As Syria heads for an end-game and regime change, the 'Arab Spring' has now reached Jordan. Israel could again end up surrounded by countries hell-bent on its destruction.
As we see the situation in Syria increasingly moving in the anti-Assad direction the focus is increasingly coming on to the neighbouring state of Jordan.
I visited Jordan very briefly last month along with a group of fellow Christians. Even then there were ominous signs of serious unrest in the country. (A few weeks earlier King Abdullah II had dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections.)
Although ostensibly the anger was and is about high fuel prices the problems are much deeper in the country and they go back much further to the First and Second World Wars.
At the time of WWI, the state of TransJordan (i.e. ‘across the Jordan’) was created following the British/French Sykes-Picot agreement which carved up the region.
Following the 2nd World War TransJordan joined in with other Arab countries in 1948 to attack the fledlging state of Israel in the War of (Israeli) Independence. Although Israel miraculously survived that war, Jordanian forces crossed the River Jordan and captured territory on the 'West Bank' of the river which was part of the UN Partition plan. Trans-Jordan then became known simply as Jordan.
However in the defensive Six-Day War which Israel fought in 1967, soldiers of the Israel Defence Force pushed Jordan back across the river. And at that time Arabs from the West Bank also fled into Jordan. Amongst them were members of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (the PLO had formed three years earlier in 1964) who set up base between the Jordanian capital of Amman and the Jordan river. It has only been since the 1967 war that the West Bank has been referred to as the 'occupied territories' although Jordan was the original 'occupier' in 1948.
Following continuing terrorist actions within his land, King Hussein took military action against the Palestinian organisations which were threatening to overthrow his monarchy. The ensuing conflict in 1970 led up to ‘Black September’ and resulted in the deaths of thousands of PLO rebels. Yasser Arafat and his Fatah/PLO groupings were then expelled from Jordan and set up home in Lebanon.
(The release of UK archive records in 2007 shows that King Hussein made an offer to Arafat in 1974 to appoint him as Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan if Arafat would agree to the annexation of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). However Arafat refused as by this time he was at the height of his leadership of the PLO, with the ambition of declaring an independent Palestinian state.)
Three decades later, at the time of the first Gulf War in Iraq, a flood of Iraqi refugees crossed over into both Jordan and Syria at the rate of 100,000 per month between 2003 and 2006. Though many took significant personal assets with them, these were subsequently exhausted as (many of) these Iraqi immigrants were and have been unable to find work.
As the country itself is very poor in natural resources, the death of King Hussein in 1999 following a reign lasting 46 years left Jordan still struggling for economic and socio-political survival. Additionally and more recently Jordan has also been hit by the global recession. As we travelled in the country last month I saw major construction projects – motorways and big public buildings – with work at a complete standstill.
Although the domestic and international respect for King Hussein amongst native Jordanians has substantially transferred to his son as the current Hashemite monarch, the situation following the uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’ has given impetus to the Islamists and secular ‘revolutionaries’ in Jordan.
At the moment (November 2012) rebel fighters have moved into the conflict in Syria and meanwhile King Abdullah has tried to appease the Islamists in his country by releasing some of them from jail – a move which is not entirely popular with much of the Jordanian public. (In Arab culture appeasement is seen as a sign of weakness.)
King Abdullah II
Current reports suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood’s preference would be for the present regime peacefully to hand over control to them, but – as in the other ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings (Syria included) – the opposition to the established regime is itself a mix of different factions, each with their own agendas and ideologies. So a ‘peaceful’ transition is not likely.
The latest reports are of mass protest rallies and of pictures of the King – on prominent display in public places such as buildings, roadsides, recreational and tourist areas – being burned. This very public criticism of the monarch is a significant new development.
Stoking up the pressures on Jordan's King, a US State Department official has recently managed to create panic [and anger] in the Royal Palace in Amman when he stated that there was "thirst for change" in Jordan; and that the Jordanian people had "economic, political concerns," as well as "aspirations."
The spokesman's remark has prompted some Jordanian government officials to talk about a US-led "conspiracy" to topple King Abdullah's regime.
Adding up all of these things, it looks very likely that Jordan will – one way or another; probably sooner rather than later – fall to the Muslim Brotherhood; and it is not shaping up to be a peaceful process.
Amidst it all, Israel is rapidly finding itself back in a 1948 scenario of being surrounded by hostile neighbours bent on its destruction.
"Come," they say, "let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more."
With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you —
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites,
Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre.
Even Assyria has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot.
However what is certain is that God's purposes as outlined in His prophetic Word will outwork amongst the nations.
'Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.
"Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters."
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
"I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill."
"Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."