Mike Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The king believes

Mike Pence’s Middle East Tour:
Outright Pressure and Threats as Foreign Policy Tools

                                Peter KORZUN

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King Abdullah
II wants Washington
to “rebuild trust “after U.S.
President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The king believes that
East Jerusalem must be the capital of Palestine. According to him, from now on the
U.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.

vice 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 support
the U.S. move. 

and Egypt are a special case. The two are the only ones among Arab states to have
diplomatic relations and peace treaties with Israel. They are threatened by
Islamist militants and would be potential key players if peace talks between
Israel 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 the
Islamic State (IS), the kingdom has strongly
opposed the U.S. administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital
of Israel announced by President Trump on Dec. 6.  Protests have been held in front of the U.S. embassy
in Amman ever since. King Abdullah has led intensive diplomatic efforts  to build a
stronger Arab front and rally international support behind it.  

to Debka, the
vice president warned Egyptian and Jordanian leaders of painful
times ahead if they don’t stop opposing the U.S. policy. Washington can
revise 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 access
to funding from Western and international institutions”.

that, the US had
threatened to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency (UNRWA), the international body responsible for the welfare of roughly
five million registered Palestinian refugees. Jordan provides refuge to about
two   million of the refugees from Palestine. So, the menace is real and the
United States makes no bones about its plans.

Riyadh has
joined the U.S. efforts to press Amman but it stood tall. Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pressing Jordan to abandon its stance
on Jerusalem and suspend the ties with Turkey and Qatar. King Abdullah of
Jordan provocatively
placed his religious role on a par with that of the Saudi
royal family on Dec. 31, proclaiming himself the Servant of the First
Qibla and
Third Holy Mosque (Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem) to challenge the Saudi royal family – the
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of Mecca. The move was made a day after three
senior Jordanian princes were
taken into custody  charged with clandestine contacts with Saudi Arabia
and the UAE.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman not paid much attention to the U.S. Jerusalem declaration   preoccupied with the alleged menace coming
from Iran and the need to expedite fundamental reforms at home, where the U.S.
has a large role to play.    Saudi King
Salman was
reported to press Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas to end his campaign against the U.S. Jerusalem move and become more
responsive to the American proposals on handling the Palestinian issue.

receives about $1.6 bn a year in aid from America.
Its 2018 budget includes a $400m direct grant from the United States. The
kingdom is a privileged partner and enjoys the status of major
non-NATO ally (MNNA) granted to several states closely cooperating with the
Pentagon while staying outside NATO. Jordan hosts U.S. and British military. It
holds regular
exercises with American forces. Anti-Assad militant groups go through
training on its territory. In August, Germany moved
its aircraft from Turkey to Jordan’s Al-Azraq air base after the Turkish
government had refused to allow its lawmakers to visit Incirlik – the base were
six Tornado fighter jets and a tanker were stationed to contribute into the ongoing
anti-terrorist effort.

The United
States and Saudi Arabia are close allies joined by a common goal: to counter the
Iran’s influence in the region. Last May, US President Donald
Trump authorized a nearly $110bn arms deal with Saudi
Arabia worth $300bn over a ten-year period.

Both kingdoms
are members of U.S.-led anti-IS coalition. Both are concerned over Iran. True,  they voted against the United States on
Jerusalem at the U.N. General Assembly but it was understood from the start
that these American partners, as well as Egypt, do it only to save their faces
and avoid political upheavals at home.  After
all, 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 really
matter but deeds, including behind-the-certain activities.

Washington needs to engage its Arab allies as silent proxies on issues
pertaining to the Palestinian- Israeli new peace initiative.  The U.S. scheme reportedly
involves creating a Palestinian state consisting of Gaza
Strip and disjointed parts of the occupied West Bank – without East Jerusalem as
its capital, and without resolving the right of return of
Palestinian refugees displaced when Israel was founded in 1948. Washington is pushing
a plan pretty vague about details and is doing it without its Middle East strategy
defined. It says the main goal is fighting the IS but the group is almost defeated
and does not play any significant role neither in Syria nor Iraq. It’s hard to imagine
how the recognition of Jerusalem-a move opposed even by close Washington’s allies-can
contribute into the fight against terror.

Jordan is
being hard pressed into becoming more pliant or else. To
push Amman in the “right direction”, the Jordan’s closest Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) allies – Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait – did not renew a
five-year financial assistance program with Amman worth $3.6bn that ended in

Member of
Jordanian Parliament Wafa Bani Mustafa told Al-Jazeera that “Bin Salman and the United Arab Emirates are
trying to strangle Jordan’s economy until it agrees to their terms, submit to
their leadership in the region, and agree to Trump’s so-called ‘ultimate deal’,”

If Amman
refuses to bow, the US-led Arab alliance needed to oppose Iran will split to
weaken the U.S. standing in the Middle East. It’ll be a major setback to
negatively affect the whole U.S. Middle East policy.  Washington has actually lost Ankara as an
ally. So, the U.S. vice president resorted to outright pressure and “warnings” to
make Jordan dance to Washington’s tune.   Intimidation has become a foreign policy
tool normally used by the U.S. to make impose its will on other nations,
including America’s privileged allies.