Jordan Isn’t Rushing to Embrace Syria

July 14 2022

In the past few years, several Sunni Arab states have taken steps toward restoring relations with Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which, having waged brutal and still ongoing war on its own subjects, became a pariah nation. Such signals of normalization also suggest a wavering in their willingness to stand up to Assad’s Iranian patrons. Jesse Marks and Caroline Rose examine the specific case of Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, and has seen the latter’s civil war pose threats to its stability—including an influx of refugees, attempts by Islamic State to expand into its territory, and the disruptive effects of the drug trade on which Assad now relies:

Over the past year, Jordan has received criticism for an apparent warming of relations with Syria. A notable border crossing opening in 2021 and dialogues between both heads of state and ministers of defense and foreign affairs reinforced speculation that the two are escalating efforts to normalize bilateral ties, prompting concerns from the United States as it works to isolate the government of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. But while the two governments are interested in cooperating on trade and border security, an uptick in clashes related to the trade in the drug captagon and Iran-aligned influence in southern Syria has ensured that Jordan is still a long way from normalization with Syria.

As the captagon trade booms and rising insecurity in southern Syria continues, the U.S.-Jordanian relationship—specifically security cooperation along the Jordanian-Syrian border—will, too, change. [Meanwhile], the U.S. should work to identify a strategy with Jordan to serve as a proactive, supportive partner in promoting border and regional security.

[The] Jordanian government continues to expose links between the Syrian military, its Iranian-aligned partners such as Hizballah and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps militias, and the captagon trade. Those potential links, and more specifically the smuggling of captagon through Jordan, reinforce Jordan’s view of the Syrian military as an unreliable partner.

Read more at Newlines Institute

More about: Jordan, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship