J’lem watches warming Amman-Teheran relations

Abdullah II "stressed the need for taking practical steps to develop Jordanian-Iranian ties," says kingdom’s news agency.

Jordan King Abdullah 311 (photo credit: AP)
Jordan King Abdullah 311
(photo credit: AP)
Reports that Jordan is seeking improved ties with Iran raised eyebrows in Jerusalem on Monday among diplomatic officials and academics watching the Hashemite Kingdom, but did not elicit any immediate reaction.
On Sunday, Jordan’s official news agency Petra reported that King Abdullah II met with head of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who handed the king a letter from Ahmadinejad on “ways of developing ties between the two countries and a number of regional and international issues.”
The king “stressed the need for taking practical steps to develop Jordanian-Iranian ties on a clear basis to serve the interests of the two countries and common Islamic issues and help promote security and stability in the region.”
The report also said Ahmadinejad invited Abdullah to visit Iran.
Sources in Israel said it was too early to tell the significance of the move, though one Jordanian expert said that if the reports were true, it would be a striking break from the past when there was a great deal of tension between Jordan and Iran, with the Jordanians over the years having accused the Iranians of fomenting radicalism in the kingdom and having been critical of Iranian regional influence.
The Petra report quoted the Iranian envoy as conveying regards from Ahmadinejad and expressing his “keenness to enhance bilateral ties in various fields to positively reflect on the interests of both peoples.”
The Jordanian report said that Abdullah was interested in a summit with Ahmadinejad.
While Jordan watchers in Israel would not comment formally on the development, one prominent Jordan watcher said that – if true – it would indicate Amman was “hedging its bets” and could be added to a list of countries in the region that don’t want to join in a confrontation with Iran.
This comes even as moderate Arab leaders in the region – such Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak – were quoted in US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks as having urged American action against Iran.
A cable from the US envoy to Amman Stephen Beecroft from April 2, 2009, and released by WikiLeaks last week, said, “The metaphor most commonly deployed by Jordanian officials when discussing Iran is of an octopus whose tentacles reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment and undermine the best laid plans of the West and regional moderates. Iran’s tentacles include its allies Qatar and Syria, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, an Iraqi government sometimes seen as supplicant to Teheran, and Shia communities throughout the region.”
An Associated Press report on the Iranian invitation said the Royal Court said Abdullah accepted Ahmadinejad’s invitation to visit Teheran, and quoted Abdullah as saying “it was imperative to undertake practical steps for improving Jordanian-Iranian relations in the service of both countries, their brotherly people and joint Islamic causes and to consolidate security and stability in the region.”