Economy, Business And Markets

Amid Shifting Regional Alliances, Will Jordan Open Up to Iran?

Amid Shifting Regional Alliances,  Will Jordan Open Up to Iran?Amid Shifting Regional Alliances,  Will Jordan Open Up to Iran?

There is a feeling of growing isolation and perhaps even marginalization by Jordan in light of shifting alliances and new geopolitical realities in the region.

As a result, pundits have called on the leadership to react to such realities and open channels with Iran, reads an article published by Al-Monitor. Excerpts follow:

Relations between Amman and Tehran have been tepid for decades—reaching their lowest point during the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s, although there was a willingness by Jordan to improve ties after the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president in 2013.

When Iranian protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in January 2016, Jordan did not sever ties with Iran but recalled its ambassador instead.

There is little doubt here that US President Donald Trump’s move on Beit-ul-Moqaddas has dealt a fatal blow to the two-state solution—a cornerstone of Jordan’s national security.

The Israeli far-right government is perceived as hostile to Jordan’s interests, and its adoption of unilateral measures to consolidate its hold over the West Bank will give credence to radical Jewish voices that claim a Palestinian state already exists—in Jordan.

Added to this is the growing suspicion that Saudi Arabia and the UAE may be willing to bypass Jordan in order to normalize ties with Israel.

Amid such solemn developments, calls for Jordan to respond by improving ties with Tehran have been made by a number of influential pundits. Writing in the Addustour daily on Dec. 26, political analyst Oraib al-Rantawi called on the government to emulate the UAE example.

“Trade between Iran and the UAE, two countries that are at odds politically, is more than $17 billion annually, and yet Abu Dhabi heads the anti-Iran campaign,” he wrote.

Rantawi added, “We have no dispute with Tehran and we don’t have to be in the forefront of countries opposing it. We should normalize relations and return our ambassador immediately.”

Writing in the daily Al-Ghad on Dec. 26, political commentator Mohammad Abu Rumman also called on the government to open up to Iran “especially now that Tehran is the gateway to Iraq with its vast market and standing offer to provide us with cheap oil.”

But, he added, “Such a move should not mean that we must change our alliances but to give us the chance to protect our national interests.” Abu Rumman said, “We should be aware that we are politically isolated and that we have deep differences with our traditional allies.”

The editor of Al-Ghad, Jumana Ghuneimat, also called on Jordan to “review its traditional alliances at a time when Tehran is sending positive messages to Jordan”.

Writing on Dec. 19, she said, “We have to open the door for new players, especially those who stand with us … Iran is offering us economic partnership and we should accept.”

In an interview with Al-Monitor published on Dec. 19, Iranian Ambassador to Jordan Mojtaba Ferdosipour said, “When the doors to promote and consolidate economic relations open between Iran and Jordan, the Jordanian side will benefit the most. The Iranian market consists of 80 million people, while the Jordanian market is comprised of about 9 million people.”

Ferdosipour noted that in 2015, Iran and Jordan agreed to form joint economic committees, but after Saudi-Iranian ties went up in flames, the Saudi Embassy in Tehran was shut down, the Jordanian ambassador to Tehran was summoned in 2016 and the committees suspended their work.

So far, the Jordanian government has not shown any signs that it is ready to alter the state of its alliances or improve relations with Tehran. Certainly, any normalization between Jordan and Iran at this sensitive juncture will not be welcomed by the kingdom’s Persian Gulf allies or by Washington.

Since its inception as a kingdom in 1946, Jordan has managed to overcome numerous existential challenges both regionally and domestically. It now appears that 2018 will usher in one of these challenges.

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