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.