Jordan and the Lack of an Iraq

Over at Slate, Shmuel Rosner points to one of the often-ignored side effects of the Iraq debacle: its effects on neighboring Jordan. To wit:

It was the powerful Iraq that provided the threat then [in 1991], and the weakened, chaotic Iraq that is threatening now. Jordan has a permanent “stability issue,” as one U.S. official describes it. In the past, it was intimidated by its two powerful neighbors, Israel and Iraq; now it is troubled by the weakest of the weak, the Palestinian Authority and Iraq.

It is hard to overstate the importance of this problem. Jordan, despite its ambivalent attitudes toward democracy and civil rights, remains a fairly modern, fairly stable ally in a region where they are hard to come by. Jordan already suffers from instability caused by its large, more radically Islamic Palestinian community. (A former professor of mine, an expert on Jordan, claimed to know which American political scientist the monarchy hired to gerrymander districts several years ago).

However, to date, they have managed to contain the internal dissidents, more or less, with only very occasional attacks in recent years. However, if, as the article claims, 750,000 Iraqi refugees, some doubtless radicalized, have now entered the country, it may prove more than the secular monarchy can contain. That would not be a good thing.

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