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Jordan and Qatar

Apr 22,2019 - Last updated at Apr 22,2019

A close look at what Jordanians post on social medial reveals that they are not satisfied with the continuation of Jordan’s decision to lower the diplomatic representation with Qatar. To them, Jordan should have done what it could to help solve the Gulf crisis rather than taking the side of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Senior officials, who were keen to support Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, are having difficult time to account for the wisdom of the continuation of Jordan’s insistence on lowering the diplomatic ties with Qatar. Those people, or Saudi lobby, are exposed in Jordan. I talked to all kinds of Jordanians about this current crisis. The overwhelming majority of them resent the Saudi lobby in Jordan. It is one thing to have a special relationship with a very important country like Saudi Arabia, and another thing to subordinate Jordan’s foreign policy to Saudi priorities and vision. Perhaps, the ruling elite in Amman should realise that Jordanians are better off when Jordan keep its neutrality in the Gulf crisis.

I have been arguing over the last decade that Jordan needs to rethink its foreign alliances. It is obvious that Jordan’s traditional allies have been rethinking their approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The “deal of the century” is most likely to see the light in June. Of course, Jordan is not against a fair deal, but the one proposed will surely jeopardise the final outcome at the expense of Jordanians and Palestinians alike. His Majesty King Abdullah made it perfectly clear that his country would not go along with any plan that crosses the three redlines with regard to Jerusalem, alternative homeland and resettling of refugees.

Let us go to the bottom of the issue. Jordan’s ability to push back against the “deal of the century” hinges on two factors. First, domestic front is crucial for any strong position against the proposed deal. Second, Jordan’s ability to diversify its foreign ties. It boils down to one point: Jordan needs to free itself from the restrictions imposed by traditional allies. I am not proposing that Jordan should confront anyone. But, I cannot see compliance with Saudi Arabia foreign policy regarding Qatar as good to Jordan. On the contrary, the relationship with Qatar is beneficial to Jordan. Doha was quick to help Jordan during the economic crisis of last year.

Qatari deputy prime minister and minister of defence paid Jordan an official visit last week. I suspect that this visit will usher a new chapter in the bilateral relationship between Doha and Amman. Therefore, I will not be surprised if Amman and Doha agree on resuming diplomatic relations at the highest level. Perhaps, exchange of ambassador is a matter of time.

In a nutshell, Amman should rethink its alliances in a way that gives it a room of manoeuvrability in months to come. While keeping close relationship with traditional allies is important, putting the eggs in this basket alone is not a wise option.

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