According to confirmed information, the Jordanian-Syrian relations will not witness a great breakthrough at the political level and the exchange of ambassadors due to different considerations, most notably the fact that these relations are directly affected by the region and by international factors and are not subject solely to considerations of Jordan alone or Syria alone.
This means that all the talk about complete normalisation of relations within a short period of time is not true. This is despite the existence of unannounced contact and relations on specific levels. Such contact and communication are currently shaping the coordination regarding various issues, including the issue of the borders and Southern Syria. In this sense, it is possible today to speak directly about the existence of a Jordanian-Syrian line of communication, with political support, but has not been announced, and is currently leading to a political acceleration towards a higher level of normalised relations.
According to Jordanian assessments at an important level, relations with Damascus are subject to a very important consideration, namely, the Iranian role, which plays against Jordan, in the backyard of the relations between the two countries. This is especially since Iran has its own considerations regarding the region and is pressuring Damascus to remain in a corner to manage its relations with Jordan based on Iran’s interests as well. This ultimately means that the relations are not bilateral in the direct sense, as much as, on the Syrian side, they are linked to other capitals that manage Damascus on the official level and prevent it from getting closer to Jordan. They also stipulate that such closeness be linked to the Iranian agenda and its requirements.
However, particularly regarding the Syrian file, Jordan views the events in a pessimistic manner, despite being able to push the Iranians and their militias 100 kilometres away from the border with Jordan and paving the way for further push backs, until they are out of the country. This departure is an issue coordinated in particular with the Russians and Americans, and thus with the official level in Damascus and Tehran, which has a great deal of influence on Damascus but becomes limited in the face of Russia’s intervention.
Jordan’s concerns regarding the Syrian issue are linked not only to the Iranian role, but also Jordanian indicators which have been confirmed by data and research and show that Syrians are reluctant to return to their country and desire to wait longer. In this sense, Jordan is facing large Syrian masses who will reside in Jordan longer given the poor security and economic situation in Syria, especially in the south. Jordan’s concerns do not end there but extend to what may occur in northern Syria, at any time, the consequences of which may affect the Syrian issue and have a long-term effect on Jordan and the Syrian masses’ assessment of the situation and their residence in Jordan.
It is worth noting that updated information indicates Damascus’ desire to be more open to Jordan at a higher level than expected. This means that the prevalent impression of the Syrian side stalling may not be accurate, except in terms of its influence by what the Iranians want, who are trying to hinder the openness in the relationship due to their desire for greater Jordanian concessions on a regional level. The Iranians want the openness to be in the form of a large package rather than on specific levels, and Jordan is unable to resolve this matter in particular because it is aware that the decision to rehabilitate the Syrian regime and its acceptance internationally is linked to international, regional and Arab determinants and the political process in Syria.
On the foreign policy level, Jordan adopts a policy that seems to be based on two matters: the first is anticipation and patience, and the second is to take positions at a minimum level that allow them to be reversed or developed at no cost. This means that we are clearly and surely going through a delicate and critical period, imposed by the shifts and turbulences in the area and region, as well as the state of chaos we are witnessing in international relations that have not settled.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 2 October 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.