Friday, November 21, 2014

21-Nov-14: Souring relations

Jordanian police exchange views with Jordanian protestors,
July 23, 2011 [Image Source]
Some more thoughts here about the land lying just to the right of ours (we wrote some pungent things about it here back in January 2013), and in whose parliament solemn tribute was paid to the human savages whose profound hatred for a different lifestyle and religion led to a massacre on Tuesday (as we wrote yesterday). Recall that they don't actually call them savages in the Jordanian parliament, preferring to say (sickeningly) martyrs and heroes. It bodes very poorly for future relations.

Here's a fresh insight how law and justice work in the Hashemite Kingdom:
Jordan on Thursday arrested the deputy head of the country's mainstream Muslim Brotherhood for critical statements... Zaki Bani Rushaid was detained shortly after a late night meeting of the Shura Council at the party's headquarters in Amman, and were told the state security prosecutor general had ordered his arrest on charges of "souring relations with a friendly country." [Source]
How does a person sour inter-state relations? In this case, evidently by authoring an opinion column, according to Al Arabiya today.

Now we have no interest, to say the least, in protecting or defending the Muslim Brotherhood or its Palestinian Arab spin-off, the unspeakably thuggish Hamas. But it does make sense to take a moment and think through the implications of a state, fully owned and controlled dynastically by one family (not at all unusual in the Arab world, of course), "a key ally of the USA and UK..." that can throw a person into jail on charges of souring relations with another country. What sort of relations does it make sense to have with people like these? What exepectations can be placed on their shoulders?

A Los Angeles Times report from June 2013 throws light on the delicate dance that the owners of Jordan play:
Since 2009, Freedom House has characterized Jordan as "not free," and traditional newspapers in the kingdom have long faced pressures. Indeed, editors of Jordan's nongovernmental papers say the palace weighs in routinely when it disapproves of stories... Given the ongoing turmoil in the region, it would be unwise to press for radical political reform in Jordan now. Indeed, the majority of Jordanians are not clamoring for such change. But rolling back the nation's already limited freedoms is not a recipe for enhanced stability. [LA Times]
A recent survey ["Jordan: The doubtful stability of a key U.S. ally", June 18, 2014,] by USAtoday added this:
"We have very few very good friends in the region," says David Schenker, an expert on Middle East politics and security... "Jordan has been an excellent friend to the United States," helping us, among other things, fight our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They've also maintained a 20-year-old peace deal with Israel, on their western border. "They do really much of what we ask of them," says Schenker... The United States has budgeted $1 billion in economic, military and counter-terrorism aid to Jordan for 2014. Total U.S. aid to Jordan since the 1950s adds up to $13.8 billion.
The Jordanians - unlike the Egyptians and the Gulf statelets - generally tolerate the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, allowing the free operation of several Muslim Brotherhood mouthpieces from Amman: Al Yarmouk, a satellite television channel that started up in 2011, about which its manager says "lots of Jordanians watch the channel... because it addresses all sectors of society through its variety of political, cultural and social programmes" [Aljazeera, April 7, 2013]; Assabeel, a newspaper appearing daily (according to Aljazeera) since 2008; and the Al Bosala online news agency (which may have been blocked inside Jordan by the authorities, but is accessible from here).

Also this: the Muslim Brotherhood television channel in Jordan provided a 45 minute platform for our daughter's murderer during August 2014. It can be viewed on YouTube here. The woman has been living absolutely freely in Jordan since 2011. She hosts a weekly TV program of her own from the Jordanian capital that is beamed throughout the Arabic-speaking world by satellite. And she routinely travels to and from there to speak in most parts of the Arab world. Life has been shockingly good to her.

Jordan has had a formal peace treaty with Israel since 1994. It also has a new supply contract under which $15 billion of gas will flow from Israel's Leviathan offshore field directly across the border by a new pipeline to Jordan over a 15-year period: a deal which might be about to end. Jordan’s information minister says today that if the escalation - the process by which more Palestinian Arabs murder more Israelis standing at tram stops or hitch-hike posts - continues, "all sorts of coordination and cooperation regrettably might be affected". For instance, according to the Financial Times, the gas deal which would Jordan's dependence on natural gas from Egypt and cut its annual energy bill by some $1.4 billion. The FT said yesterday that the transaction
Man riding a donkey near Jericho [Image Source]
is facing strong opposition in the kingdom because of the intensifying Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which officials fear could delay or even scupper the deal. Jordan this month took the unprecedented step of recalling its ambassador after Israeli security forces entered Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque to subdue protesters... Mohammad al-Momani, Jordan’s information minister, said: “The peace treaty between us and the Israelis organises all sorts of bilateral relations. If the escalation continues, all sorts of co-ordination and co-operation regrettably might be affected..." Yahya Mohammad Al Saud, an MP and president of the Jordanian parliamentary committee on Palestine, said: “The Jordanian [people are] not willing to accept this agreement. I will return to riding on a donkey and heating my house with wood before I would consider taking gas from Israel.” [Financial Times]
Jordan is the home of the financial institution described in this recent Wall Street Journal profile: "Arab Bank Found Liable for Providing Assistance to Hamas"; it has a presence as well in "all the key worldwide financial centers including London, New York, Dubai, Zurich, Singapore, Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, China, South Korea, Sydney and Hong Kong..." according to one of its websites. There's this background from American Lawyer
After two days of deliberation, a federal jury in Brooklyn found that Arab Bank knowingly processed payments for Hamas and is therefore liable for 24 acts of terrorism committed by the organization in the Middle East. The verdict came in the first-ever trial of civil claims against a bank under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The roughly 300 plaintiffs—American victims of the attacks and their families—will have a follow-on trial to determine damages.
Wikipedia says Arab Bank is "one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East", and "a major economic engine in Jordan and throughout the Middle East/Northern Africa... In 2005, the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency assessed a $24 million penalty against the New York Branch of Arab Bank for failing to implement an adequate anti-money laundering program to manage the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, and violating the suspicious activity reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act."

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