By Fares Braizat – April 21, 2019

Jordan has very little interest, if any, in being part of any inter-Arab cold war, or wars. The current irrational and unjustifiable cold wars and their active theatres have caused significant economic and financial troubles for Jordan, and will threaten the stability of the region for a long time to come. Jordan will continue to pay a hefty price for it. Since 2011, Jordan neither needed, nor wanted, to be part of reckless adventures around the region, such as the thoughtless Syrian and Yemeni civil wars. Despite intense pressures, Jordan kept a reasonable distance but was besieged by the conflicts and their premeditated and consequential harmful politics.

Now, more than ever before, we need to break free of this despondent state of affairs and build a safe future for our children and be part of human progress and development, capitalising on the strength of the existing institutions we have built so far. To improve our institutions and address our failings with unemployment, poverty and investment attraction, we need to reprioritise our foreign policy to align it with internal growth. This requires a balance of interests with our regional partners. It is not advisable to be singularly ideological in foreign policy design and conduct, especially in a turbulent region like the Middle East where realism and idealism may work together as much as against each other.

In principle, we should invest in peace and stability rather than war and destruction, and we should work for a “democratic”, not “authoritarian”, just peace. Hundreds of billions of dollars were wasted on wars in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq. The outcome is more killing and destruction and much less respect for all parties involved among their own people and globally. The region does not need, and cannot afford, more bloodshed or blind negative competition. If a few billion were spent on development in Yemen instead of war, the Yemenis will remember those who built their country as allies for long time to come. The same applies to Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon and Libya.

All countries in the region should have, by now, learned their lessons. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) internal strife is harming the GCC family and their cousins in the neighbourhood. It is not wise for the cousins to take sides in a family contention. Cousins and neighbours should help resolve the issues, not magnify them. They should play a positive and constructive role for the benefit of all.

Hence, the recent rapprochement between Jordan and Qatar attracts special attention. Last week’s visit by the diplomatically-seasoned and politically-dignified Qatari Minister of Defence Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah to Jordan with a delegation of senior security sector officials and diplomats, and his meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah, the prime minister and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff points to a serious Qatari interest in collaborating with Jordan’s security sector. If the political will was not there on both sides, this visit would not have happened and agreements would have not been reached. 

Such cooperation builds upon nearly 4,000 filled jobs out of the promised 10,000 for Jordanians in Qatar, and $500 million of investment in projects in Jordan. Two hundred million worth of projects have been already identified and more is to come soon. The Qataris are very interested in working with and in Jordan. The two countries need one another, and they should cooperate more and reinstate ambassadors to contribute to the reduction of tension in the region and be constructive rather than destructive.

Although Jordanian public opinion is not where it should be, with regards to perceptions of relations with Qatar, both parties are invited to do more. In 2018, only 0.3 per cent of adult Jordanians named Qatar as “the closest ally of Jordan”, compared with 41 per cent who named the US, 22 per cent who named Saudi Arabia and 5 per cent who named the UAE, according to a nationally-representative survey by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. When asked which country Jordan should cooperate with more, 1.3 per cent named Qatar, compared with 19 per cent for the US, 20 per cent for Saudi Arabia and 8 per cent for the UAE. Among the Jordanian elites, the position is less promising. Only 0.2 named Qatar as a “closest ally of Jordan”, compared with 50 per cent who named the US, 5 per cent who named Saudi Arabia and 2 per cent who named the UAE. When elites were asked about which country Jordan should coordinate with more in the future, Qatar was named by 0.3 per cent of elites, compared with 20 per cent who named the US, 8 per cent for Saudi Arabia and 1 per cent for the UAE.

Jordanian public opinion and the elite may have been influenced, partly though, by the fact that Qatar did not pay its contribution of $1.25 billion as part of the GCC support package for Jordan a few years ago, while Saudi Arabic, the UAE and Kuwait paid their contributions and more. It is never too late, especially when Jordan is going through a major economic crisis. Jordan stepped in when Qatar needed help since the 1970s until recently in theatres where Qatar was involved. It is hoped that ambassadors are to be reinstated soon and both countries are building more cooperation bridges.

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan Times on April 21, 2019. For the original article source, click here

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