The media has given a lot of attention to the positions expressed by King Abdullah II on the event of the donor countries’ conference in London. They focused particularly on two phrases: the first is about Jordanians reaching boiling point and the second is about making a qualitative change in the Jordanian approach to the Syrian refugees and perhaps even further than this.
Observers and journalists understood from the first statement that Jordan is on the verge of instability and that the King is afraid that the chaos spreading across the region over the past five years will move into Jordan. Others believed that the relationship between the hosting community and the refugee community, i.e. the Jordanians and Syrians, has reached a dangerous turn. I do not know how many people read the King’s statements as a cry of protest to the international community’s lack of support for Jordan, which shouldered the lion’s share of the Syrian refugee burden.
I believe that with his speech to the foreign parties, the King wanted to send a loud message to the donors mainly; it was not directed at the Jordanian public or the Syrian refugees. However, we are in the era of communication, so no interview or statement, regardless of the language, is made without being made public immediately across the world in various languages. If the international community does not understand the essence of the King’s message, then I believe the doors of Jordan will be open to many possibilities.
In his message, the King addressed the biggest challenge facing Jordan, in terms of security and stability; i.e. the worrying economic-social challenge. It is true that this challenge has other causes that came before the Syrian crisis and the spread of the refugee phenomenon, along with its known burdens, but it is also true that the presence of 1.3 million Syrians in Jordan has escalated and exacerbated this challenge. It has turned this challenge in to a source of threat if a helping hand is not extended to Jordan, sooner rather than later.
If the King directed his message to the international community, and especially to the international donor countries, then the echoes of his cry must have reached the neighbouring wealthy countries that have spent and continue to spend tens of billions of dollars left and right, but curbed their spending when it came to helping Jordan. This is not understandable especially in light of many senior officials in Jordan and in these wealthy countries constantly praising the close and exceptional relations between the two sides, as well as the mutual interests and strategies.
Jordan is relying heavily on the conference in London and what it may result in and lead to. When I say relying, I do not only mean a wad of cash that they may provide in the form of “emergency aid”, but more than that. Jordan is relying on a medium and long-term strategic plan in which the international community commits to a concept of “partnership” with Jordan in order to preserve its security and stability on one hand, and to reinforce its role as an effective partner, as well as enable Jordan to shoulder the great burdens of the refugees in the country and amongst its people.
I do not believe that Jordanians reaching boiling point means that Jordan is on the verge of a major explosion or on a mine that can explode any second, neither on the surface nor under the surface. This is cited by the actions in Jordan. It is true that the economic hardship is pressuring the Jordanians and that there are many factors of instability in Jordan, but it is also true that Jordan has succeeded in managing the crises that hit the country and surrounded it. It is not likely, at least in the near future, that Jordan will get caught up in the unconstructive chaos in the region, contrary to what some have concluded from the King’s statements.
I find that the King’s statements and strong warnings are an opportunity to remind everyone of the need for Jordan’s diplomats to think outside the box. Dealing with the refugee portfolio must not remain within the equation of “donors and receivers”, as the ceilings and limits of such equations are known and, at their best, they will only postpone the crisis and manage it rather than resolve it. A balanced diplomatic attack must be launched against the Moscow-Damascus axis in order to work on normalising the situation in south Syria beginning with encouraging local reconciliations and providing mediation and ending with seeking opportunities to create “mutual safe zones” that prevent more Syrian refugees from entering Jordan. This would also encourage at least some of those in Jordan to return to their homeland. There is also a need to provide secure channels to deliver humanitarian aid to the Syrians on the other side of the border.
Such a scenario requires intensive political and diplomatic efforts. However, what gives a sense of optimism regarding the success of this is that it is aligned with the Vienna-Geneva path, the Russian-American agreements, the special relationship between Amman and Moscow, and the line of communication that has not been severed between Amman and Damascus. More importantly, this scenario is the one that best that serves the interests of Jordan and its people and preserves its security and stability.
The problem of Syrian asylum in Jordan is purely a Jordanian problem but this does not undermine or devalue the matter as a regional and international problem, as we did not cause it or escalate it. We are the ones suffering the consequences and are shouldering the burden. Now we must turn every stone in search of a radical solution for this problem, as sedatives will merely alleviate or numb the feeling of pain and suffering. Only solutions stemming from the national interests will benefit the people and last on the ground. So will we try to think out of the box this time?
Translated from Addustour, 4 February 2016.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.