The king and Assad

Initially published in bikyamasr…

“If Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life.”

What a statement from the Jordanian King Abdullah!

Before we get carried away, I think it is important to put The Jordanian Monarch’s remarks into perspective. They are several local factors that potentially prompted the king to speak out.

First, there are at least 40.000 Syrians live in Jordan. Many already hold Jordanian citizenship, a huge number in the relatively low populated country -just over 6 Millions- Surely, the leadership will carefully consider their voice and demands. Any instability can upset the delicate balance in a country like Jordan.

(Palestinians make up about half of the population).

Second, the Islamists, particularly the influential Muslim unions-who openly opposes the kingdom pro –Western policies- constitutes a tremendous political challenge. Recently, they change tune, and become more vocal against the king, and not just the government. Resent, and anger were not tampered by the recent changes in the government and the royal court.

On the other hand, they are passionately supporting the uprising in Syria (an uprising that the Islamic groups constitute a substantial portion of it). A quick look at the map, you can spot how close Deraa is to Zarqa (The birthplace of Zarqawi, if you still remember him!).

By standing by the Syrian uprising, the king may win hearts and minds of ordinary Jordanians and deny the Islamists a powerful card, reinforce his policy of containment of their influence in the kingdom.

Third, King Abdullah is probably aware of his father serious miscalculation by standing by Saddam in the first Gulf war, a mistake that cost him dearly. Again, the king is probably not keen to repeat past mistakes.

Fourth, The impact of the events in Syria on Hamas is probably on the back of the king’s mind. As the revolt intensify, their position in Syria become more and more unattainable, and they probably want to leave (if Assad let them!).

They are already many in Jordan (including the new PM Awn Khasawneh) who viewed the expulsion of Hamas 12 years ago as a big mistake. This view may not be to the king liking, he may not be eager to receive them back in Jordan. By taking a tough stance on Assad, any future rejection of Hamas may not look that controversial.

On the other hand, I find the king ‘s remarks a bit ironical. He was  never known for his bold remarks against any Arab leader. Even against Gaddafi, he was not that blunt. Plus, I am not sure he would say the same if a Monarch ruled Syria!

Nevertheless, we should welcome such stance from an Arab leader and encourage others to follow suit. The king’s wisdom may have some domestic reasons, but still a bold and desired step.

If Arab leaders are serious about reforms, they should go with the flow of the Arab uprising and not abide by their fellow friends and colleagues in the rotten club of dictators.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
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6 Responses to The king and Assad

  1. Lalit Ambardar says:

    Politics of royalty. A well analysed perspective.


  2. Jon Goodfellow says:

    One rather understands King Adbullah’s caution when remembering Hashemite history. Essentially another state carved out by the British mandate from what was the southern part of the Ottoman vilayet of Syria and the Hejaz vilalyet in the northwest side of the Arabian peninsula. So it encompassed Syrian populations in the north and desert Wahabist tribes in the south from the beginning. Toss in Baathist ideologues to North and East (Syria, Iraq) for decades, desert tribes to the south that tossed his (great?) uncle out half the Hijaz as part of the Saudi kingdom formation, the Isreali-Palestinian Arab struggle to the West, etc., etc., etc. And so it is still torn by these tensions even today. In some ways perhaps a bit like Libya, where it was not even a real state before Qadaffi, who played off the tribal groups against each other to maintain power, until the Cyrenains tossed him.


  3. Jon Goodfellow says:

    Sorry about the redundant history post. Your analytical remarks were right on. I also noticed you linked the following twitter post by Mustafa Akyol where he references the Kemalists unfavourably: . They may be secularists, but I often wonder also whether they still live in the past. Its as if they think of the AKP and Erdogan as the new Pasha Enver/CUPS rushing off to fight for the oppressed in Bukhara for Pan-Turkism. If a Neo-Ottoman intervention would bring peace to Syria with the ouster of Assad, then more power to them.


  4. nervana111 says:

    In a way , you are right. The past is integral part of Erdogan AKP policy . it remains to be seen how much fantasy and how realism is actually shaping the current Turkish policy. interfering in syria will worsen the Turkish-Iranian relationship. Turkey export half of its gas requirement from Iran !


  5. Jon Goodfellow says:

    Regarding Turkey’s Iranian gas dependency, one wonders how much the ongoing raprochement of Turkey and Russia is related to that. Certainly there is a lot of pipeline politicking in their region. Its not all about pipelines to Europe. And Turkey’s pan-Turkism is quite muted in the Caucasus, perhaps related to that and the Black Sea oil. Energy security is realism in that regard. Also, the Kemalist approach to Assad and the Baathists is consistent with their past neutrality to the Axis and later Stalinist powers. NATO was also a beneficiary of that neutrality after the 1950s given their focus on Europe, but one wonders what NATO membership would mean if Turkey flexes its military muscle in the Middle East. Hopefully, their Pan-Turkism will not be a huge part of their foreign policy, as Syria-Iraq is dotted with old Ottoman garrison towns like Kirkuk where many residents (great) grandparents came from Turkey. Its one of the ironies of the Middle East’s colonial past that we only think of the European powers, yet the Ottomans and their Young Turk successors helped create the ethnic tensions in the Northern Middle East with forced migrations, extirpations, etc.. The Gordian knot indeed.


  6. Jon Goodfellow says:

    SInce your brought up the subject of Turkey and Iran, here is a link to an interesting article on the Isreali – Iran nuclear issue that substantially relates to Syria and Turkey:
    What happens in Syria directly affects the proxy war between Iran and Isreal. The comments from many Middle Eastern readers are particularly thought provoking. Its not just a Gordian Knot, but one with a Barbara Tuchman “Guns of August” feel also. Its hard to the promise of the Arab Spring with this kind of threat hanging overhead. For the future, I will post less and read more.


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