When the revolution was still raging in Egypt, I wrote an article calling on the world to support Egypt’s secularists.
It was they and the leftists that ignited and sustained the revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak; the Islamists waited until Mubarak was about to fall, and then joined.
When the Egyptian presidential elections took place, the Islamists had the money, the media and the global connections and therefore got one of their own in the presidential palace.
Today, Egypt is in turmoil as the secularists and non-Islamists refuse to accept the fact that the Islamists have hijacked their revolution, all while those concerned about Middle East peace and security stood watching. Now, those who have failed Egypt’s secularists are repeating the same mistake in Syria and Jordan.
Firstly, they argue that both regimes are needed for regional security. It is true that both the Jordanian and Syrian regimes have kept Israel’s borders relatively calm for over four decades, but nonetheless both regimes are deeply challenged and both might fall.
While Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime enjoys Iranian and Russian support, it is rapidly losing ground to the rebels and will most likely keep bleeding to death. The rebels will not stop and the regime’s allies will stop providing cover for Assad when they eventually realize he is beyond rescue. And the Hashemite regime in Jordan will most likely be next, in fact, It would not be surprising if Jordan’s King Abdullah falls before Assad; despite the dearth of global media coverage of ongoing unrest in Jordan, Abdullah faces greater domestic challenges than Assad does.
Both the Palestinians and East Bank Jordanians have joined forces, calling for him to step down, as noted by Al Jazeera and the Independent newspaper back in November.
Unlike Assad who enjoys the support of his million-strong Alawite sect, Abdullah’s clan is made up of only 87 individuals, and he therefore depends on the loyalty of very East Bankers who have been protesting against him and burning his photos in public, as confirmed by the Independent.
Abdullah knows that if Assad falls, he will be next.
Recently, Abdullah met with Assad’s mentor, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Commenting on the king’s meeting with Putin, the Londonbased Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper reported the visit could be the sign of a “major shift in Jordan’s stance on Syria,” noting that the visit took place at the same time Jordan began supplying diesel and drinking water to Assad’s army and reporting that “the King’s intelligence department has been cooperating with Syrian intelligence for the last two months.”
In addition, several Arab media sources reported on Abdullah returning Syrian opposition members who had fled Syria back to Assad’s regime.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi added that Russia and Jordan are now discussing establishing Russian weapons factories in Jordan. Also, Jordanian media is reporting that Iran – Assad’s strong ally – is offering the king financial cooperation and even an interest in developing Jordan’s uranium wealth.
If this is true, it is very reckless of Abdullah to buy time through an alliance that would give Iran political access to Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s borders.
FURTHERMORE, ABDULLAH has allegedly been trying to influence the Western media in Assad’s favor. A renowned Jordanian journalist who spoke to me on condition of anonymity reported that the king has authorized his brother- in-law, Majdi Yassin, to reach out to journalists in the Western and Israeli media and “shower them with gifts” to establish the claim that those fighting against Assad “are mainly Islamist fundamentalists” and “that their main aim is to topple Assad then export their Islamic revolution to Jordan in order to attack Israel.”
Further, over the past few weeks the government- controlled Jordanian media has been claiming Jordan is “full of al-Qaida members affiliated with the fighters in Syria” who would “lead to unrest in Jordan if Assad falls.” This was even claimed by famous pro-Jordanian regime journalist Maher Abu Tair.
A similar claim was also made recently by the pro-Iranian Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Malki, who said: “If the Syrian regime falls, civil wars will break out in Jordan and Lebanon.”
The king has chosen alliance with Assad because he knows the West cannot support him any further, as he has been refusing to execute even minor reforms and has turned the country into a foreign aid black hole – thanks to his unbelievably lavish style and reported passion for gambling – which means any money he gets would not filter down to his people or help calm Jordan.
The only other option is an Israeli occupation of Jordan to keep Abdullah in power, something that Israel would never do for the sake of a falling dictator.
The facts remain that those fighting Assad are mostly non-Islamists. In fact, hundreds of Syrian Christians are involved in the fight against Assad. The major Islamist faction in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusrah, has a few thousand fighters, compared to an estimated 2 million rebel fighters.
Nonetheless, when Assad falls the Islamists will have the money and media coverage to dominate elections.
The same goes for Jordan; although as the New York Times, the Independent, the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera confirmed those leading the protests are secular – in fact the Muslim Brotherhood there has announced support for the king and says it is “refusing to see him fall” – the Jordanian secularists have no money or media support to win future elections against the wealthy Muslim Brotherhood.
Those concerned for peace and security in the Middle East should stop hoping for Assad and Abdullah to survive, as the chances of that are slim. They should also consider a prompt and practical approach toward supporting the secular forces in both Syria and Jordan – otherwise the Islamists will win.
The writer is a Palestinian-Jordanian who resides in the UK.