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The King’s bird’s-eye view of Jordan in the region

Aug 18,2018 - Last updated at Aug 18,2018

Amid the geopolitical changes in a region beset by a combination of uncertainty and instability, His Majesty King Abdullah is fully aware of the challenges facing Jordan. In a very informative and engaging discussion we — several columnists — had with the King on last Thursday, he offered a bird’s eye view of a number of issues with direct impact on Jordan.

First, the King made it perfectly clear that he seeks to help improve the standards of living of Jordanians. Indeed, a huge part of his last visit was designed to draw foreign direct investments to Jordan. His relatively long visit abroad was designed to encourage an influx of foreign investment. Explicit in the King’s words was an understanding of what it takes to secure investments. The ball is in the court of the government to create conducive environment for investment. It remains to be seen whether the government will live up to the expectations of the King. I believe the King is meticulously observing the performance of the government and this should make the government both accountable and responsive.

The focus of the King on economy is rooted in his deep-seated appreciation of the root-cause of radicalism. To be sure, socio-economic factors help create incubating environment for radicalism. The King’s insights into this particular point are interesting. While he believes that the radical thinking may continue for some time, he thinks that if Jordanians join forces, then Jordan can identify the tipping point where radicals becomes khawarij — a takfiri Islamic sect. Interestingly enough, the King’s usage of the term khawarij is of strategic importance. This sect should be first of all isolated from the rest of the society. This entails, and herein lies the crux of the issue, dealing with the socio-economic conditions for Jordanians, especially for those living in the peripheries. With all honesty, there is a development gap between Amman and the rest of the Kingdom, and bridging this gap should be a top priority for the government.

Jordanians love their country. Time and again, they proved their loyalty to the throne and their willingness to unite in time of need. The latest terrorist incidents in the cities of Fuheis and Salt only reinforced the strength of the domestic front. The King was right to praise the work of the security agencies as they managed to get all intelligence necessary in a record time. The degree of professionalism and heroism on the part of the intelligence department and the counter-terrorism unit made a huge difference, according to the King. Many would argue that that execution of the mission was second to none. Unlike other countries, no civilians were killed in the process. On the whole, Jordanians trust their King. He is down to earth and natural. His visit to the bereaved family and their reaction to his visit exhibit a trust in his statecraft. The King was moved when one of the injured soldiers told him about his readiness to immediately go back to fight.

Apart from the domestic front, one should identify the hallmark of Jordan’s relentless efforts to create a different regional environment. Undoubtedly, Jordan has done a lot but the King is not a man of grandstanding. He is a man of action, preferring getting things done rather than competing with any other leader. Part of his visit to the United States was also designed to meet President Donald Trump. The King believes in constructive engagement based on initiatives. His impressions of Trump are different from what is written in the press. The King believes, rightly so, that the “deal of the century” is an attempt to reach a solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it takes two to tango! A fair proposal, according to the King, is the one that takes into account the minimum requirements for a just peace. The international community will not allow for an unfair deal to be imposed on either party.

In a nutshell, while acknowledging the challenges both from within and from without, the King is confident that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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