As leaders meet in Geneva to discuss Syria’s fate, let’s remember whose bearing a large brunt of the Syrian blowback, and what this may mean for regional stability. Jordan holds over half a million of its troubled neighbor’s refugees, a population surge that cost the desert kingdom $1.7 billion this past year. The UN predicts another $2.8 billion will be spent on hosting the Syrians in 2014. A stagnating economy, societal turmoil, and a growing variety of dubious characters stirring up trouble in-country has the ruling monarchy under considerable stress. Jordan has been a reliable ally in a volatile region, and it should be troubling to the US that the Syria conflict is beginning to spread there. As former AI contribuor Kori Schake argues for the FP, America could do well to give more attention to Jordan:
And here is where the Obama administration could perhaps make a virtue out of the catastrophe that is its Middle East policy, harnessing the newfound willingness of unlikely partners in the region to productive effect. The U.S. government should develop a strategy for raising not just that $3.2 billion but also providing political, economic, and other assistance to the government of Jordan, webbing it into regional cooperation made possible by allies worried about U.S. policies…the cost of stabilizing Jordan is nowhere near the cost we will pay if King Abdullah II is unable to hold the country steady and maintain its current policies.
Jordan is a valuable American ally in more ways than one. The Abdullah II regime is friendly to US regional interests, and represents a moderate, progressive alternative to the Islamist groups that have seen their stock rise in the region. As Schake makes clear, resource-strapped Jordan is in trouble. Increased assistance to the Kingdom would go a long way in reassuring the Hashemite King of America’s commitment to his country’s stability, and could help keep the Syrian unrest from further destabilizing yet another country in an already restive region.