attention-grabbing countries of Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is
sometimes overlooked by the media and by policy experts because of its peace
with Israel, its close alliance with the United States, and its relatively
liberal socio-economic system. Underneath this façade of stability, however, is
a country plagued by a number of economic and social issues that threaten to
plunge Jordan into the chaos of the “Arab Spring” upheavals.
Click photo to download. Caption: King Abdullah of Jordan. JNS.org examines whether Jordan’s monarchy will hold on, or become the next casualty of the Arab Spring. Credit: Chatham House.
“If there is to
be another country, other than the ones that are already in play, and I include
Yemen in that, and Bahrain… if there is to be a new country in play [in the
“Arab Spring”], it is most likely to be Jordan,” Dr. Daniel Pipes, president
and founder of the Middle East Forum, told JNS.org.
Jordan has long
been a unique country in the Middle East, an aberration of sorts in a chaotic
region and a holdover from a different era in the region’s history. Jordan was
established by Great Britain post-World War I from the original Mandate of
Palestine. In return for the support of Ali bin Hussein, the leader of the
Hashemite tribe from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, during the British-led
Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the British installed
his sons, Abdullah and Faisal, as kings of British-controlled Transjordan
(later Jordan) and Iraq.
But when Jordan
was formed in 1922, the country was largely desolate and populated by Bedouin
or “East Bank” tribes. With the support of the British, King Abdullah formed a
close alliance with those tribes that became the foundation of the modern state
Professor Asher Susser, a senior fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle
Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, it is precisely this unique history that
has given Jordan’s monarchy more ethnic stability and legitimacy than some of
its neighbors like Syria, who have been ravaged by the Arab Spring.
“First of all
the country in religion terms has a relatively homogenous population, unlike
other neighboring countries like Syria, Iraq and Lebanon that are deeply
divided on a sectarian basis,” Susser told JNS.org.
monarchy “has a certain level of legitimacy as descendants from the Prophet
Mohammed,” Susser explained.
“Also, the idea
of hereditary rule is something that is quite customary in the Middle East.
These people have more legitimacy than military or republican regimes [like
Syria and Egypt]. These factors, combined with the fact that Jordan is
geopolitically central and close to a lot of big powers, [mean] there is a lot
who want to not see Jordan fail,” Susser said.
Hashemite monarchy has been able to maintain power for nearly a century, while other
governments in Egypt, Iraq and Syria have fallen numerous times. The stability
has persisted despite the large influx of Palestinian refugees from various
Arab-Israeli wars, including Jordan’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and
east Jerusalem from 1948-1967.
Click photo to download Caption: