MIDEAST MIRROR 29.05.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-The spreading fire
2-Image and mirror image
3-Egypt’s Syrian priorities
5-Mending Saudi-Jordanian relations
1-The spreading fire
ISIS poses a real threat to the region. Why? Because the fact that it has control of areas in Iraq has astonished many people. And because the Assad regime is losing in Syria, this is cause for satisfaction; but there is also cause for more concern because this organization and others like it may be the only alternative in certain Syrian areas, as is now happening. In light of this, consolidating the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria is a necessity imposed by the reality of the situation in these areas of conflict. For if the coalition does not succeed in stopping ISIS in its tracks, the fire will spread to the remaining Arab areas--Saudi al-Watan
So far, ISIS and the Nusra Front have killed anyone who disagrees with them, anyone who does not believe in their ideas, every Shiite, Christian, or Zaidi who has fallen into their hands, and every Sunni Muslim who does not accept their way of ruling the areas under their control. Women were taken into captivity and distributed as war booty, as if we were still living in the age of slavery. It is therefore foolish to belittle the threat posed by ISIS and the Nusra Front should they win in the war raging in Syria. There will certainly be a massacre of the Shiites, Christians, and Druze in Lebanon. The heads of the leaders of the Sunni current will roll, which is exactly what is happening now in Syria, unless they are lucky enough to flee Lebanon. After all, are beheadings not the first thing that ISIS does whenever it is victorious in any confrontation in Syria or Iraq? Mohammad Yaghi in Palestinian al-Ayyam
By their actions, ISIS and other similar factions are leading Syria towards partition and fragmentation along ethnic and sectarian lines, notes the editorial in a Saudi daily. Unless the anti-ISIS coalition is strengthened soon, the Syrian fire will spread to other Arab countries. If the Syrian regime falls, it seems inevitable that Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia will be next in line for violence and bloody civil war, maintains a Palestinian commentator. Given the absence of guarantees that the U.S. or any other power can prevent this, it is sheer madness for some of these circles to wish for the fall of the Syrian regime and Iran’s defeat at any cost.
FABIUS WARNS: "French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said nothing new when he warned just a few days ago that Iraq and Syria face the threat of partition unless the anti-ISIS international coalition is strengthened," notes the editorial in Friday's Saudi daily al-Watan.
France will host a summit of 24 countries in Paris on June 22nd to discuss the U.S.-led coalition's strategy against this terrorist organization.
The spectre of partition did not exist at the start of the Syrian revolution; but after the terrorist organizations entered Syrian territories, this threat has now become real. These terrorist organizations’ entry has served Assad's regime at many levels:
- First, it gave the mistaken impression that the takfiri militias represent the alternative to the regime.
- Second, the fighting in Syria has spread to many fronts whereas there was previously a legitimate opposition that represented the people under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA); but we now have ISIS, the Nusra Front, and other jihadi factions instead. And we all know that the disagreements and infighting that broke out between the various armed terrorist factions and groups, and between them and the FSA has fragmented the resistance to the Syrian regime, which has been the main beneficiary of what has happened.
- Third, this led the regime to seek the help of pro-Iran factions and militias including elements of the Basij, Hizbollah, and other brigades to confront any opposition to the regime.
This bloody panorama has confounded the Syrian scene. To this should be added the fact that the terrorist groups, primarily ISIS, are not only fighting against the regime; like the regime, they are also fighting all shades of the Syrian spectrum and all constituents of the Syrian people. This has led the Kurds, for example, to resort to their areas and to try to put their own affairs in order to confront ISIS.
The same has happened in many other battles. In other words, Syria turned into an arena for fighting between various kinds of enemies, and this is what will ensure the success of any of its ethnic or sectarian constituents.
ISIS poses a real threat to the region. Why? Because the fact that it has control of areas in Iraq has astonished many people. And because the Assad regime is losing in Syria, this is cause for satisfaction; but there is also cause for more concern because this organization and others like it may be the only alternative in certain Syrian areas, as is now happening.
In light of this, consolidating the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria is a necessity imposed by the reality of the situation in these areas of conflict.
"For if the coalition does not succeed in stopping ISIS in its tracks, the fire will spread to the remaining Arab areas," concludes the daily.
CAUTIOUS IN DEALING WITH SYRIA: "I have learnt to be cautious when considering the situation in Syria," writes Mohammad Yaghi in Friday's Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
On the one hand, the unrest in Syria began in March 2011 in a manner similar to which it started in most Arab countries: A section of the people took to the street demanding an end to the injustice it has been suffering for decades. But this action was not left to take its course, radicalize, and stretch from Der'a to the other Syrian provinces. Soon other forces joined in and resorted to confessional incitement, armament and financing, and introduced takfiri groups into Syrian territories.
There are those who always wish to remind us that the regime's resort to 'thugs' to put down its opponents was the reason why Syria has reached its present condition. But this is only a small part of the truth. On January 28th 2011 – the so-called 'Friday of Anger' – Mubarak's regime killed 600 Egyptians; but this did not lead the Egyptians to take up arms. And on August 14th 2013, when the [Muslim Brotherhood] sit-in in Cairo’s Rabi'a Square was ended, over a thousand Egyptians were killed within hours, but this also did not lead to civil war. And on January 8th 2011, bin Ali's regime killed 28 Tunisian activists in al-Qasrain, Tala, and ar-Riqab; but this did not lead the protestors to take up arms.
The distinctive mark of Syria lies in the foreign intervention motivated by the conflict with Iran and the need to defeat it by toppling one of its allies in the region – the Assad regime. This is why the opposition forces were armed, monies were spent to split the Syrian army, and a sectarian media war was waged by the regime's regional enemies. So U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden said nothing new when he said at Harvard University a few months ago that some U.S. allies have financed terrorists in Syria in an attempt to topple Assad at any price.
Today, the question of how the slaughter in Syria began is no longer important. The most important question now is this: What if the Syrian regime is actually toppled? Will Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia be safe?
When Hizbollah Secretary-General Nasrallah said a few days ago that his party and the Syrian regime's victory in Syria guarantees that the war will not reach Lebanon, and that if they are defeated, the primary losers will be [Hariri's pro-Saudi] Future Current and the remaining Lebanese forces, many people laughed at his claim. But did the man not speak the truth?
So far, ISIS and the Nusra Front have killed anyone who disagrees with them, anyone who does not believe in their ideas, every Shiite, Christian, or Zaidi who has fallen into their hands, and every Sunni Muslim who does not accept their way of ruling the areas under their control. Women were taken into captivity and distributed as war booty, as if we were still living in the age of slavery.
It is therefore foolish to belittle the threat posed by ISIS and the Nusra Front should they win in the war raging in Syria. There will certainly be a massacre of the Shiites, Christians, and Druze in Lebanon. The heads of the leaders of the Sunni current will roll, which is exactly what is happening now in Syria, unless they are lucky enough to flee Lebanon. After all, are beheadings not the first thing that ISIS does whenever it is victorious in any confrontation in Syria or Iraq? Is this not what it did in the city of Tadmur [Palmyra] last week – a mass massacre of more than 400 people in a single day, as the Syrian opposition not the regime's media documented?
What is really strange is that Saudi Arabia and Jordan understand this very well, but it appears that their policies do not really reflect the true nature of the threats surrounding them. The assumption may be that the U.S. will put all its capabilities at work to defend them if they are under threat. Perhaps because Jordan is forced to go along with the Gulf states that back it economically. Perhaps Saudi Arabia believes it is far from danger.
But these are all just illusions: First, because the U.S. is unwilling to get involved in the Middle East again as it did in 2003. Second, even if we assume that it placed all its capabilities to work as it did when it fought al-Qa'ida in Iraq between 2004 and 2006, there can be no guarantee of victory before both countries are all but destroyed. And third, and most importantly, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are at the heart of the crisis, and they are actually being targeted and not immune to the threat.
Jordan is the second Arab country after Tunisia in the number of 'jihadis' it provides who join ISIS and the Nusra. I recently read a book that said that ISIS only appears in failed states such as Syria and Iraq, because of the anarchy there. This is true in general; but was Syria a failed state before the war? Syria became a failed state because of the war.
But the threat to Saudi Arabia is even greater because it has become involved in a war on Yemen. One of the most important immediate consequences of this war is the strengthening of al-Qa'ida along its southern borders. ISIS has been active along Saudi Arabia's eastern borders with Iraq. And in ISIS and al-Qa'ida's discourse, Saudi Arabia heads the list of targets because of its religious status, and it is undoubtedly being targeted as evidenced by the recent suicide attack on a mosque in the town of al-Qudaih in eastern Saudi Arabia.
In short, the fall of the Syrian regime has huge security repercussions for Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. It is thus difficult to understand this madness that makes victory against Iran an absolute priority.
"If the Syrian regime falls, the war will inevitably spread to the neighboring countries, after which these countries will drown in bloody wars that they today believe are far from them and against whose threat they think they are safe," concludes Yaghi.
2-Image and mirror image
The situation created by ISIS's entry into al-Ramadi in particular, have provided an opportunity for the birth of popular mobilization forces that are not confined to the Shiite shade of the spectrum, but extend to include the Sunni constituent. For numerous sectors of that constituent have reached a level of awareness and understanding that what is happening is an attempt to tamper their fate as well. Such a force – whatever its name – which may come from different sectors but which shares the same aim and fate can act as a means of protecting the political process, even in the post-ISIS phase--Salem Mashkour in Iraqi as-Sabah
We have no objection to the Shiites' beliefs. In fact, we have no objections to the beliefs of any group of people as long as they remain a matter of faith, spiritual values, rituals, rites, and worship. But when these beliefs fan the flames of civil division and strife, and when they turn into a mighty engine for polarization, division, and divergence, then they amount to incitement and a culture of hatred and fanaticism that threatens national unity. This is what the PMU is doing – following in the footsteps of the Nusra Front and ISIS. For as great is the need for its role in the battles of al-Anbar and elsewhere, it stirs fears, worries, and caution regarding the coming days to the same extent. It is in this regard in particular that the PMU and ISIS play similar roles. Whichever looks at itself in the mirror will see the image of the other-- Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour
One of the positive responses to ISIS's emergence and its advances in Iraq is the formation of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) which fulfill the role of a necessary force whose main task is to defend the new regime, maintains an Iraqi commentator in a pro-government daily. ISIS's advances in al-Ramadi have drawn Sunni elements to the PMU, making it more representative of Iraq's various constituents. The PMU is a confessional militia which will alienate most of Iraq's Sunnis and render them wary of joining the fight against ISIS, warns a leading Jordanian commentator. It is the reverse image of ISIS and, like it, it can only lead to the breakdown of Iraq and its people.
SOMETHING GOOD FROM BAD: "If anything bad can have good consequences, then among the more 'positive' aspects of ISIS's entry into Iraq and its threat to Baghdad is the PMU's emergence after the jihad fatwa from the [leading Iraqi Shiite] authority as-Sistani," writes Salem Mashkour in the pro-government Iraqi daily as-Sabah.
All radical revolutions require a force that protects the new regime against the threat posed by the old regime's forces that try hard to topple, or at least to obstruct the work of the incoming regime in order to claim that it has brought nothing good to the country.
But what happened in Iraq was even worse. Elements from the old regime have waged an armed revolt against the new regime ever since it was established after April 2003, while other elements have engaged in political sabotage from within the new regime by infiltrating it.
The old regime did not fall as a result of a revolution or a military coup; it came to power via a U.S. military invasion, which was the only way to rid the majority of Iraqis of dictatorship. But the result was the same: Toppling the old dictatorial, repressive, sectarian, chauvinistic and savage regime, and the establishment of a totally different one under the banner of democracy, federalism, liberties, and the peaceful transfer of power.
But no one thought of establishing a guard to protect the new regime. As a result, the political arena produced armed elements acting outside the state's framework and that took it upon themselves to respond to those who were trying to topple or confound the new regime. And this had its own negative consequences that further complicated the scene. In Iran, for example, where the royalist regime was brought down by a popular revolution in 1979 and as soon as the revolution succeeded, the new regime’s leadership took the initiative of forming two protective forces– the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Islamic Revolution's Committees.
When Saddam waged his [1980-88] war on Iran, the Iranians viewed it as a proxy war for other outside forces that was aimed at toppling the new regime. As a result, the abovementioned two forces became the vanguard for the battle on all fronts, together with the Basij (‘Organization for the Mobilization of the Oppressed’). It was thanks to the performance of these three forces on the various fronts and inside Iran that the attacks it suffered were repulsed and the regime was protected.
Iraq, however, lacked such an ideologically committed force that believes in the new regime and protects it by force. One reason may have been that regime change was the result of action by foreign forces and there was no united and harmonious local force that could have taken such a step. But more important than all this was the sharp political split between two camps, and the system of distributing shares and partnership that brought people who do not believe in the new regime and who were trying to weaken it into crucial posts. The formation of such a protective force had to proceed within the framework of power-sharing and coerced partnership. As a result, it could not be either harmonious or united in its aims, which meant that it could not fulfill its expected the role.
The situation created by ISIS’s entry into al-Ramadi in particular, has provided an opportunity for the birth of popular mobilization forces that are not confined to the Shiite shade of the spectrum, but extend to include the Sunni constituent. For numerous sectors of that constituent have reached a level of awareness and understanding that what is happening is an attempt to tamper their fate as well.
"Such a force – whatever its name – which may come from different sectors but which shares the same aim and fate can act as a means of protecting the political process, even in the post-ISIS phase," concludes Mashkour.
SUCCESSIVE TERMS: "Mr. Nuri al-Maliki ruled Iraq for two successive terms (2006-2014) and fought hard to obtain a third term but to no avail, after the Iraqis united, or almost united, against him," notes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in the Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.
Before him, Dr. Iyad 'Allawi and Mr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari each ruled for about a year, if we disregard their first term in office when the Iraqi Governing Council was still running the country. Anyway, this first term lasted only one month in accordance with the monthly rotation system adopted by the Council.
After eight years of almost individual role with semi-absolute powers, especially in his second term, Mr. Maliki has just come out with a statement speaking of the PMU as 'the sole remaining alternative' and as Iraq's guarantor that must be supported until the mission of building a national Iraqi army is completed. But how were all these years, billions of dollars and all the efforts on training and sponsorship, spent? Al-Maliki blames those who came after him, who have only been in power for a few months.
But the tragicomic side of Maliki's statements is that they coincided with the beginning of the counterattack on al-Ramadi, to which the PMU chose to give the codename: 'At your service, Imam Hussein.' This is guaranteed to provoke, not only the community that embraces ISIS and its sister organizations, but the thousands of volunteers from the Sunni clans who would have definitely preferred a different codename, such as 'At your service, Iraq,' or 'At your service, al-Anbar,' or any other name that highlights the patriotic aspect rather than the confessional character of the military campaign to recapture al-Ramadi, liberate al-Anbar, and preserve the country and people's unity and protect them against partition and fragmentation.
We have no objection to the Shiites' beliefs. In fact, we have no objections to the beliefs of any group of people as long as they remain a matter of faith, spiritual values, rituals, rites, and worship. But when these beliefs fan the flames of civil division and strife, and when they turn into a mighty engine for polarization, division, and divergence, then they amount to incitement and a culture of hatred and fanaticism that threatens national unity.
This is what the PMU is doing – following in the footsteps of the Nusra Front and ISIS. For as great is the need for its role in the battles of al-Anbar and elsewhere, it stirs fears, worries, and caution regarding the coming days to the same extent. It is in this regard in particular that the PMU and ISIS play similar roles. Whichever looks at itself in the mirror will see the image of the other.
This bitter precedent was set in Tikrit and the miserable militia-like practices that accompanied and occurred after 'liberation,' and which the PMU is trying hard to deny. But the insistence on using the abovementioned codename for the operation to liberate al-Ramadi indicates that it fails to take the other parties’ sensitivities into consideration and is proceeding with its confessional discourse and practices till the end of the road.
It is these – its discourse and the practices – that have played an undeniable role in 'fertilizing' the environment that embraces ISIS and provides it with all the elements it requires to 'remain and expand.'
It seems that no one wants to learn from the lessons of the previous experiences. Most important by far is the fact that 'religious identity' – whether sectarian or confessional – is the opposite of 'national/patriotic identity.' For the formation of an Islamist party necessarily calls for the establishment of a Christian party. And the establishment of a Shiite militia makes it necessary to give birth to a Sunni militia.
Chauvinistic Arab nationalist parties pushed ethnic minorities to seek secession – from North Africa to the mountains of Kurdistan, via Southern Sudan where ethnic exclusion was mixed with religious exclusion. As for fragmentation, it will not stop at any limit. In the absence of a collective and uniting identity, sub-national identities will continue to branch out and give birth to less inclusive and smaller identities, with no 'bottom' to the pit of breakdown and division.
Like others and perhaps more than others, the Iraqis have paid a huge cost for the policies of exclusion, elimination, and marginalization for more than half-a-century and up till the present time.
Under the banner of 'At your service, Iraq' the clan members who joined the Iraqi Awakening Forces – with names like Mohammad, Yazid, Mu'awiya, and 'Omar – can fight bravely in defense of their city and sacrifice all they hold dear in order to recapture it. But under the banner of 'At your service, Hussein,' I believe they will sleep with half-closed eyes for fear that they may pay with their lives the price for the eruption of instinctive sectarian sentiments that recall 'Hussein's revenge' and [historic Shiite] demands punishment for his murderers – the old ones, but especially also the new ones.
In short, Iraq's liberation from ISIS – assuming this is achieved in the foreseeable future – will be no more than a new chapter in the open Iraqi crisis that will remain susceptible to various possibilities and scenarios, just as the fall of president Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003 closed one chapter but opened up an even bloodier one that is more dangerous for the future of the country and its people.
"Within a short period, we may be faced with the challenge of 'containing' the PMU militia, whose role and influence are growing, turning it into a burden not a guarantor of Iraq, and into a cause of its subsequent problems, not a tool for confronting and dealing with them," concludes Rintawi.
3-Egypt’s Syrian priorities
Cairo seems to have adopted an ambiguous stance towards the Syrian regime, says to Mohammad Barhouma in today's pan-Arab al-Hayat
As Egypt prepares to hold a conference for the Syrian opposition factions, other than the Muslim Brotherhood, it is becoming clear that Cairo insists that the achievement of the Syrian people's legitimate aspirations can only be achieved by preserving Syria's unity and state institutions, primarily its army, argues a Jordanian commentator. President Assad's departure or remaining in power is a relatively minor point compared to this aim.
OPPOSITION STATEMENTS REJECTED: "In a TV interview, Egyptian Foreign Secretary Samih Shukri rejected the statement made by the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) Khaled Khoja regarding Egypt's neutrality in the conflict between the Syrian opposition and regime," writes Mohammad Barhouma in Friday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
The Egyptian minister responded to Khoja by noting that already Cairo had already hosted a Syrian opposition conference in January, and is preparing to host the Cairo-2 Conference on June 8th and 9th.
Be that as it may, there is some ambiguity surrounding Egypt's attitude towards Assad remaining in power. There are those who say that Cairo is in accord with Moscow on this issue, and we have not come across a frank and direct official Egyptian statement denying this.
The Egyptian position leans towards distinguishing between the Syrian state and the regime – despite the difficulty of such a distinction. As Minister Shukri says: 'the person of President Bashar al-Assad is one thing, and Syrian state institutions is another. We must consider the difference between them. For whether a particular person stays in power concerns the Syrian people and does not concern us. What does concern us is the survival of the state institutions.'
The fact of the matter is that this approach is consistent with the position of Jordan, the UAE, Tunisia, and perhaps Algeria on the Arab scene. They may also explain U.S. President Barack Obama's statements that there may be no resolution of the Syrian crisis during his term in office. Moreover, it may provide an explanation of why a few days ago the U.S. bombed a site controlled by the Nusra Front in Idlib. The implicit message was: 'The Nusra and hence the [Saudi-backed Islamist] Jayshul Fateh should not expand towards Damascus and the Syrian coast, even if the regime and its allies seem unable to prevent this.'
It thus appears that an American red line has been drawn which is not canceled out by what is being said about the U.S.'s readiness to back the creation of no-fly zones along the Syrian/Turkish borders. Furthermore, Washington will sense no contradictions in its attitudes towards Syria, as long as what it is doing is consistent with Obama's idea of a 'strategic balance' in the region and preventing the jihadis from approaching Damascus and the coastline.
Egypt will try to convince the Syrian opposition factions attending the Cairo-2 Conference – and the Muslim Brotherhood is not among them – that the realization of the Syrian people's legitimate aspirations can only be achieved by preserving the unity of Syrian territories and its state institutions, with the army at the vanguard, while linking Assad's departure to the threat of the country sliding towards anarchy.
"These are Egypt's priorities in Syria, and this is what it will try to propose in Cairo-2, which it hopes will produce a national covenant, a roadmap, and a political committee to follow up on its conclusions," concludes Barhouma.
Very few Palestinians will be shedding any tears over Tony Blair’s resignation as Quartet representative, says today’s pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com
Former British PM Tony Blair's resignation from his post as advisor to the International Quartet will be welcome across the Arab world and beyond, says the editorial in a pan-Arab online daily. This is not only because of his duplicitous role and his support for Israel, but also because of his role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the death of over one million Iraqis.
WAR CRIMES: "We do not think that anyone in or outside the occupied Palestinian territories will feel sad or sorry that former British PM Tony Blair has resigned his post as International Quartet envoy," writes the editorial on Friday on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.
This is not because the man failed to achieve any peace or prevent any settlement activities or end any Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, throughout the seven years he spent in this post. Rather, it is because his name in the minds of honorable Arabs and Muslims, is linked to the war crimes he committed in Iraq as one of the main architects of the war that led to the death of over one million Iraqis, the country’s destruction, and was the launch of a colonial scheme to destroy the main centers of Arab civilization and most, if not all Arab countries.
Tony Blair should be standing in the dock, accused of being a war criminal. He should not have been rewarded with the post of peace envoy, which totally conflicts with his racist positions that are hostile to the Arabs and Muslims. But nothing is unlikely in these appalling Arab conditions.
This man engaged in all sorts of deception and lies throughout the past years. He fiercely supported the expansionist Israeli plans, and was in effect an advisor to Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu and to all the Arab tyrants who wallowed in the blood of their nations, even if he was not formally appointed in such a post.
Blair was chosen for the mission of achieving false peace in the hope that he may atone for his sins, or some of them. Instead, he did the exact opposite. He deceived everyone, primarily the PA's men, when he came out with his concept of 'economic peace' and building the Palestinian state's infrastructure. His peace took the form of a war on Gaza and settling over half-a-million Israelis in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Blair resigned after fulfilling his mission in the service of Israel and its settlement schemes. He justified its wars of aggression in Gaza; he tried to defend its image even though it is seen as a racist state across the world; and he has helped it confront the honorable people in the world who continue to demand that it, its universities, and its goods be boycotted because of its occupation, racism, and crimes in the occupied territories.
It is sad that many Arab states lay out the red carpet for this war criminal and sign contracts with his company that offers its advice in return for millions of dollars. These include Kuwait and the UAE. Therefore, we ask these states to end their cooperation with him out of respect for the souls of our martyrs who were killed because of his grave crimes in Iraq.
"We shall not shed a tear because he resigned," concludes the editorial.
5-Mending Saudi-Jordanian relations
Jordan has sent a special envoy to try and mend its strained relations with Riyadh, notes Fahd al-Khitan in Jordanian al-Ghad
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Jordan have not been at their best since the new Saudi monarch Salman came to power and the change he has brought about in Riyadh's regional alliances, notes a Jordanian commentator. But the visit to Riyadh by a former head of the Jordanian Royal Court may change that.
UNEXPECTED STEP: "The step was unexpected, and it has three main implications,' writes Fahd al-Khitan in the Jordanian daily al-Ghad.
First, it amounts to an official recognition that Saudi/Jordanian relations are undergoing a crisis. Second, it indicates that Jordanian diplomacy is unable to overcome or ease this crisis via its current form and structure. This is why the Jordanian 'system' sought help from someone outside the decision-making circle. And the third implication, which is an important one, concerns the identity of the envoy, Dr. Bassem 'Awadallah who was said to have lost touch with the political 'center' ever since he left his official position as head of the Jordanian Royal Court eight years ago. Today, that claim has been shown to be inaccurate.
'Awadallah's relationship with Saudi Arabia is not new. When he headed the Royal Court he formed strong ties with influential figures in the Saudi administration under the late King 'Abdullah bin 'Abdulaziz. The local political elite got the impression that 'Awadallah's political influence stemmed from his good relations with Saudi Arabia, as well as with various important international and regional parties.
This impression was not without foundation. For after he left his post, he joined a Saudi commercial establishment managed by Sheikh Saleh Kamel, before he finally ended up in Dubai as the director of the Emirati Tomoh Advisory.
Even though the transfer of power to a new king in Saudi Arabia was smooth in form, it amounted to a coup in political terms. It quickly affected Saudi Arabia's regional position and alliances. And the special relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia appeared to have been one of its victims.
'Awadallah was in close touch with the changes in Saudi Arabia and followed developments there. His recent visit and his nomination as King 'Abdullah's personal envoy were clear indication of his direct ties to the new leadership, which may be used to redefine relations between the two sides.
What is also interesting about this step, is that it was announced by the Saudi rather than the Jordanian side, which has kept silent about it so far. The Saudi media reported the warm welcome extended to 'Awadallah and his pictures with the Saudi monarch and Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Nayif, Saudi Arabia's strongman.
The visit was preceded by Awadallah’s notable appearance at the Dead Sea World Economic Forum at the main session held under the banner of 'Jordan Relaunched.' 'Awadallah spoke of the Gulf states and their 'hoped for' role in backing Jordan to overcome its economic crisis.
Was this participation and the messages it sent a preliminary step that paved the way for Riyadh's visit only, or does it pave the way for something else beyond? It is hard to predict future developments. But what is certain is that 'Awadallah’s return to the limelight via the Saudi gateway will give rise to a wide debate in Jordan’s political and media circles and excite the rumor machine, which has remained idle for years.
In the short run, it is important to monitor the course of Jordanian/Saudi relations and to measure the likely effects of 'Awadallah's visit to Riyadh and the unwritten messages he has carried with him and those he has brought back to Amman.
"Will relations return to their normal course? If so, the question concerning 'Awadallah's domestic role will be a legitimate one," concludes Khitan.
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