Category: Land of the Arab Revival


June 14, 2017

Jordan’s economy has incurred losses worth $2 million since a closure of the Saudi land borders last week against the Jordanian exports heading to Qatar as a result of the Gulf diplomatic rift.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and began an economic blockade against the Gulf state. Jordan later joined the move by announcing a reduction in diplomatic representation with Qatar.

According to sources at Jordan’s Exporters and Producers Association for Fruits and Vegetables, Jordanian traders who have previously signed exporting contracts with Qatar, started exporting their products by air.

Jordanian shipments’ volume to the Gulf state has also dropped to 90 tons per day, down from 600 tons per day before the blockade.

According to Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia has prevented the entry of 85 Jordanian trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits, and over 10 trucks which were loaded with livestock heading to Qatar, following the rift.

Qatar has begun pursuing alternative routes and agreeing on new deals with other countries to counter the blockade imposed by most of its neighboring Arab states. Turkey was ready to help resolve the dispute, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, while Iranian officials have offered to send food to Qatar by sea.

Moreover the Danish company, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, which owns the world’s biggest container line, has worked to bypass the transport ban imposed on Qatar by using alternative routes. Last Friday, it announced that it would begin container shipments to Qatar via Oman, avoiding trade restrictions imposed on the Gulf state by Arab countries.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170614-jordan-plunges-into-economic-crisis-following-qatar-blockade/.

April 03, 2017

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May has begun a visit to Jordan where she is to announce plans to send more British military trainers to help the kingdom’s air force in the fight against Islamic State group extremists.

Jordan’s royal court said Monday that May and Jordan’s King Abdullah II toured a military facility, inspecting a rapid response force and a joint training program. May is on a three-day visit to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In Jordan, she is to present a package of measures to boost cooperation between British forces and Jordan’s air force. Jordan has carried out air strikes against IS targets as part of a U.S.-led military coalition against IS. IS controls parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq.

The training is to take place in Jordan and Britain.

2017-02-27

Jordan’s position towards the Syrian civil war has often appeared unclear: It supports moderate rebel groups from the Syrian Free Army (FSA) yet there is no great display of animosity between Amman and Da­mascus.

The Syrian regime has refrained from painting Jordan with the same damning brush as it does Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In turn, the Jordanians have not been as vocal in the call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, as some of their allies have.

Some analysts said Jordan has been maintaining a balancing act: accommodating the position of its US and Gulf financiers without adopting an anti-Assad stance wholeheartedly.

There are many tribal relations between Jordanians and Syrians and King Abdullah II cannot afford to appear to be totally indifferent to the death and suffering of civilians at the hands of pro-Assad forces.

There are more than 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Observers, however, pointed to a recent change in Jordan’s policy towards the Syrian conflict that appears to focus on the increasing threat of terror from Islamic State (ISIS) militants and other groups.

“Analysts say that these developments pushed Jordan out of its so-called grey zone and disengage from the Gulf position towards the Syrian issue,” wrote Khalil Qandil in the Jordanian website Assabeel.net.

Jordanian political analyst Amer al-Sabaylah said Jordan was preparing to protect its borders from threats of terror and was looking at Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria as an example.

“Jordan’s priority in fighting terror requires finding a partner in the Syrian south to replicate the Turkish intervention in Syria but without a direct Jordanian involvement,” Sabaylah told Assabeel.net.

His views were shared by other Jordanian analysts.

“Unlike Turkey, Jordan cannot afford nor does it want to carry out a military incursion into southern Syria, a region that is vital to its national security,” wrote Amman-based commentator Osama al-Sha­rif in the Jordan Times.

“Instead, it is building a coalition of moderate rebel groups and local tribal fighters to fend off possible advance by Daesh,” he added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “It is also carrying out preemptive aerial strikes against Daesh positions in southern Syria.”

Jordanian political science Professor Hassan al-Khalidi told the website 24.ae that Amman was primarily concerned with its own security.

“The Jordanian maneuvers in the Syrian issue are primarily aimed at protecting (Jordan’s) northern borders in the event that they are flooded with the remnants of terrorist groups fleeing areas under pressure in Syria and Iraq.”

Brigadier-General Sami Kafawin, the commander of Jordan’s border guards, told the Associated Press that ISIS was expanding its influence in a makeshift border camp that hosts tens of thousands of displaced Syrians.

Jordan also appears to fear that the FSA faction it backs in Southern Syria would be weakened by the resumed Russian air strikes against moderate rebels in Deraa, which would allow ISIS and other radical groups to flourish on its borders.

As a result of new clashes between FSA rebels and the regime, two projectiles reportedly fell on the Jordan side of the border, slightly wounding one person.

Diplomatically, at the invitation of Russia, Jordan attended as a monitor the latest round of talks between the Syrian regime and rebels in Astana. It was also invited to be present during the Geneva talks on February 23rd.

King Abdullah II had also met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a staunch supporter of Assad, to discuss the Syrian crisis.

The pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper Addiyar reported that top intelligence official Ali Mam­louk recently met with the Jordanian king in Amman to “coordinate together against terror”.

Many Syrians have looked with suspicion towards what they say is a friendly relationship between As­sad and Amman, despite Jordan’s backing of the FSA.

They say that King Abdullah’s support of Syrian moderate rebels has always been in Jordan’s favour — to counter radical groups — and that Amman is now being more open about it, dismissing the suggestion that there is a shift in strategy.

The Syrians are not alone in thinking that. Jordanian analyst Fahad al-Khitan said that Jordan’s priority for a long time has been to secure its border areas from the threat of militant groups such as ISIS. “Noth­ing changed in that strategy,” he wrote in the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad.

Jordan will be hosting the next Arab League annual meeting on March 29th but, as was the case in previous summits, Assad will not be invited since the bloc suspended Syria’s membership in 2011.

“How the invitations are dealt with will be based on the decisions of the Arab League, and we will abide by what it has decided,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Sa­fadi said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for the Syrian government to be permitted to re­join the bloc but Jordan is unable to fulfil Moscow’s request, even if it wanted to.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81722.

2017-02-13

Jordan appears to be tightening its grip on religious messages coming out of its mosques but it may be offering its preachers more sticks than carrots.

Jordanian chief justice Ahmad Hilayel resigned two days after delivering a Friday sermon during which he rebuked Gulf states for not stepping up their financial aid to Jordan.

“As an imam of this country and one of its scholars, I am addressing the Gulf’s leaders, kings, emirs, sheikhs and wise men,” he said in a sermon broadcast live on Jordanian state television January 20th from Amman’s King Hussein mosque.

“The (financial) situation has reached a tipping point (in Jor­dan)… so where is your help, where is your money and where are your riches?”

Hilayel said the Jordanian state could collapse if people were to take to the streets, warning that would lead to chaos and destruction as in Syria, Iraq and Libya. “Would you like to see such a scenario (happen in Jordan)?” he asked.

Many criticized Hilayel for embarrassing the government in front of its financial backers in the Gulf and some took issue with his use of the Friday sermon to deliver a political message. Musa al-Odwan, a retired army general and writer, told Al Jazeera that Hilayel had “no business talking politics” as he is a religious judge.

It is thought that Hilayel agreed to resign to save face rather than being fired.

Jordan’s Religious Affairs Ministry on January 10th said it had dismissed 15 mosque preachers and disciplined seven others for refusing to take part in nationwide memorial prayers for Jordanian troops killed in clashes with gunmen who had attacked a tourist site in Karak province.

The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed the December 18th attack in which 11 members of the security forces and three civilians, including a Canadian tourist, were killed. The kingdom has been hit by number of ISIS attacks in the past year.

Observers said Jordan may be changing course from its policy of trying to contain hard-line preachers towards a more confrontational approach.

“In the past, the authorities opted for negotiation. Two years ago they released two leading jihadists, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al-Filastini, in an attempt to co-opt their followers into their own war on Islamic State,” the Economist wrote in September 2016.

“More recently, though, they have gone for round-ups. Hundreds of cells have been broken up. And so far this year 1,100 Jordanians have been hauled before military courts on terrorism charges,” it added.

However, the government would still have to rely on cooperative preachers to do its bidding in reli­gious circles.

One preacher, Ali al-Halabi, issued a religious edict saying that Jordanians must not pray for the souls or attend the funerals of the “terrorists” killed by the army in Karak. Halabi insisted they would still be regarded as Muslims but added that the militants cannot have ordinary burials and the public must always be reminded of their “deviant creeds”.

The government has installed closed-circuit cameras in a number of mosques, although the vast majority of them are not electronically monitored. Local informants attending prayers are reportedly the most common way for the government to keep an eye on places of worship.

Local media reported that the government promised to award bonuses to state-appointed mosque preachers who are “distinguished in their work”. The proposal includes studying the preachers’ sermons as part of the evaluation process.

The Prime Ministry’s coordinator for human rights, Basil al- Tarawneh, said the Religious Affairs Ministry was carrying out recommendations from the Na­tional Center for Human Rights. The recommendations include familiarizing mosque preachers with matters of human rights and “combating extremist thought”, the offi­cial Petra news agency said.

A similar initiative is reportedly being coordinated with the Ministry of Social Development to make mosque preachers more aware of women’s rights.

However, in improvised areas such as Zarqa governorate, where the spread of radicalization is more likely, officials are warning that the housing accommodations for mosque imams are “not suitable for habitation”.

Many of the accommodations are damp and have no access to sunlight as they are built under the mosques, Youssef al-Shalabi, the head of the religious endowment department in Zarqa, said in late January.

Some of the residents are exposed to flooding from nearby mosque toilets, creating a smell that was making some preachers ill.

A government report released last October stated that many of the imams’ children have asthma and other illnesses due to poor housing conditions.

One imam told the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad that he lives with his wife and five children in a 90-sq.-metre residence.

Accommodation is not provided to all imams. Most cannot afford to live elsewhere as they are required to be in the mosque from early hours of the day until late at night due to the timing of prayers.

Such living conditions may put additional strain on the relationship between the state and the imams it employs.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81413.

2017-02-13

In a span of six days in January, Jordan witnessed several gruesome crimes in which people were killed or injured by immediate family members, creating an unprecedented level of fear of what is known as familicide.

Jordanians followed closely the killings that struck families in various parts of the country. While some saw the attacks as signs of society’s decay, others were simply appalled by the nature of the crimes involving children.

A man in his 20s stabbed his wife and three daughters in Ram­tha, north of Jordan. The mother and two girls died; the third is in critical condition. Also in January, a man shot his brother in the head in Madaba, south-west of Amman and a father killed his 6-year-old daughter before committing suicide.

In other familicide incidents, a man in his 20s killed his sister, who was in her 40s, in front of a hospital in Amman. Police investigated the case of a 26-year-old woman found hanged in her house in Irbid, north of Amman, to establish whether it was a suicide or a death by a family member.

Depression is the main reason behind the incidents, human rights activist Rana Husseini said. “De­pression, in my opinion, is the leading cause in which a father in a moment of weakness goes on a killing spree ending the lives of his own family,” Husseini said.

“Of course, there are other reasons such as cases of schizophre­nia, which is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves and which might appear in a cer­tain age and a certain situation and sometimes it can go undetected,” she added.

Husseini, who has focused on social issues with a special emphasis on violence against women, recalled an incident in 1989 when a high school student killed his entire 11-member family and a friend due to the pressure his family placed on him.

“That crime is considered among the most horrific in Jordan. The 18-year-old boy killed his whole family because he could not face the pressure they placed on him when he failed his high school exams. The student was executed but authorities should have studied this case and dug deeper to see why it happened,” Husseini said.

Drug addiction is also often mentioned as a cause of familicide. A 20-year-old man who decapitated his mother in 2016 was high on a drug called “the joker,” which is a mix of tobacco and lethal substances such as rat poison.

Dr Momen Hadidi, director of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Jordan, said that addiction to drugs such as the joker could cause unpredictable actions.

“Due to the fact that some drug mixtures vary, the effect on a person varies from one to another, which might lead to murder or rape of your closest family members even if it was taken once,” he said.

“Those who take drugs become vulnerable and you cannot predict their actions. They become extremely dangerous and tend to hurt those who are around them, starting with their families.”

Whatever the reasons behind the crimes, they are unjustifiable for Gaby Daw, 49, a social worker.

“Recently, we have been reading more about tragic cases of famili­cide,” Daw said. “Usually there are no apparent signs to suggest that anyone is in danger or will commit such hideous crimes, leaving everyone shocked and in a state of disbelief.

“I believe that the current (socio-economic) situation plays a big role in turning a person into a monster whereby one cannot think reasonably anymore and turns to violence and suicide. Difficult financial conditions, economic crises, depression and mental disorders are all factors.

“I personally witnessed several cases in which a person tried to kill himself just because he was re­jected asylum in a foreign country. When you are desperate you will do anything to hurt yourself, but to hurt your family, your children, this I cannot understand,” Daw added.

A report by Assabeel news website stated that 12 people have committed suicide in Jordan since the start of 2017. In 2016, there were 117 suicides in Jordan compared to 113 in 2015.

Hussein Khazai, a professor of sociology at Jordan University, said weak family ties and poor faith in addition to drugs contribute to these acts in Jordan. “Authorities need to study each case separately and spread awareness about them in the society,” he said.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81412.

Sunday 15 January 2017

Jordan’s interior minister lost his job Sunday after criticism following a deadly attack, in a government reshuffle that also saw long-serving foreign minister Nasser Judeh cast aside.

Ten people including a Canadian were shot dead at the popular Jordanian tourist destination of Karak on 18 December, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Following the attack, some 50 lawmakers called for a motion to censure interior minister Salama Hammad.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Hani Mulqi said in a statement from the royal palace that Hammad was being replaced by Ghaleb Zohbi, a lawyer who had previously held the same post.

The same statement announced that Judeh, who had served as foreign minister since 2009, was making way for Ayman Safadi, formerly an adviser to the king and deputy prime minister.

It did not say why the ministers were being replaced. It is the second reshuffle since 28 September.

Last month’s attack in Karak, home to one of the region’s biggest Crusader castles, killed seven policemen, two Jordanian civilians and a female Canadian tourist.

Four assailants were killed by the security forces after an hours-long siege of the castle, where the suspects had fled to after opening fire on police.

IS claimed responsibility on 20 December, saying four “soldiers of the caliphate” used machineguns and hand grenades in the attack.

Jordan is part of the US-led military coalition against IS and has carried out air strikes targeting the extremist group.

It also hosts coalition troops on its territory.

The kingdom was hit by four attacks last year, including a suicide attack in June that killed seven guards near the border with Syria that was also claimed by IS.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/jordan-interior-foreign-ministers-unseated-reshuffle-1787269023.

March 9, 2017

Israeli politicians and security officials are concerned by growing instability Jordan; Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said.

The paper reported yesterday: “This pessimistic outlook came in the wake of a report presented by Israel’s Ambassador in Amman Einat Schlein during a meeting with the Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot several months ago.”

Eizenkot held a closed door meeting with foreign diplomats in Tel Aviv in which he was disturbed by the ambassador’s assessment, the paper explained, adding that Israel should be ready to support King Abdullah II should things get out.

Eizenkot is reported to have explained that Tel Aviv’s keenness to support Jordan’s stability stems from the security relationship and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.

The newspaper quoted a senior Israeli official as saying: “Israeli officials have been urging both the Obama and Trump administrations to support Jordan economically and militarily, which has absorbed more than a million Syrian refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.”

In 1994, Jordan and Israel signed the Wadi Araba peace treaty to become the second Arab country after Egypt to normalize relations with Tel Aviv.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170309-israel-concerned-by-growing-instability-in-jordan/.

24 December 2016 Saturday

Jordan on Saturday welcomed the “historic” UN Security Council resolution demanding a halt to Israeli settlements, saying the momentous vote paved a way for a two-state solution.

“This historic decision expresses the consensus of the international community on the illegality of Israeli settlements and reaffirms the Palestinian people’s historic right (to live) in Jerusalem and its historic lands,” Jordan’s information minister Mohammad al-Momani said Saturday.

Some 430,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

The resolution demands that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

It states that Israeli settlements have “no legal validity” and are “dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution.”

Momani said the resolution reinforced the historic position of Jordan — one of the few Arab states to have diplomatic ties with Israel — on the need for a two state solution.

The Middle East peace process has been comatose since a US initiative to re-launch peace talks collapsed in April 2014.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182180/jordan-praises-historic-un-israel-settlement-vote.

By Rana Husseini

Dec 19,2016

AMMAN — Four terrorists were killed in a security operation in the southern governorate of Karak on Sunday after 10 people were killed in attacks, including four police officers and three gendarmes.

Two civilians and a Canadian citizen were killed, while 22 other civilians and police officers were injured when four gunmen stormed the southern city and fired at security and civilians before heading to the Karak Castle, official sources said.

Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani told The Jordan Times that the Kingdom will remain resilient against attempts to disturb its stability and security, extending Jordan’s condolences to the Canadian government over the loss of the Canadian national.

Momani and the Public Security Department (PSD) said all the civilians who were trapped in the Karak Castle when the terrorists withdrew there were freed following a five-hour rescue operation.

Security forces evacuated people who were residing near the Karak castle, a resident who preferred anonymity, told The Jordan Times.

“The forces closed all main entries to the town and asked residents to stay at home and follow security instructions,” the resident said.

Several videos that circulated on social media on Sunday purported dozens of residents carrying armed weapons and “pledging to help security forces to fight the terrorists.”

Other video clips captured armored vehicles and gendarmerie forces as they entered the city heading to the castle.

A second witness, a 23-year-old accountant, said four men entered the city with a vehicle and clashed with police.

“They were firing randomly and many people were injured,” the eyewitness told The Jordan Times over the phone.

“I hid under a vehicle to avoid the flying bullets but several people were injured from the fire exchange between the suspects and the security forces,” the eyewitness, who preferred anonymity, said.

He added that the suspects then headed to the castle and took hostages there. Momani said there were no hostage taking, but rather people were trapped and then freed.

“Several security forces and sharp shooters surrounded the castle, while helicopters hovered over the ancient ruins,” he added.

The PSD issued a statement earlier in the day saying that the incident occurred when a police unit responded to a fire alert that erupted in a house in Qatraneh to the north of Karak.

“Unidentified assailants fired at the officers, injuring two of them then fled in a vehicle,” the PSD statement said.

Shortly afterwards, the statement added, the terrorists shot at a police patrol in the Karak governorate followed by more shots at a police station when they took refuge in the castle.

He said Special Forces have surrounded an area in the southern city where 10 of the suspected attackers were entrenched in.

Addressing a Parliament session earlier in the day, Prime Minister Hani Mulki said there was no information on the attackers, describing them as “outlaws”.

He said the incident started in Qatraneh town, north of Karak, when the unknown assailants opened fire from a cafe’s rooftop at a police patrol. Later on, he said, they targeted other patrols in the governorate.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/death-toll-karak-attacks-rises-14-including-four-terrorists.

December 14, 2016

If the war in Syria had taken place in Europe, the world would have reacted more quickly to foster peace and treated millions of refugees fleeing the protracted conflict more humanely, said Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein.

Jordan has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees since the conflict in neighboring Syria began almost six years ago. Around one-fifth of Jordan’s 10 million population are Syrian refugees – making it the largest host of refugees per capita.

“Jordan has the highest number of refugees in the world in relation to our population, and yet is the third poorest country in the world when it comes to water resources,” Prince Ali told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview over the weekend.

“It has been a burden to our economy, but we believe it is our moral duty and that is something we are very proud of. Had a war like this started in Europe, I think the world would have reacted much quicker than it has in the case of Syria.”

The war has uprooted nearly nine million people inside Syria and forced nearly five million more to seek safety in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and beyond.

Over one million refugees, including Syrians, have crossed into Europe, according to the United Nations, yet only one-tenth have been granted asylum – 65 per cent by Germany.

Earlier this month, the European Union’s executive said member states should be allowed to send some asylum seekers back to Greece from mid-March.

Prince Ali urged rich nations to do more and warned that closing borders was no answer to the migrant crisis.

“You cannot close borders and try and keep problems out in a world where there is global warming and war. There is about to be a mass movement of people that will destabilize the world, if it is not treated properly,” he said on the sidelines of a child rights conference in the Indian capital, Delhi.

“Even if the wealthiest nations in the world want to reject migrants and refugees into their countries, then go out and invest in poorer nations and help those in need help themselves.”

Expenses to host the refugees – as well as regional instability, a slump in tourist revenue, the collapse of trade routes through Iraq, Turkey and Syria – have taken a toll on Jordan’s economy.

The country is facing increased unemployment and decreasing foreign investment, yet is spending more than $2.5 billion a year – six per cent of the gross domestic product and 25 per cent of national annual revenue – on the refugees, says the World Bank.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161214-jordans-prince-had-a-war-started-in-europe-refugees-would-be-treated-better/.