Gulf, vulnerable to any challenge, eager to aid Jordan

YUSUF SELMAN İNANÇ @yusufsinanc
ISTANBUL
Published

When the Arab Spring broke out in Tunisia in 2010, it quickly echoed on the streets of Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Jordan. It also set off alarms in the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia was no exception.

Fearing regime changes and the increasing demands for democracy, the Gulf countries, under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, have spent billions of dollars to reverse any social movement. The most remarkable example was Egypt, where the current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was unconditionally supported while leading one of the bloodiest military coups in the country's history.

Similarly, when the Jordanians poured into the streets to protest the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF)-imposed budget cuts, the Gulf countries bustled. Despite the problems with the small kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates pledged $2.5 billion to help Jordan overcome its financial problem, at least, to allay the protesters temporarily.

Jordan, a Western ally and a strategic partner for having a border with Israel, is important not only for the West but also for the Gulf. However, there were certain disputes between Jordan and the Gulf. For example, Jordan refused to be involved in the war in Yemen on the side of the Saudi-led coalition. Similarly, during the crisis with Qatar last year, Amman did not sever ties with Qatar, despite high-level pressures. Jordan also has a Muslim Brotherhood presence and does not label the group terrorists, unlike Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries, with the exception of Qatar. As a result, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 2017 did not renew its $3.6 billion assistance program for Jordan.

One of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Jordan is surrounded by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian war, the instability in Iraq, and Saudi Arabia's deserted regions. The country has no natural resources and suffers from chronic drought. Production and manufacturing activities are very limited in the country, making it dependent on foreign aid and debts. In recent years, the kingdom saw the economy worsen as the country sank more into debts, reaching up to $40 billion. The average Jordanians felt the heat of the worsening economy. Several new taxes were introduced; prices were constantly going up and the unemployment rate hit 18 percent. The increasing living costs made capital Amman one of the most expensive cities in the Arab world.

However, a new alliance has recently emerged between the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, increasing the strategic significance of Jordan. As Saudi Arabia increased cooperation with Israel – because of its anti-Iran stance – the region seems divided over the dispute.

Many Muslim countries are disturbed with the Saudi rapprochement with Israel, particularly after the U.S.'s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem and the recent incidents along the Gaza border that saw the killing of hundreds of Palestinians. Under these circumstances, foreign aid from the Gulf becomes only a mean for silencing them.

It is well known that the Jordanian citizens, more than 20 percent of which are originally from Palestine, are unhappy with their government's silence over Israeli actions. The Gulf, the IMF and the Western actors are violating their sovereignty. Bearing that fact in mind the Gulf has rushed to take actions against the protests – by injecting cash into the poor but important country.

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