Mohydeen Izzat Quandour, announced the cancellation of the shooting.
  • Daoud Kuttab (who also writes for Al-Monitor) wrote, “The reality is that the current leaders in Tel Aviv and Washington have done little to calm jittery Jordanians and Palestinians, who are concerned about the growth of [a] messianic Jewish ideology that tries to connect biblical history with modern day politics.
  • “Religious sites should be respected, and freedom of worship and visit should not be interfered in, but the problem that faces political leaders and government officials is how to deal with the genuine worry that what appears to be a crazy notion by a few zealous individuals could one day become a political reality.” 
  • the deep-seated unease felt by a majority of Jordanians about Israeli intentions toward the kingdom in light of increasing tensions between Jordan and Israel over the Haram al-Sharif and the demise of the two-state solution
Ed Webb

25 years on, remembering the path to peace for Jordan and Israel - 0 views

  • When the secret talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were divulged in 1993, Jordan’s King Hussein felt betrayed. For years he had been secretly meeting with the Israelis to broker peace; now he discovered that they were secretly meeting with the Palestinians and making a deal without consulting him. The PLO, fellow Arabs, had not consulted the king either. He was devastated.
  • In September 1993, Rabin secretly came across the border from Eilat to Aqaba to address King Hussein’s concerns and assure the Jordanians that they would be kept informed about the future of the Oslo process. The meeting was arranged by Efraim Halevy, the deputy director of the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad. Hussein had been dealing with the Mossad and Halevy for years as a trusted clandestine back-channel
  • Clinton supported the peace process enthusiastically. A Jordanian treaty would get his support and help him sell the revival of bilateral relations with Jordan to Americans still angry over the Iraq war, especially in Congress
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  • Jordan had long held back from a peace treaty with Israel because it did not want to get in front of the Palestinians. It did not want a separate treaty with Israel, like President Anwar Sadat had done for Egypt. But now Arafat was engaging in direct talks with the Israelis to make a peace agreement: Jordan would not be alone. Even the Syrians were engaging with Israel via the Americans. Jordan was free to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel after decades of clandestine contacts begun by Hussein’s grandfather King Abdullah without fear of a backlash from the other Arabs
  • On July 25, 1994, Clinton read the declaration on the White House lawn and Rabin and Hussein signed it. It terminated the state of war. Israel formally undertook to respect the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem. All three gave speeches, but the king’s address got the most attention. His speech included a clear and unqualified statement that the state of war was over. He spoke of the realization of peace as the fulfillment of his life-long dream.
  • Rabin had met with the king secretly for almost two decades
  • The Rabin-Hussein relationship was crucial to the success of the negotiations. Both trusted the other. Hussein saw Rabin as a military man who had the security issues under his command. He was convinced that he had a unique opportunity to get a peace treaty and Rabin was central to the opening.
  • The king also saw the negotiation process as almost more of a religious experience than a diplomatic solution to the passions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He spoke movingly of restoring peace between the children of Abraham. He wanted a warm peace, not the cold peace between Egypt and Israel.
  • Jerusalem was also a core issue for the Hashemite family. Despite losing physical control of East Jerusalem in 1967, the king had retained influence in the Muslim institutions that administered the holy sites in the city. The preservation of Jordan’s role in the administration of the third holiest city of Islam was a very high priority of Hussein then, and still is for his son King Abdullah today
  • Clinton had studied the Jordanian wish list carefully. The top priority was for debt forgiveness, amounting to $700 million dollars. Clinton told Hussein that this would be a tough lift on Capitol Hill. If Hussein would meet Rabin at a public ceremony in the White House hosted by the president, Clinton said he could get the debt relief and progress on Jordan’s other requests.
  • The king told his aides that this was the best meeting he had had with an American president since his first with Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959. On July 9, the king told the Jordanian parliament that it was time for an end to the state of war with Israel and for a public meeting with the Israeli leadership. He wanted the meeting to take place in the region.
  • The Jordanian and Israeli peace teams met publicly on the border to start the rollout, followed by a foreign ministers meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan — a way to bring Peres into the photo op but not the negotiations.
  • The Americans got a copy only on the night before the White House ceremony.
  • Jordan and Israel would keep the Americans informed, but the king did not want Washington using its leverage in a negotiation process given the Americans’ closer ties to Israel.
  • Clinton spoke of the king’s extraordinary courage in pursuit of peace. He compared him to his grandfather, who had been assassinated for his talks with Israel
  • Rabin and Hussein addressed a joint session of Congress. Hussein spoke about his grandfather’s commitment to peace. “I have pledged my life to fulfilling his dream.” Both received standing ovations. Behind the scenes, Halevy was lobbying Congress for debt relief. He returned to the region on the royal aircraft with the king and queen.
  • Teams from the two countries met every day, mostly at the crown prince’s house in Aqaba. Hassan supervised the day-to-day talks for his brother.
  • The toughest issues were land and water.
  • The final issues were addressed at another Rabin-Hussein summit meeting in Amman on the evening of October 16. The two leaders got down on their hands and knees to pour over a large map of the entire border from north to south and personally delineated the line. Two small areas got special treatment: Israel would lease the two areas from Jordan so Israeli farmers could continue access to their cultivation. By 4am, it was done.
  • On October 26, 1994, Clinton witnessed the signing of the treaty on the border by the prime ministers of Israel and Jordan. It was only the second visit to Jordan by a sitting American president
  • Many Jordanians felt it was dishonorable to make peace with Israel while the occupation of the West Bank continued. Some argue that it legitimates the Israeli occupation. It has gotten progressively more unpopular in the 25 years since the signing ceremony
  • Two years later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched a Mossad hit team to Amman to poison a Hamas leader. The botched murder attempt created a crisis in the new peace, and Halevy had to be called back from his new job in Brussels as ambassador to the European Union to smooth out the disaster and get the Mossad team released. He would then be appointed the head of the Mossad.
  • Hussein never trusted or respected Netanyahu after it, and the peace has been cold ever since
  • Hussein’s strategic goal of restoring bilateral relations with the United States was achieved
  • in December 1999, I traveled with Clinton and three former presidents to attend Hussein’s funeral in Amman in a strong demonstration of America’s commitment to Jordan.
  • The Trump administration has tilted dramatically toward Israel on all the issues that concern Jordanians about the future of the Palestinian issue, especially the status of Jerusalem. The movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem was a particularly important shock to the peace treaty. If Israel begins to annex parts of the West Bank, as Netanyahu has promised, the Jordanians will be in a corner. The treaty may be more endangered today than ever before.
Ed Webb

What Does Jordan's Bid for GCC Membership Imply for the Arab Spring? | International Ne... - 0 views

  • After the upheavals following the Arab Spring and the resulting challenges to the existing regimes, the GCC may be in the process of reinventing itself and morphing into an alliance with a security bent intent on perpetuating the existing political status quo.
  • According to the pundits, the benefits to Jordan from joining the alliance are primarily economic.  Jordanian officials are touting the benefits of job opportunities for Jordanians; the opening of markets in the Gulf for Jordanian products; increase in aid; and easing of investment regulations. The problem is that the Gulf already attracts the best and brightest of the Jordanian labor force to the detriment of business development in Jordan; Gulf markets are open for quality Jordanian products; Gulf tourists have open access to Jordan; Saudi Arabia is the largest donor to Jordan; GCC money is encouraged to flow into Jordan and every attempt is made to facilitate investments.  
  •  The cost to Jordan will be on the geo-strategic front.  Extending membership to Jordan may have been an attempt to forestall the spread of the Arab Spring and political reform in Jordan, and by implication for Jordan to stand as a bulwark or buffer zone against the spread of reform.  In addition, Jordan may be the source of military personnel to defended existing regimes.
Ed Webb

Jordan's uranium and Israel's fears | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • while supporting the development of its nuclear technology, America is insisting that Jordan purchase its reactor fuel on the nuclear market (it will “allow” Jordan to mine the uranium ore, but not convert it into fuel).  The Obama administration stresses that it will refuse to help Jordan if it makes use of its own uranium, and intends to model any deal with Jordan on the USA's recent nuclear agreement with the United Arab Emirates, who agreed to purchase their uranium on the international market, but reserve the right to renegotiate this deal if another country concludes an agreement on more favourable terms. Pursuing its right to enrich uranium without America's agreement would prove difficult for Jordan: the USA plays a powerful role in the Nuclear Supplier Group which monitors the sale of nuclear technology.  Moreover, many reactors from countries outside the USA contain American components which would require Jordan to gain America's approval to purchase.  But the USA's insistence that the country give up the right to use its own uranium seems to be a strategic miscalculation with the potential to alienate one of America and Israel's key Arab allies.  While the Jordanian government under reformist King Abdullah can certainly be criticised for its benign and even not-so-benign authoritarianism, it remains a positive presence in the Israel-Palestinian peace process (and the strongest ally of the USA in the Arab world). In fact, it was its willingness to 'help' in the war on terror that caused concern for human rights campaigners. Undermining the country's nuclear intentions when Jordan has done more than it is required to do in terms of tranparency and negotiation gives the impression that America will always treat Middle Eastern nuclear projects with suspicion, and that there's little incentive to cooperate.
  • To knowingly alienate Jordan by undermining the country's right to energy independence would be an act of masochism by Israel, particularly when the country's nuclear programme presents an opportunity to develop a model of transparency in nuclear energy development, and a chance to strengthen a more moderate presence in the region at a time when it is sorely needed.
Ed Webb

Preserving Stability Amidst Regional Conflagration: US-Jordan 2011-2016 | United States... - 1 views

  • protests in Jordan—of which there were more than eight thousand in 2011 to 2013—prompted Jordan’s king to repeatedly replace the prime minister, promise progress on political reforms, and seek international assistance to mitigate Jordanians’ discontent with economic and fiscal policies
  • Authorities amplified border security, security force training, and intelligence to mitigate external and internal threats, and Jordan joined the fight against ISIS launched by the United States after ISIS captured territory in Iraq. Despite a handful of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 and copious external and internal challenges, Jordan has remained largely stable, due in part to US support.
  • To help Jordan respond to new challenges required increased US assistance: the number of personnel at US Embassy Amman grew by nearly 75 percent between 2010 and 2016. The United States provided substantial economic and military support to Jordan, and all 3Ds mobilized assistance to refugees and host communities in northern Jordan. The US Department of Defense (DOD) and State Department (State) helped Jordanian forces reinforce border security and manage refugee inflows, and bulked up military training and equipment transfers to Jordanian counterparts. The 3Ds also worked closely together and with the Jordanian government to move assistance across the Syrian border, sparing many Syrians from having to flee to Jordan to meet basic needs.
Ed Webb

Will Jordan extend Israeli lease of farmlands? - 0 views

  • In the early 1920s, Pinhas Rutenberg bought land in the Naharayim region from King Abdullah to build a hydroelectric power plant. The mandatory border established in 1922 ran west of this land, effectively making it part of Transjordan, which obtained full independence in 1946. After Israel’s War of Independence (1948) and the ensuing Armistice Agreement (1949) signed on Rhodes, kibbutzim in the region began growing crops in the Naharayim area. The peace agreement signed October 26, 1994, by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordanian King Hussein determined that the official border between their two countries would be based on the mandatory border. This posed a problem for Moshav Tzofar, in the Arava region, and two kibbutzim, Ashdot Yaakov (Ichud) and Ashdot Yaakov (Meuhad), in the Jordan Valley, because their fields and orchards are located east of the mandatory line, within Jordanian territory. As a gesture of goodwill, Jordan agreed to allow Israeli farmers there to continue to work the lands for a period of 25 years.
  • Having given up on the Israeli government due to its apparent inactivity on the matter, on Oct. 10 local residents sent a personal letter to Abdullah signed by Idan Greenbaum, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, requesting a meeting with the king to try to reach a new arrangement to allow the farmers to continue to access their lands.
  • All in all, we have an excellent relationship and plenty of instances of cooperation with our neighbors across the border. We fight against agricultural pests and brush fires together, and much more
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  • “Instead of this land reverting to scrub, let’s extend a hand to the Jordanians and say, ‘Let’s work hand in hand. Let’s create joint projects based on the exchange of knowledge. We will employ Jordanians in our orchards and create a joint tourist project centered around the historic power plant. We will create a common future here.’ After all, we are talking about privately owned land, and no one but us can use it.”
  • “The farmers of Naharayim are paying the price of Jordanian disillusionment with the peace treaty,”
  • “After the peace agreement was signed, the Jordanians were convinced that they would make progress toward resolving their major problems. They hoped that a Palestinian state would be created, and that their economy would flourish, when what actually happened was the exact opposite of that. Their expectations were not met, and worst of all, Jordan considers the failure to reach some agreement on the Palestinian issue to be an existential threat.”
  • Susser thinks the Israeli farmers' situation is already a lost cause. “I have a hard time seeing how the Jordanians would go back to the special agreement,” he said. “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s announcement that he plans to annex the Jordan Valley didn’t help either.”
  • “Israel’s rejection of the two-state solution, the situation on the Temple Mount and the fact that the Jordanians feel like Israel is not fulfilling its part of the peace agreement have provided King Abdullah with real grounds to avoid making this gesture to Israel. As far as the king is concerned, there is no reason for him to continue making gestures to Israel when he is not getting what he expects in return.”
Ed Webb

Jordan's worst nightmare could be yet to come if US embassy moves to Jerusalem | Middle... - 1 views

  • Trump’s repeated vows to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has disproportionately upset the Jordanian government which, at the moment, has no shortage of crises.
  • Key to understanding Jordan’s anxiety is the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty - sometimes called the Wadi Araba Treaty because of where it was signed – signed in October 1994 which stated that Israel would respect the special role that Jordan had historically played in Jerusalem’s holy places and, further, would give priority to the kingdom’s role during final status negotiations.
  • Israel also agreed at the time to refrain from changing – either geographically or demographically - the status of the holy city before reaching at a final agreement to which Jordan was a party.
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  • When Jordan annexed the West Bank in April 1950, Jerusalem became an integral part of the country whose constitution prohibits relinquishing or ceding any part of its territories.And even after Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, Jordan maintained the right to oversee the city’s holy Islamic and Christian places. To this very day, the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf (Endowments) continues to provide custodianship and services at Al-Aqsa Mosque and other religious places in Jerusalem.
  • Jerusalem’s legal and political status constitutes an important strategic file as far as the Jordanian regime is concerned. If the US changes the city’s status, from a Jordanian perspective, that would mean that the very mediator and guarantor of the Wadi Araba agreement is taking unilateral measures to change the status of a disputed territory over which negotiations have not yet been finalised
  • Jordan is the most anxious party in the region as a result of Trump’s pledges with regard to move the US embassy, a measure which would imply US acknowledgment that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel
  • recognition like this of Jerusalem as the Israel capital would breach the 1994 peace agreement, destroy all peace efforts and fatally end the final status negotiations in which the city is one of the most prominent and most crucial issues
  • the Al-Aqsa intifada in 2000 erupted and raged on for several years because of the holy city. The uprising saw the collapse of the Oslo agreement with the termination of the geographical designation of the West Bank territories into A, B and C as well as the unilateral decision to withdraw Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip without negotiations
  • Jordan is keen to avoid more chaos in the region, but especially because a large proportion of Jordanian citizens have Palestinian roots and are linked, through family and tribal ties, to Palestinians living in the West Bank
  • moving the embassy would breach the Jordanian-Israeli agreement that was signed thanks to US mediation and sponsorship. It would render final status negotiations into absurdity because the most important issue – Jerusalem - would have been settled as a fait accompli by the Israelis and the Americans
Ed Webb

Russia calls on Jordan to help stabilize Syrian 'safe' zones - 0 views

  • If the frequency of diplomatic gestures is an indication, Jordan appears to be Moscow's strongest ally in the Middle East. Yet despite a solid record of cooperation, as well as a certain chemistry between Abdullah and Putin, Amman never really played a prominent role in Russia’s Mideast strategy, including in Syria. This approach, however, got a review last year when Russia was faced with the challenge of implementing de-escalation zones in Syria, specifically the one along Jordan's border. Along with the old challenge of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement — which recently became even more complex — the need to settle Syria's civil war took center stage at the Abdullah-Putin meeting Feb. 15.
  • Jordan essentially became a linchpin of Russian policy toward southern Syria when the kingdom played a key role in negotiating a de-escalation zone that spans across Quneitra and Daraa provinces and borders Israel and Jordan. During his visit to Moscow, Abdullah boasted about the two countries’ active dialogue on Syria — and the southern de-escalation zone is where this dialogue is most visible. Since 2015, the two countries have operated a joint center in Amman to share intelligence on the situation in southern provinces and coordinate military action.
  • The Russian plan to give Jordan an active role in settling the Syrian conflict was part of the strategy to create an environment — or the illusion of one — of a Sunni Arab power normalizing relations with and accepting Assad. It is not surprising that Abdullah was susceptible to Russia’s plan: The West hasn't acknowledged Jordan's accommodation of Syrian refugees and has failed to nurture a strong resistance to Assad in the south.
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  • The most recent round of escalation between Israel and Iran in Syria caught both Russia and Jordan off guard. Iran’s attempts to test its opponent’s capabilities in the south, and Israel’s ambition to expand its buffer zone in Syria, threaten the de-escalation zone
  • The ongoing offensive of the Syrian government and Iran in Eastern Ghouta — in clear violation of the agreements — may also bode ill for the de-escalation zone in the south, as both the southern front and Israel now see another land grab as Damascus' next possible step. Because of this, Israel is seeking to establish a buffer inside Syria through financial and military support to opposition groups inside the de-escalation zone
  • Russia hopes Jordan will project its influence on the southern front to act as a buffer between Israel and the Iranian-backed forces while Moscow seeks a workable path to their coexistence in Syria
Ed Webb

Robert Fisk: Why Jordan is occupied by Palestinians - Robert Fisk, Commentators - The I... - 0 views

  • In most Arab countries, nationalism gave way to Islamist politics as old Arab secular movements failed in the face of Israeli and American pressure. But Jordan has reversed this transfer of influence. King Abdullah, to the satisfaction of most Jordanians of tribal or Palestinian origin, subdued the Muslim Brotherhood, stifled their parliamentary power and so preserved his own power. But the old-school army men and their followers, who include academics, schoolteachers and trade unionists, are now pushing the frontiers of politics in Jordan.
  • One of the nationalist supporters, a writer whose books are banned in Jordan, says they have tried to explain to western diplomats in Amman that King Abdullah of Jordan is facing growing protests from former senior army commanders and other nationalist groups. Another man says he attempted to tell a British official what they were seeking, "but he just stood up and walked out of the room".
Jim Franklin

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Jordan faces up to water crisis - 1 views

  • In Jordan, the government can provide tap water to the capital only once a week
  • Demand is enormous, but supply has been a problem.
  • Jordanians are quite literally tapping into their very last supplies: underground water resources that can never be renewed.
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  • "We have no surface water left, no rivers, no lakes - nothing whatsoever. According to the experts in the climate change, things are not looking promising either. It's actually very scary," says the Jordanian Minister for Water and Irrigation, Raed Abu Saud.
  • the political climate in the Middle East is making things worse.
  • The government says its second, even more ambitious project, could not only generate drinking water but also save the disappearing Dead Sea.
  • "Even building those dams or not building dams, at the end of the day you have to have rain to fill the dams," says Mr Abu Saud. "When you get less water, things get more sensitive, and we have to be very careful about how we approach the subject of water with our neighbours."
  • The government says re-distribution and desalination are the only solutions. At the heart of the country's new water strategy are two major projects that would carry water from the deep aquifers and the Red Sea in the South to the north.
  • The first pipeline would pump water from the Disy aquifer, which Jordan shares with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have long voiced concerns about the project, but the Jordanian government says the agreement has now been reached and that construction is due to begin within months.
  • The country's main river, the River Jordan, has lost 95% of its natural flow because of diversion. Syria, Israel and Jordan have built dams along the banks of the river Jordan and its tributaries.
  • The project, called the Red Dead Canal, has been hailed as an example of regional co-operation. But it is still very much of a pipe dream: getting investment for it has been a problem and there are some serious concerns about the environmental impact of mixing waters of two seas.
  • "Agriculture is one example of water mismanagement. It uses up 70% of our water resources, while its contribution to the economy is minimal. All of these are things that we need to rethink," says Mr Mehyar.
Ed Webb

Beirut 1958: America's origin story in the Middle East - 0 views

  • No one in Beirut — or Washington — thought that this mission would mark the beginning of decades of seemingly endless American combat missions in the Middle East. In retrospect, Beirut in 1958 was a decisive turning point.
  • Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war pitting the Christian and Muslim communities against each other. The Muslims saw the Marines as enemies intent on keeping a hated President Camille Nemr Chamoun in office against the law. The Lebanese army, a fragile coalition of Christians and Muslims, saw the Marines as uninvited aggressors who were violating Lebanese sovereignty. The American command was prepared for the worst and was ready to deploy nuclear weapons to the battlefield from its base in Germany.
  • A year before, Eisenhower had enunciated what became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine, the first statement by a president stating that America has vital interests in the Middle East and would defend them by force if necessary.
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  • the immediate cause for the dispatch of the Marines: a coup d’etat in Baghdad on July 14. The pro-American King Faisal II had been brutally murdered in the coup, and his government was swept away. In Jordan, then federated with Iraq, Eisenhower said a “highly organized plot to overthrow the lawful government” of King Hussein had been discovered. Actually, the Central Intelligence Agency had foiled the plot several weeks before.
  • said President Chamoun had requested American military intervention to stop “civil strife actively fomented by Soviet and Cairo broadcasts.” It was the only time in the speech that Eisenhower even alluded to what had him really worried that day: the rising political power in the Arab world of Egypt’s charismatic young President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Arab nationalist movement.
  • It was a less than candid explanation for sending in the Marines. Eisenhower made no mention of the fact that Chamoun was illegally seeking a second term and even claimed Chamoun did not seek reelection. The focus was entirely on Russia and the Cold War, an issue far more Americans understood than the intricate politics of Lebanon or the Arab world.
  • Nasser, meanwhile, was in Yugoslavia visiting the communist government there. Within hours of Eisenhower’s speech, he flew to Moscow. Both Nasser and his host Nikita Khrushchev agreed that they had no warning of the coup in Baghdad or knew anything about the coup plotters, according to recently declassified Soviet documents. Both agreed that the Iraqi coup was the most important development in the Middle East and the American intervention in Lebanon was a sideshow.
  • Nasser was, in the summer of 1958, at the pinnacle of his political career and power. Ironically, he had started his political rise very much as a protégé of the Americans.
  • The British had been completely surprised by the coup in Egypt, but the CIA was not — it had detected the signs of change coming. The agency moved quickly after to coup to establish contact with Nasser.  The point man for the CIA was the legendary Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt, a scion of the Roosevelt family born in Argentina. Kim had visited Cairo before the coup and set up contact with the Free Officers who would carry it out. In October 1952, he returned to Cairo as chief of the CIA’s Near East Division and met with Nasser at the famous Mena House Hotel near the pyramids. Each was impressed by the other and they agreed to a clandestine relationship.
  • Roosevelt led the CIA operation that overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran and restored the Shah to his throne in 1953, immediately making him the darling of both Dulles and Eisenhower.
  • Washington agreed to encourage the British to give up their Suez Canal base. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was initially reluctant, but the U.K.’s huge debts from the world wars compelled him to make a deal and the British army agreed to leave Egypt in 1954. Roosevelt had been active behind the scenes in facilitating the deal.
  • The CIA gave Nasser a few million dollars, far short of what he wanted, to buy arms. Instead, he used it to build a large transmitter for the Egyptian radio program the “Voice of the Arabs” and broadcast his Arabist and anti-colonialist message to the region. Word spread about the source of the money for the tower, and it was nicknamed “Roosevelt’s Erection.”
  • Nasser took a decisive step when he arranged a large arms purchase from the Soviet Union’s client state Czechoslovakia in 1955. This alarmed the Cold Warriors in the West, especially John Foster Dulles, who saw the arms deal as the first significant penetration of the Middle East by Russia. It also alarmed the British and French, who saw Nasser’s growing stature as a threat to their remaining colonies and protectorates in the region such as Aden (part of modern-day Yemen), Algeria, Jordan, and Iraq.
  • Eisenhower opposed the 1956 tripartite invasion of Egypt by Britain, France, and Israel, seeing it as a throwback to imperialism, but the crisis did not improve the American relationship with Nasser.
  • Nasser’s intelligence agents unveiled a Saudi-funded plot to assassinate him, severely embarrassing King Saud, the man Eisenhower hoped would be a pro-American alternative to Egypt for the Arab public
  • The July 14 coup in Baghdad was a complete shock. A brigade of troops was scheduled to pass through the capital en route to Jordan to help back King Hussein against the threat posed by Nasser. Instead, as it entered the capital, it turned on the monarchy. The rebels surrounded the royal palace, and when it surrendered, the king and regent were shot to death. It was a bloody affair. The tanks of the coup-makers were covered with pictures of Nasser, and the crowds that cheered the Iraqi monarchy’s demise also screamed for Gamal Abdel Nasser. The military leaders of the coup said very little.
  • Lebanon’s Chamoun was already asking for American troops, and Jordan was acutely vulnerable. “If the Iraq coup succeeds it seems almost inevitable that it will set up a chain reaction that will doom the pro-West governments of Lebanon and Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and raise grave problems for Turkey and Iran.” Israel, Dulles predicted, would take over the West Bank and East Jerusalem “if Jordan falls to Nasser.” The entire Middle East — or at least its Arab components — might fall to Nasser, in his view. Russia would be the beneficiary.
  • At risk was a devastating defeat in the Cold War
  • the British government decided to send paratroopers to Amman to help steady the remnant of the Hashemite monarchy still in power there.
  • Ike was lucky in the end. His diplomats and generals on the scene in Beirut found a diplomatic way to avoid conflict and prevent the worst. The nuclear weapons were never shipped from Germany to the Mediterranean. After a period of political negotiations, Chamoun was pressured to stand down as president, and the civil war ended.
  • The return of the Marines to Beirut in 1982, for example, ended in a catastrophic truck bombing of their barracks that killed 241 soldiers. The wars in Iraq have now seemingly become endless. The region itself is constantly in turmoil, with terrorist attacks in many of its capital cities an all too routine atrocity.
Ed Webb

Jordan plans to grab excess American weapons - 0 views

  • Jordan has obtained spare American fighter jets for an undisclosed sum and plans to upgrade large transport planes, a State Department official told Al-Monitor, as the Pentagon has moved in recent months to cultivate Middle East interest to keep production going for aging US weapons systems. The agency OK’d the provision of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan in September through the US government’s so-called Excess Defense Articles program, known as EDA. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Arab nation plans to use the planes, which the US Air Force no longer buys, to provide spare parts to its current fleet.
  • Jordan received more than $30 million in Pentagon military aid for the fiscal year that ended in September, mainly to help reinforce communications networks around the country’s border areas, as the longtime American partner has faced threats from terror groups such as the Islamic State (IS). The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimated that as many as 4,000 Jordanian fighters left to join the militant group on battlefields across the Middle East and North Africa since 2011.
  • the Pentagon has pushed US partners in the Middle East and elsewhere to invest in older American weapons systems to keep the production lines humming
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  • The United States has helped put up several barriers along sections of Jordan’s border to stop refugees and IS militants from getting into the country, where sluggish growth has failed to meet the government’s ambitious targets, leading to allies floating a $2 billion economic lifeline to Amman at a conference in March. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates as many as 672,000 Syrian refugees are currently registered in Jordan, and the US government has provided as much as $1.3 billion to offset that burden.
  • In September, then-acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi in an effort to get the UAE’s de facto leader on board with a plan to buy 10 Boeing-made Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, which became nearly ubiquitous in the post-Sept. 11 war in Afghanistan. That could help offset political turmoil over defense program cuts that have deviled modernization efforts. The Army plans to significantly pare back the program in order to invest in future capabilities, a move that has generated strong protests from Congress. The United Kingdom plans to buy an additional 18 of the rotorcraft.
Ed Webb

Jordan turns to wind power in search of renewable energy - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the... - 0 views

  • Tafila wind farm was granted around $221 million worth of loans to fund this project from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) — the World Bank’s investment institution in the private sector. The European Investment Bank (EIB), the Eksport Kredit Fonden, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Europe Arab Bank and the Capital Bank of Jordan also participated in financing the project. The participation of international finance institutions such as OFID, IFC and EIB guarantees the project’s transparency in contracting and covering necessary expenses, in addition to providing loans and abiding by environmental policies. These institutions give out loans based on the project’s economic feasibility
  • imported energy currently represents around 90% of the total consumption in the country
  • import of energy costs Jordan more than 40% of its yearly budget
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  • It is well known that Jordan has suffered a lot from the blockage of Egyptian natural gas supply through the Arab gas pipeline, as a result of the constant bombing of the pumping station of al-Arish during the past few years
Ed Webb

Clinton questions Jordan's stability, provoking ire in Amman - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of... - 1 views

  • Clinton told an audience Oct. 7 in Mount Vernon, Iowa, that a final peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians is unlikely until both sides “know what happens in Syria" and also depends on whether Jordan remains stable.
  • Questioning Jordan’s long-term stability angered many in the country’s political elite
  • “If such statements come from an individual who has no background to the Middle East and has a lack of intelligence about the situation in Jordan, nobody would react to it. But because it comes from Mrs. Clinton, this really has generated very serious and poor reactions in Jordan.”
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  • The local media has extensively covered Clinton’s comments, raising attention to an unwelcome issue for the Jordanian government.
  • While Clinton argued that potential Jordanian instability reduces chances for a peaceful Israeli-Palestinian outcome, many observers in Amman hold the opposite viewpoint: Israeli-Palestinian violence destabilizes the tranquil Hashemite kingdom. A Royal Court official told the International Crisis Group in March 2015, “Instability at Al-Aqsa harms internal Jordanian security and King Abdullah’s standing. We managed the Arab Spring with barely any protests of more than 800 participants. But an escalation at Al-Aqsa could bring out 80,000.” During the recent Jerusalem tensions, thousands of Jordanians protested in Amman and Irbid calling for harsher government policies against Israel. Amman faces a delicate balancing act given the public’s passionate opposition toward the Jewish state while still maintaining the country’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
Ed Webb

Is Jordan Valley's annexation already on the way? - 0 views

  • The campaign for the next election is yet to get underway, but it is expected to be uglier and nastier than its predecessors. It most certainly will feature the indictments that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Nov. 21 against Netanyahu for bribery and other corruption-related charges. The annexation of the Jordan Valley is another issue expected to top the political agenda.
  • “The historic decision of the American administration yesterday [Nov. 18] gives us a one-time-only chance to determine the eastern border of the state of Israel and annex the Jordan Valley,” Netanyahu proclaimed in the video. “This cannot be done by a minority government dependent on [Arab Joint List leaders] Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh. Therefore, I call upon Benny Gantz to come together with me and with [Yisrael Beitenu leader] Avigdor Liberman to establish a unity government: The first item of this government, on the first day of the new government, is annexation of the Jordan Valley. The nation, and history, will not forgive anyone who squanders such a golden opportunity.”
  • New Right leader Ayelet Shaked is a challenger for credit for the annexation idea. When Shaked served as justice minister, she planted the first seeds for West Bank annexation together with her political partner, Naftali Bennett. Justice Minister Shaked pushed to impose Israeli law on the West Bank, or in other words, full annexation, period.
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  • The Joint List's Tibi had been in touch with Blue and White in recent weeks regarding a possible minority government. He believes that the timing of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that the settlements do not violate international law is not coincidental. According to Tibi, President Donald Trump did not hide the fact that he favored Netanyahu in the September elections in Israel. With his friend in Jerusalem still in distress, why not give Netanyahu a little push to help him in the competition for right-wing votes? “This is an election gift from a president undergoing an impeachment inquiry to a prime minister who was toppled,”
  • it seems that annexation of the Jordan Valley is on its way, with the encouragement of the Trump administration
Ed Webb

Alia Awadallah on Twitter: "Victory for Jordan securing a five year MOU. Higher aid lev... - 0 views

  • Victory for Jordan securing a five year MOU. Higher aid levels than previous MOU & longer by 2 years. Plus follows Jordanian opposition to Jerusalem move. Was far fetched that the administration would withhold aid to Jordan, but with this president you never know.
Ed Webb

Erdogan, Sultan of Jerusalem? - 0 views

  • No one who has visited Jerusalem over the past few years will be surprised by the preponderance of red Turkish flags with their crescent and star, fluttering over the city’s eastern Palestinian neighborhoods. These flags are just one visible manifestation of a major effort by the Turkish government to establish a presence in the Israeli capital. Investigative reports in the press, conducted over the last few years, have revealed the scope of Turkish activity in Jerusalem, which includes the renovation of homes, restoration of mosques and efforts to expose the residents of East Jerusalem to Turkish culture, including cooking workshops and Turkish-language classes. These efforts also include increasing involvement in the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as described by Ben Caspit in July 2018.
  • Turks have renovated Mamluk buildings, which they then pass off as Ottoman. “Apart from the city walls, built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, there aren’t many Ottoman sites in Jerusalem. In contrast, the Mamluks invested quite a bit on construction in Jerusalem, and that’s good enough for Erdogan,” he told Al-Monitor. “It demonstrates his desire to flood Jerusalem with ties to the Ottoman Empire.”
  • Israel intends to revoke the head of TIKA’s diplomatic status in Jerusalem, effectively making his presence in Israel illegal. “The era of the Ottoman Empire is over. Turkey has no reason to be in Jerusalem,” said the Foreign Ministry in an especially bellicose statement. “[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s declarations that Jerusalem belongs to all Muslims are absolutely baseless and ridiculous. Israel maintains sovereignty in Jerusalem, while ensuring freedom of worship for all religions. We will not allow anyone to interrupt this sovereignty.”
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  • “People wandering around East Jerusalem might think that they are visiting a Turkish city. There are voluminous amounts of flags, stickers and signage, and the Turkish presence is very obvious. This includes charitable activity. In winter, they distribute heaters, warm clothing and food stamps. Last Ramadan, they handed out $100 to all businesses in the Old City. They are involved in the educational system, they renovate buildings and they organize heavily subsidized and even free trips [from Turkey to Al-Aqsa Mosque]. As someone on the ground here, I am constantly surprised by the scope of this activity."
  • a neo-Ottoman policy that Erdogan has been promoting over the past few years. Its goal is to bolster Turkish control in Jerusalem
  • “As far as he is concerned, the fact that the Ottomans once ruled here means that he is no stranger to Jerusalem. He is also challenging Israeli sovereignty in the city. Turkish activity in Jerusalem is his way of engaging in the soft conquest of al-Quds [Jerusalem].”
  • Israel has decided to put an end to this Turkish involvement in Jerusalem affairs
  • Israeli experts estimate that another person particularly concerned about the situation is King Abdullah of Jordan, who has a special status in Jerusalem as “Protector of the Holy Sites.” The Foreign Ministry’s statement refers to these Jordanian concerns. “In accordance with the peace treaty with Jordan, the Jordanians have a special status at the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. As such, we will not allow Erdogan to interfere with this special status, as they are doing now,” reads the statement.
  • the growing presence of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs in the Temple Mount compound. They come with lots of money, and their efforts are already bearing fruit. Erdogan’s popularity among the Palestinians is skyrocketing, and the main person to suffer for that is Jordan’s King Abdullah. He cannot compete with the funds that the Turks are pouring in, while his rhetoric on behalf of the Palestinians pales in comparison to Erdogan’s stinging attacks.”
  • “Erdogan’s ultimate goal is Erdogan himself. He wants to become 'Sultan of all Muslims.' Unlike Iran, for example, which has no access to Jerusalem, Turkey does have access to the city. Israel allows him to operate on the ground and emblazon Jerusalem prominently on his personal banner. This positions him as the greatest Muslim leader in the world.”
  • “He wants to return to rule over all those lands that were once controlled by the Ottoman Empire. We are witnessing Turkish activity of this kind not only in the Middle East but in the Balkans and Caucasus too
  • Mordechai Goldman has served for the past few years as the diplomatic and military analyst of the ultra-Orthodox daily Hamevaser. He attended ultra-Orthodox rabbinical colleges and studied psychology at the Israeli Open University. He also participated in the national civil service program. Goldman lectures to ultra-Orthodox audiences on the diplomatic process and on the Israel Defense Forces and consults with companies in regard to the ultra-Orthodox sector.
Ed Webb

The F-35 Triangle: America, Israel, the United Arab Emirates - War on the Rocks - 0 views

  • deepen what were heretofore covert ties across the full spectrum of civilian sectors from business to science to agriculture and even space. The Emirati-Israeli agreement builds upon years of “under the table” cooperation between security and intelligence professionals driven toward strategic alignment by a shared perception of the major regional threat — Iran.
  • the U.S. sweetener appears to be a commitment to sell it F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as other advanced weaponry long sought by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
  • When Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, it secured the second largest military aid package in the Middle East after Israel, which continues today. When Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, the announcement came along with debt relief and the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft — and, like Egypt, Jordan remains a top recipient of American assistance
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  • Reactions to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 have largely focused on whether Israel will support such a sale and the related requirement in U.S. domestic law to ensure Israel’s military superiority against all other countries in the Middle East. The longstanding policy term, later codified in law, is “qualitative military edge.” From the Emirati point of view, if they have entered into full diplomatic relations with Israel — with a promised “warm peace,” in the words of Emirati officials — and both countries share the same threat perspective, then Israel should have confidence that these advanced weapons will not be turned against it and should therefore not object to the sale. Moreover, unlike Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates has never attacked Israel.
  • Weapons sales are a leading area of competition in the Middle East, and in the words of the former Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow: Arms transfers are foreign policy. When we transfer a system or a capability to a foreign partner, we are affecting regional — or foreign internal — balances of power; we are sending a signal of support; and we are establishing or sustaining relationships that may last for generations and provide benefits for an extended period of time.
  • selling the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates would say much more about the Washington’s partnership with Abu Dhabi than it would about the evolving Emirati-Israeli relationship
  • Selling the F-35 to a country ought to be a signal that the United States has the highest measure of confidence in that country’s warfighting capabilities, decision-making on the use of force, and commitments to protecting sensitive technology. The Emirati record on each of these issues does not, however, inspire the highest confidence. The record is mixed.
  • As former government officials serving in the State and Defense Departments as well as in Congress, we are confident that the process going forward will be messy and time-consuming, specifically because the current case breaks precedent in so many ways.
  • Since the Yemen war’s inception in 2015, members of Congress have raised concerns about the conflict and U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition, in which Abu Dhabi was a partner and to which it contributed forces until withdrawing in the summer of 2019. These concerns, and the Trump administration’s refusal to address them, culminated in Congress mandating a report on steps taken by both governments to reduce civilian casualties and comply with laws and agreements governing the use of U.S.-origin weapons — indicating skepticism that either country was doing so
  • Reflecting a long-held U.S. policy view, during his nomination hearing Washington’s envoy to Abu Dhabi noted that the country “is a moderating and stabilizing force in one of the world’s most volatile regions.” The United Arab Emirates stands out among other militaries in the region for having contributed military forces to many U.S.-led coalitions since the first Gulf War — Kosovo (late 1990s), Somalia (1992), Afghanistan (since 2003), Libya (2011) and the anti-ISIL coalition (2014 to 2015). Indeed, Jared Kushner set a new precedent for framing the American-Emirati partnership when he effectively equated it with that of America and Israel, terming them comparably “special” during his most recent visit to the Middle East.
  • Emirati regional policies have been the subject of increasing congressional concern in recent years, largely focused on the country’s actions in Yemen and Libya. Since the beginning the Saudi-led coalition’s 2015 intervention in Yemen, most congressional action focused on the Saudi role in the conflict and not the Emirati one. But in 2018, congressional concern peaked in response to Emirati plans to launch an offensive to seize the Yemeni port of Hudaydah. The Trump administration subsequently declined to provide military support for the Emirati operation, given the risks of worsening an already severe humanitarian crisis, concerns regarding the complexities of the proposed military operation, and the likelihood of mass civilian casualties
  • In both Yemen and Libya, Abu Dhabi has not succeeded in leveraging its robust military investments toward political processes that would end the conflicts. In both contexts the divergent policies of the United States and United Arab Emirates — including use of military force, conduct in combat, and utilization of U.S. defense articles — should be considered as part of the F-35 deliberations.
  • competitors in the global arms export industry — particularly Russia and China — also leverage arms sales, but by and large with no strings attached for their use. Both governments use arms sales to challenge U.S. market dominance and to undermine American partnerships in the region
  • protecting Israel’s military superiority consists of both legal requirements and longstanding political and process steps that, while not mandated by law, have paved the way for decades of bipartisan congressional consent to arms sales in the Middle East, including of advanced fighter aircraft. The requirement to protect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” is enshrined in 2008 naval vessel transfer legislation, although it had been implemented as a matter of policy between Washington and Jerusalem since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
  • Presumably, the United Arab Emirates and Israel entering into formal relations affirms that the former does not pose such a military threat. The Israeli perspective at the moment, however, has been complicated by the continuing murk over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blessed the U.S. commitment to sell the Emirati government the F-35 — without the knowledge of his own defense minister. Tensions in Netanyahu’s fragile governing coalition and a larger uproar in Israel’s defense establishment have prompted an awkward pas de deux among American, Emirati, and Israeli officials. Netanyahu — responding to concerns raised by the Israeli defense establishment — stated emphatically during an Aug. 24 joint press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he had not consented to any arms deal as part of normalization. Given Netanyahu’s close relationship with Trump, it is safe to say that no one in either country finds this claim credible. The public spat over Israeli consent to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 escalated when Netanyahu publicly vowed to go to Congress in opposition to the sale, and the United Arab Emirates in response cancelled a planned meeting between the Israeli and Emirati ambassadors to the United Nations.
  • extensive discussions should be expected between Israeli and U.S. technical and military experts to agree on the appropriate mix of offsets to ensure Israel’s military superiority. The offsets may involve discussions of quantity (how many F-35s the Emiratis will acquire versus the Israelis), technical variations in the F-35 platform, or additional sales and assistance to Israel. This challenge is not insurmountable, but it will be time-consuming and extend pass the upcoming American electoral cycle
  • The standard for this level of consultation with Israel before moving forward with arms sales packages to others in the region was set by the Obama administration — first in 2011 with the sale of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, and later in 2013 with the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates along with stand-off weapons to both the Saudis and the Emiratis. Concurrent with 2013 sales, the Obama administration negotiated a package for Israel to maintain its military edge that included V-22 Osprey aircraft, advanced refueling tankers, and anti-air defense missiles.
  • Though Israel has no legal right to  block the United States from selling a weapon to another country in the Middle East, Israeli support is critical, particularly during the period of congressional notification. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will consult with the Israeli government, and will prefer to support a sale that earns a clear green light from the Israeli government. Members are likely be left unsatisfied by ambiguous and lukewarm Israel responses to the question of selling the F-35 to the Emiratis, precisely because technical talks have not yet begun. All parties risk being stuck between the divisive politics of the moment, and the deliberative, lengthy policy considerations that such arms transfer packages usually entail, opening the door to a further erosion of bipartisanship on a key issue of national security importance — the what, when, and how of a decision by the United States to provide advanced weapons systems to partner states in the Middle East.
  • Arab capitals are closely following whether the United States will follow through on its apparent commitment to sell the F-35 (and assorted other high-end systems) to Abu Dhabi, and whether American deliverables are sufficiently compelling to consider bringing their own relations with Israel into the daylight
  • The historical record from Egypt to Jordan and now the United Arab Emirates — across administrations of both political parties — is that formal relations with Israel facilitate strategic consistency from Washington
  • Will Egypt and Jordan request the F-35 in light of their existing peace treaties with Israel? Will countries in closer geographic proximity, like Saudi Arabia, request the F-35 and additional advanced U.S. weapons as part of their normalization package?
  • For Israel, Iran and Turkey represent sobering examples in that regard — previously solid security partners within seemingly stable governance structures that became hostile.
  • military edge risks eroding as Arab governments, whether blocked from purchasing certain weapons from the United States or in addition to acquiring them, turn to China, Russia, and other weapons exporters not obligated to maintain Israel’s military superiority
  • Competition in the Middle East between the United States and its adversaries is intensifying — particularly in the weapons sales arena
  • Washington may find itself in an escalating — and unsustainable — cycle of supplementing and upgrading support, technology, and other military offsets to Israel.
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