For a year and a half, Jordan has avoided any involvement in the Syrian crisis, but recent events indicate that Jordan has started to assume an important role in the revolution going on at its northern neighbor — bigger than the muted Turkish role.
We are aware of the fears the Jordanians have vis-a-vis the Syrian crisis. They fear that the protraction of the Syrian crisis may exhaust them financially, given that Jordan is a country without sufficient resources.
They also fear that the Syrian regime, which does not carefully calculate the consequences of its actions, may surprise them one morning with its forces crossing into their borders and thus shifting the war to their soil. The Syrian regime might also activate its sleeping cells in collaboration with its Iranian ally to create trouble in Jordan. The Jordanians are also haunted by a more dangerous risk, that is, the possibility of Israel exploiting the chaos resulting from the Syrian crisis to turn the east of Jordan into a substitute Palestine to be ruled by the Palestinians in place of the West Bank and Gaza. Such a chaotic situation might be a good opportunity for the Israeli rightists to realize their dreams in Jordan.
Despite these fears that are obvious and logical, the Jordanians are aware of the fact that geographically they are surrounded by dangerous countries including Israel, the Baath regimes in Syria and Iraq, and now the Al-Maliki rule in Iraq, which is worse than its predecessor. Surrounded by the dangerous neighbors, Jordan sleeps with its eyes open. It remains vigilant all the time taking into account its limited potential.
As the revolution in Syria and the agony of the Syrian people have prolonged, the Jordanians are in the eye of the storm. Jordanian towns and border areas are full with thousands of Syrians who have fled the massacre in their country. If this situation continues for months, millions of Syrians will be fleeing their country toward Jordan. This exodus will inundate Jordan. The matter does not need any expert skill or imagination to realize the dangers of what may happen next.
If Assad, the butcher, is able to emerge triumphant and stabilize his shaky regime by sheer force, he would definitely take revenge from Jordan, which has assisted the Syrian people. In both cases the Jordanian leadership has no choice. Syria not only constitutes a grave danger to the safety of Jordan today, but a real danger to its very existence. The Jordanian leaders have no option but to play a historic role and time is ripe for that. Jordan should also facilitate a positive change in Syria.
In this regard, we see the increasing Jordanian assistance to the Syrian refugees. Jordan is now opening its doors to military deserters. There is also talk in Jordan about opening various support routes to Syria across the borders. The possibility is now open for the leaders of the Syrian opposition — scattered over more than 20 countries around the world — to move to Jordan. This step will help unite the opposition and put an end to the talk about their differences.
We are well aware that by its new attitude, Jordan is putting itself in danger. However, this attitude will earn it the appreciation that it rescued the besieged Syrian people who have nowhere to go. Turkey, on which all hopes were pinned and, which was expected to mobilize its forces inside Syria more than a year ago, opted not to get involved. Although it always intervened in the north of Iraq chasing the Kurdish separatists, the country preferred not to get involved in this case. It was only content with providing refuge to the Syrian opposition leaders. Like Turkey, Jordan is also aware of the risks it may face if it intervenes in the Syrian crisis, but the country is aware it is the only exit for the Syrian escapees and the freedom fighters. This is a precarious situation, but the Syrians will remain indebted to Jordan for this attitude.
(The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. This article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 27, 2012)