The Middle East
The Necessary Man

Jordan’s King Abdullah has a vital role to play in the fight against ISIS, but the U.S. first needs to show its resolve.

Published on: October 16, 2014
Roger G. Harrison was U.S. Ambassador to Jordan during the first Gulf War.
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  • Arkeygeezer

    The inconvenient truth is that THIS ADMINISTRATION CAN’T convince even someone as well disposed as Abdullah that we mean what we say. The current U.ß. Administration has no credibility in the middle east. Therefore, we are forced to a policy of trying to contain ISIS in the middle east, and let it consume itself.

  • Andrew Allison

    The current administration is resolved to be irresolute, and the world knows it.

  • wigwag

    This is a very informative article, but there is an important issue that Ambassador Harrison neglected to mention; the implication of 750,000 Sunni refugees from Syria and Iraq now residing in Jordan. Surely this reality is as important to the future of Jordanian stability as ISIS is and surely Jordan’s ability to repel the advance of ISIS will be determined at least in part by whether these refugees turn out to represent a political asset or a political encumbrance for the Jordanian monarch.

    If what I’ve read is accurate, upwards of 30,000 Iraqi refugees now call Jordan home and so do 600 thousand Syrian refugees. Most of the articles I’ve read focus on how economically taxing these refugees are for a relatively poor nation like Jordan. One thing seems certain; it is remarkably unlikely that very many of these refugees will be returning to their nation of origin any time soon. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if Jordan ends up as the new home for these refugees far into the future. Jordan may end up being the home of not only their children but also their children’s children.

    What I would like to know from Ambassador Harrison or some other learned essayist that the “American Interest” recruits to appear in its pages, is whether these refugees might actually contribute to rather than detract from Jordanian stability. Unless I am mistaken, for decades the fulcrum on which Jordanian stability pivoted was the relationship between Jordanians of Palestinian descent and Jordanians of Bedouin descent. My understanding is that both segments of the population were relatively equal in size and that Jordan’s Palestinian population was never wholly comfortable with their Hashemite rulers. Kings Abdullah, Hussein and their forebears sea sawed between placating the Palestinians and intimidating them. Is it possible that these hundreds of thousands of non-Palestinian Sunnis will upset the demographic balance of Jordan so substantially that this will accrue to the benefit of the reigning Jordanian King? Is it possible that not only is King Abdullah happy to have these refugees residing in Jordan but that he would secretly be delighted to have them and their descendants stay for a very long time?

    Which is a bigger threat to Jordanian security, perpetual Palestinian perniciousness or ISIS?My guess is that over the long-run, King Abdullah is a lot more worried about the Palestinians than he is about ISIS. If I’m right, the currently imbroglio in the Arab world may work out just fine for the King.

    Or maybe I’m missing something.

  • FriendlyGoat

    ISIL (“issul”, like rhymes with missile) is a credible threat to ANY leader of ANY Muslim-populated nation enjoying even the slightest degree of stability. This is because of the confusion it can sew in the minds of the Muslim citizens (army included) as to where one’s allegiance should be rooted. (“Gee, maybe the ISIL Caliph is the real will of Allah?”)

    The United States, whether led by Obama or by Jeb Bush, cannot fix this from the infidel West. We can help, as we are, but it really is going to be up to the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Syria and others to LEAD. Maybe they can capture the minds of their people and solidify them to sense——-and maybe they can’t. We ABSOLUTELY can’t.
    (That’s why, for instance, that Afghanistan still has a Taliban and Iraq is susceptible to military collapse at the drop of a hat. The folks ain’t following us. They never were.)

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