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Rising Violence Putting Strain on Jordan


As its economy founders and many sense its society changing, Jordan’s tribal violence is becoming more frequent and gruesome.  The WSJ’s Middle East Real Time blog reports in the aftermath of a violent clash Friday involving “machine guns, sharp instruments, meat cutter knives and attempts to blow up gas cylinders” that left two dead and eight wounded. Grisly photos and videos of the brawl left people reeling, with many feeling that a larger trend in Jordanian society is taking shape:

“We did not want to believe that the society that we lived in for decades has changed. We are still living in denial and we have to admit that the values of tolerance are diminishing and there is no alternative to the rule of law,” [Fahed Kheitan columnist in Al Ghad] wrote.…

“It started with a disagreement between two children over a bike before it expanded into tribal violence,” said one police source. “People are changing and they are becoming short tempered.”…

“Tribes are frustrated with the lack of development project [sic] in their areas. They have largely benefited from the state ,” said Amer Sabaileh, a blogger and political analyst. “But now they feel marginalized. Their anger and frustrations over their eroding living standards lead to tribal violence. This situation would represent a real threat to social security.”

Jordan has little wherewithal to cope with such disruptive changes right now. Its economy is suffering under plummeting gas supplies from Egypt and obstructed trade routes in Syria. In addition, Jordan is coping with half a million-plus of Syria’s refugees who require attention. The report notes a recent Gallup survey in which 73 percent of Jordanians claimed to be “struggling” and 16 percent “suffering.” As support from traditional backers erodes, King Abdullah II is having trouble convincing those that are dissatisfied to hold the line.

While protests and clashes are growing and Islamists are agitating for power, the king has received only a fraction of the international aid he requested. Whether that aid comes in the form of money or some other kind of assistance, let’s hope the White House has Jordan in mind as the situation in the Middle East grows more combustible by the day.

[King Abdullah of Jordan photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Andrew Allison

    It appears to me that inter-tribal warfare has broken out throughout the Arab countries, as it did in the Balkans when the lid of the repressive State popped off. The lesson is that tribal/religious grievances can only be kept under control by an iron fist.
    Based on our failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, I suggest that the only sensible course is to let the Arab world get on with resolving their differences while very severely punishing any attack on the US. The one exception to that policy is that Iran is clearly intent on building nuclear weapons and, given their arming of terrorist organizations, must be stopped. Given the demonstrated (lack of) commitment by the present administration to “Red Lines”, it’s up to Israel to do the dirty work, and the sooner the better. A surgical strike promptly followed by an expression of full support for Israel from the US is the way to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. I should perhaps add that I’m a (lapsed) WASP.

  • lukelea

    If the Palestinians should end up with a big piece of Jordan as their own to go with the West Bank, that would be a big step in the direction of peace with Israel. As it is, the West Bank (and Gaza) are much too small to accommodate all the Palestinians who would like to live in a state of their own.

    By way of compensation it wouldn’t be so bad if the Hashemites regained administrative control of Mecca either. Wahabis have not been good for the Islamic world.

    I’m sure lots of people have had these thoughts.

  • wigwag

    Is its me, or is the King putting on a lot of weight? Some people when they’re worried tend to over eat. The picture above suggests to me that the King is really worried.

    The photograph that Professor Mead chose, put me in mind of Richard Burton playing King Arthur in Camelot. Especially this lyric:

    “I know what my people are thinking tonight
    As home through the shadows they wander
    Everyone smiling in secret delight
    They stare at the castle and ponder
    Whenever the wind blows this way
    You can almost hear everyone say

    I wonder what the king is doing tonight?
    What merriment is the king pursuing tonight?
    The candles at the court, they never burned as bright
    I wonder what the king is up to tonight?

    You mean that appalling clamoring
    That sounds like a blacksmith hammering
    Is merely the banging of his royal knees? Please

    You wonder what the king is wishing tonight?
    He’s wishing he were in Scotland fishing tonight
    What occupies his time while waiting for his bride?
    He’s searching high and low for some place to hide.”

  • Nick M.

    I doubt Jordan will get much aid from the US, King Abdullah II seems too pro-US for Obama to want to help.

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