Mike Pence’s Middle East Tour:Outright Pressure and Threats as Foreign Policy Tools Peter KORZUN Jordan’sKing AbdullahII wants Washingtonto “rebuild trust “after U.S.President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The king believes thatEast Jerusalem must be the capital of Palestine. According to him, from now on theU.S. has a “major challenge to overcome”.”Friends occasionally have disagreements,”Mike Pence said ruefully in his comments on the outcome of the talks.
The disagreement came into the open.Thevice president was making his Middle East trip (Jan.19-23) to include three states:Egypt, Jordan and Israel. The Palestinian Autonomy leaders refused to meet him.Egypt was the first country he arrived in to hear that Cairo does not supportthe U.S. move. Jordanand Egypt are a special case.
The two are the only ones among Arab states to havediplomatic relations and peace treaties with Israel. They are threatened byIslamist militants and would be potential key players if peace talks betweenIsrael and the Palestinian Autonomy were ever revived. Despite the fact that Jordan is a key member of the U.
S.-led coalition formally created to fight theIslamic State (IS), the kingdom has stronglyopposed the U.S.
administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capitalof Israel announced by President Trump on Dec. 6. Protests have been held in front of the U.S. embassyin Amman ever since. King Abdullah has led intensive diplomatic efforts to build astronger Arab front and rally international support behind it. Accordingto Debka, thevice president warned Egyptian and Jordanian leaders of painfultimes ahead if they don’t stop opposing the U.S.
policy. Washington canrevise its plans to continue providing economic and military assistance. Besides,Vice President Pence asked them to convey a message to Palestinians that Washington”would block Palestinian Authority accessto funding from Western and international institutions”. Beforethat, the US hadthreatened to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and WorksAgency (UNRWA), the international body responsible for the welfare of roughlyfive million registered Palestinian refugees.
Jordan provides refuge to abouttwo million of the refugees from Palestine. So, the menace is real and theUnited States makes no bones about its plans. Riyadh hasjoined the U.S. efforts to press Amman but it stood tall. SaudiArabia and the United Arab Emirates are pressing Jordan to abandon its stanceon Jerusalem and suspend the ties with Turkey and Qatar. King Abdullah ofJordan provocativelyplaced his religious role on a par with that of the Saudiroyal family on Dec.
31, proclaiming himself the Servant of the FirstQibla andThird Holy Mosque (Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem) to challenge the Saudi royal family – theCustodian of the Two Holy Mosques of Mecca. The move was made a day after threesenior Jordanian princes weretaken into custody charged with clandestine contacts with Saudi Arabiaand the UAE.Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed binSalman not paid much attention to the U.S. Jerusalem declaration preoccupied with the alleged menace comingfrom Iran and the need to expedite fundamental reforms at home, where the U.
S.has a large role to play. Saudi KingSalman wasreported to press Palestinian Authority President MahmoudAbbas to end his campaign against the U.S. Jerusalem move and become moreresponsive to the American proposals on handling the Palestinian issue.
Jordanreceives about $1.6 bn a year in aid from America.Its 2018 budget includes a $400m direct grant from the United States. Thekingdom is a privileged partner and enjoys the status of majornon-NATO ally (MNNA) granted to several states closely cooperating with thePentagon while staying outside NATO. Jordan hosts U.S. and British military.
Itholds regularexercises with American forces. Anti-Assad militant groups go throughtraining on its territory. In August, Germany movedits aircraft from Turkey to Jordan’s Al-Azraq air base after the Turkishgovernment had refused to allow its lawmakers to visit Incirlik – the base weresix Tornado fighter jets and a tanker were stationed to contribute into the ongoinganti-terrorist effort. The UnitedStates and Saudi Arabia are close allies joined by a common goal: to counter theIran’s influence in the region. Last May, US President DonaldTrump authorized a nearly $110bn arms deal with SaudiArabia worth $300bn over a ten-year period.
Both kingdomsare members of U.S.-led anti-IS coalition. Both are concerned over Iran. True, they voted against the United States onJerusalem at the U.N. General Assembly but it was understood from the startthat these American partners, as well as Egypt, do it only to save their facesand avoid political upheavals at home.
Afterall, the General Assembly has always been a release valve for angry anti-U.S.and anti-Israel sentiments. But it’s not votes on non-binding resolutions that reallymatter but deeds, including behind-the-certain activities. Clearly,Washington needs to engage its Arab allies as silent proxies on issuespertaining to the Palestinian- Israeli new peace initiative. The U.S. scheme reportedlyinvolves creating a Palestinian state consisting of GazaStrip and disjointed parts of the occupied West Bank – without East Jerusalem asits capital, and without resolving the right of return ofPalestinian refugees displaced when Israel was founded in 1948.
Washington is pushinga plan pretty vague about details and is doing it without its Middle East strategydefined. It says the main goal is fighting the IS but the group is almost defeatedand does not play any significant role neither in Syria nor Iraq. It’s hard to imaginehow the recognition of Jerusalem-a move opposed even by close Washington’s allies-cancontribute into the fight against terror. Jordan isbeing hard pressed into becoming more pliant or else. Topush Amman in the “right direction”, the Jordan’s closest Gulf CooperationCouncil (GCC) allies – Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait – did not renew afive-year financial assistance program with Amman worth $3.6bn that ended in2017. Member ofJordanian Parliament Wafa Bani Mustafa told Al-Jazeera that “Bin Salman and the United Arab Emirates aretrying to strangle Jordan’s economy until it agrees to their terms, submit totheir leadership in the region, and agree to Trump’s so-called ‘ultimate deal’,”If Ammanrefuses to bow, the US-led Arab alliance needed to oppose Iran will split toweaken the U.S.
standing in the Middle East. It’ll be a major setback tonegatively affect the whole U.S. Middle East policy.
Washington has actually lost Ankara as anally. So, the U.S. vice president resorted to outright pressure and “warnings” tomake Jordan dance to Washington’s tune. Intimidation has become a foreign policytool normally used by the U.
S. to make impose its will on other nations,including America’s privileged allies.