Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

War in Syria: The Stakes for Jordan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

War in Syria: The Stakes for Jordan

Article excerpt

Part of a series of articles looking at the regional interests at stake in Syria's civil war. The full list is on the left of your screen.

For Syria's southern neighbor Jordan, which would have trouble surviving a regional war, the view is bleak.

"There's no good outcome in Syria for Jordan," says David Schenker, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East policy and a former Middle East adviser to the Pentagon.

The two states have nursed a bitter political rivalry for decades over regional dominance, personal enmity between leaders, and cold war alliances. In recent years, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly been accused of turning a blind eye to, or even encouraging, Al Qaeda-linked terror plots in Jordan.

But the countries are also tightly connected: deep social ties bind northern Jordan to southern Syria, and trade between the two countries is critical for Jordan in particular because "they still need the lifeline of trade to Europe through Syria," Mr. Schenker says.

Syria's civil war has brought that trade nearly to a halt and flooded Jordan with more than half a million refugees. It has also created an outlet for Jordan's jihadi movement, which has sent hundreds of fighters across the border.

These jihadis are Jordan's nightmare: local extremists, trained on a foreign battlefield, who may someday bring their expertise back home and wage a terror campaign here. If King Abdullah II cannot guarantee security within the kingdom's borders, he loses the biggest factor in his mandate to rule.

Jordan has no desire to antagonize the Assad regime, but it is also dependent on Western and Gulf countries for aid and trade. Amman has publicly professed neutrality and called for a political solution, while at the same time accepting Syrian refugees and defectors, and quietly cooperating with the United States and Saudi Arabia to arm and train the rebels. …

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