Friday, November 18, 2005

Zarqawi's Blowback

Dr Fouad Ajami has a superb piece in the November 16th Wall Street Journal on the implications of al Qaeda in Iraq's recent atrocities in Jordan. The essay is well worth reading:

In the drawn-out struggle over Iraq, Jordan is no innocent bystander. It was in Jordan, more than in any other Arab land, that Saddam Hussein was hailed as avenger and hero, a financial benefactor who practically starved the people in southern Iraq as he enriched sycophants and supporters in Amman. From the very beginning of his bid for regional primacy, Saddam had supporters aplenty in Jordan. He had rujula (manhood), he had money to throw around, and he held out the promise that the oil dynasties would be brought down and those borders that worked to Jordan's disadvantage would be erased in pursuit of a pan-Arab dream. A generation ago, it shall be recalled, the currents of Arab political revisionism--the envy of the poorer lands toward the oil states, the bitter sense that history had dealt the Arabs a terrible hand--converged in Jordan. It was that radicalism that forced King Hussein, in the course of the first American war against Saddam in 1990-91, to stay a step ahead of the crowd, breaking with the princes and the monarchs of the Peninsula and the Gulf, and with the United States, to side with Iraq.

Jordan never reconciled itself to the verdict of that war, and never took to the cause of the new Iraq. Sectarianism played its part--the animus against the Shiites of Iraq coming into their share of their country's power runs deep in Jordan's political class. So did pan-Arab nationalism, long ascendant in Jordan, the glue that bonded Jordan's native population with the Palestinians in the realm. From its inception as the unlikeliest of nation-states, Jordan has been the thing and its opposite--a realm ruled by a merciful dynasty and a population bristling under the controls, threatening to overrun the political limits and then pulling back from the brink out of a grudging recognition that the soft authoritarianism of the place was safer than the prospects of calamity. A stranger who encounters Jordan is always struck by that juxtaposition of stability and barely hidden rage. Waves of refugees have washed upon the kingdom: Palestinians who fled the wars of 1948 and 1967; hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their cocoon in Kuwait in 1990-91, when their rage at the Kuwaitis and the immoderation of Palestinian leaders put them on the side of Saddam's project of conquest and plunder; and then, of late, a huge influx of Iraqis. It is a wonder the dynasty, and the military-intelligence apparatus that forms the regime's backbone, has maintained the stability of the realm.



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