Domestic considerations behind Jordan’s stance on Qatar crisis

Sunday 02/07/2017
The Brotherhood factor. Members of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood (not pictured) wave the Jordanian national flag and flags of the Islamist organisation as they demonstrate in Amman in 2015. (AFP)

Amman- For domestic political rea­sons, Jordan appears re­luctant to take additional measures against Qatar other than reducing its diplomatic representation in Doha and closing Al Jazeera’s office in Amman.

Jordan’s move came after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt broke diplo­matic relations with Qatar and im­posed an embargo on it.

Qatar is accused of sponsor­ing terrorist organisations and of threatening security and stability in the region by entertaining close relations with Iran. Doha denies the allegations.

Jordanian-Qatari relations have been discretely tense for some time because of what Amman considers provocations by Doha, especially through Al Jazeera. Nevertheless, Amman is treating the Qatari crisis with care.

The boycotting countries issued a list of demands, including that Qatar stop supporting extremist or­ganisations. Political observers said Jordan was not in favour of some of the demands, especially those related to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Amman argued that the Muslim Brotherhood is part of Jordan’s po­litical life and has representatives in the parliament. Accepting a ban against the Muslim Brotherhood would cause a crisis in Jordan.

Atef Tarawneh, speaker of the Jordanian House of Representa­tives, said Jordan did not intend to go beyond the measures it had al­ready taken against Qatar and that there was no intention of blacklist­ing the Muslim Brotherhood or the Palestinian movement Hamas. A large portion of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian origin.

Tarawneh put out a statement clarifying that what he had said was based on his analysis of the situa­tion and should not be taken as an official Jordanian position. Jordan has preferred to follow a policy of containment with respect to the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood rather than confront or ban it.

Jordanian King Abdullah II ex­plained Jordan’s policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood during his latest Washington meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Jordan’s position and policy on this subject have put a damper on relations with Egypt, which has long suffered at the hands of what it classifies as terrorist organisa­tions and was hoping for a stricter attitude and policy.

Amman’s position did not come as a surprise because the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan has often been in concert with the govern­ment. During the “Arab spring” of 2011, the Brotherhood thought the circumstances were ripe for rebel­lion and for demanding more free­dom. It failed and the Brotherhood is once again flirting with the gov­ernment after realising that there is no way to implement its plans.

The political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), took part in Jordan’s parliamentary elections in 2016 af­ter the group boycotted the previ­ous two elections over allegations of unfair practices in the electoral system. The IAF and its Islamist af­filiates won 15 seats in the 130-seat lower house of parliament last Sep­tember.

Analysts said the Jordanian gov­ernment’s strategy of dealing with the Muslim Brothers was risky be­cause the group previously opted for confrontation with the govern­ment and might do so again.

Jordan is facing another problem as it benefits financially from its ties with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“By choosing a watered-down action, Amman was hoping to sat­isfy Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, the two capitals leading the Qatar boycott, without having to adopt extreme actions,” wrote Osama al-Sharif on the website Al-Monitor.

Jordan may soon be facing more pressure from the Arab Gulf coun­tries.

“In the event that Kuwait’s efforts to resolve the Qatar crisis fail, per­haps Jordan will find itself under greater pressure to embrace Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s position by sever­ing ties with Doha,” wrote Giorgio Cafiero and Shehab al-Makahleh for the website