Significance of Jordan Regarding ISIS By: Terence Rosenthal – 9/21/2014

If Jordan falls to ISIS, Israel or Saudi Arabia will be next in its crosshairs. Conflict the magnitude of World War II will ensue. Hundreds of thousands of lives will be lost, and global trade severely hindered. The price of food and oil will skyrocket in the U.S. and worldwide.

Because of its proximity to Israel and Saudi Arabia, a victory for ISIS in that region may give it the power of an emerging rogue empire, as opposed to an isolated threat. Jordan is challenged with the responsibility of being next to war zones of Iraq and Syria. ISIS presents clear and present danger. In fact, they have recently taken over Iraqi border crossings into Jordan.

Jordan, located next to major oil producers, Saudi Arabia and the GCC, is the only true Middle Eastern ally of Israel, its prosperous, western neighbor. To maintain a pro-western coalition of Middle Eastern countries willing to take stand, containing groups like Hamas, Al Nusra, Al Qaida, and ISIS, fortification of Jordanian borders, and enhanced intelligence are essential.

Jordan is challenged with having limited natural resources. Its tourism and trade have suffered due to future unpredictability as a result of regional strife. This has resulted in high unemployment, making Jordan more susceptible to Jihad than ever.

In light of the Arab Spring, Jordan has been challenged with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy. Its leadership contends with local Palestinian and Islamist groups. While austerity measures help keep Jordan’s economy afloat, they also have the potential of rousing rebellion among those living in desperation. There are approximately 7,000 ISIS supporters in Jordan. Some of these supporters may be sleeper cells.

Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS supporters within Jordan must be prevented from convincing people that they can provide a fairer and more just system than current leadership. It is important that corruption, red tape, and excessive bureaucracy be reduced. After all, there is no greater target of Islamism than ruling class and monarchy tied to corruption.

In the midst of current challenges, there is hope. Perhaps the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel could promote the use of Jordanian work force with projects in the region. Jordan has burgeoning industries in information technology, and offers comparatively cheap labor regionally. Gulf News called it “the Silicon Valley of the Middle East.”

The U.S. has sent aid to Jordan to aid in the shelter of its estimated 600,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq. This is a positive step. Luckily, Jordan’s neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Israel have a large supply of oil and natural gas. In fact, Israel has just arranged a deal to sell $15 billion in natural gas to Jordan.

Along with internal reforms, Jordan should update its economic alliances with its Arab neighbors not contributing to the ISIS conflict. The Jordanians would benefit by improving trade relations set under GAFTA, The Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement. Better integration of trade between Jordan and other peaceful Arab countries in the region will help strengthen economic interdependency in the region.

Cautious, incremental political changes regarding personal and business freedoms should be encouraged, promoting change and still maintaining the stability of Jordan’s pro-western monarchy. There should be gradual, yet noticeable reforms as well a crackdown on corruption in Jordanian cities of where the main supply of recruits to armed forces and security reside.

It will help if money is delegated to local needs in East Bank communities, where most Palestinian and pro-Islamists reside, especially with regard to schools and military hospitals. These steps will help alleviate the possibility of a power grab on the part of Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas.

Last, and perhaps most vital, it is beneficial, in light of current events, for the U.S. to help Jordan strengthen its conventional ground forces and fortify its borders with Iraq and Syria. The U.S. should also work with Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia as a coalition, devising strategy regarding enhanced intelligence at their borders, and within their own countries.

Starving ISIS from the North and South By: Terence Rosenthal, 9/5/2014

An independent Kurdistan, north of ISIS, and a coalition from its south, involving Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states can help starve ISIS as the U.S. conducts pivotal air strikes on key targets.  ISIS is a self-sufficient caliphate that expands with the use of terrorism, extortion, and the sale of stolen oil. It is, however, it is not strongly linked to countries in favor of providing financial backing. If quickly drained of existing resources, ISIS can be exhausted of power.

 

The U.S. has been flirting with Assad, and Iran for assistance. Iran, the largest supporter of global terrorist agencies, and the most anti-Western regime in the Middle East, has been the prime backer of Assad. The Assad regime allowed for the creation of the Islamic State in Syria by creating an environment where terrorist groups are able to thrive.

 

It is unclear whether Assad is truly against ISIS, being a prime consumer of their smuggled oil. ISIS, in turn, has been focusing its attack on non-Islamist rebels rather than Assad. It is not hard to imagine that accepting support from Assad or Iran would result in numerous long-term consequences for the West.

 

Kurdistan and the Peshmerga may provide the best means of containing ISIS from its north. The U.S. would benefit from arming Iraqi Kurdistan, and rallying for its independence. Last month, ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, its goal is to overthrow the Shia led government of Iraq. ISIS’ leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has declared a new Islamic state, spanning Syria and Iraq, declaring himself caliph. However, Kurdistan and its capital, Irbil have remained largely unscathed.

 

Currently Kurdistan, the 9th largest oil reserve in the world, has cut deals with companies like Exxon Mobil, and Chevron, who are investing in the future of the Kurds despite turbulence surrounding that territory. Both Turkey and Iran compete for dominance in the Fertile Crescent. The sovereignty of Kurdistan adds a definitive pro-Western influence in that region.

 

It should be noted by the U.S. and the West that Iraqi Kurdistan has allowed approximately one million refugees from Syria and Iraq into its territory. A major supporter of the Kurds, Great Britain, has decided to provide arms to Kurdistan. This will help bolster Kurdish independence. Kurdistan is a relatively multi-ethnic bastion of stability in a region that is rife with fragmentation and Islamic extremism. Arming the Kurds is a relatively worry free alternative as related to future consequences in stopping ISIS.

 

ISIS provides many in the Middle East a political sense of purpose and community, helping it gain popularity among disenfranchised Sunnis in Iraq. However, in recent months, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other members in the GCC have taken a stand against radical Islam by condemning groups like Hamas, and Islamic State. The U.S. should actively seek help from these countries in containing ISIS from its south. In return, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the GCC will likely discourage local radical groups within their countries if ISIS is contained and starved of resources.

 

In the development of a coalition aimed at starving ISIS from its north and south, there must be long-term objectives. Initiatives and agreements regarding containment of ISIS must answer present and future military and political threats. Commitment is required from the U.S. and the West to foster economic and development and diplomacy that runs deeper than the leadership in Kurdistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Gulf states so that potential power vacuums can be filled. If this is achieved, a successful coalition aimed at starving ISIS is possible.