(Washington, D.C.) — As readers of this blog know, I’ve been writing a series of columns on “Who To Watch” in the epicenter in 2014. First on my list was Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
There are many reasons, but among the most important is that the King is emerging as a critically important player in the Mideast peace process.
Hot in pursuit of a comprehensive peace deal by the end of this year, President Obama today begins the first of three rounds of meetings with key Middle Eastern leaders scheduled over the next few weeks.
- First up, the President meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah II today in Palm Springs, California.
- Second, the President will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on March 3rd.
- Third, the President will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at a summit expected to be held in Riyadh later in March.
Mr. Obama’s top priorities:
- Create maximum leverage to persuade (some critics would say “force”) Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sign onto Secretary Kerry’s “framework agreement” by April.
- Nail down a comprehensive final peace treaty between the Israelis and Palestinians by the end of 2014, with active Jordanian and Saudi assistance.
- Allay Israeli, Saudi and Jordanian fears that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to stop Iran from getting The Bomb (especially in light of recent reports the Israelis and Saudis are secretly preparing to hit Iran’s nuclear facilities).
- Discuss the crisis in Syria and how best to make peace in that imploding country.
Few Americans spend much time thinking about Jordan or her King. Why then in the 51 year old monarch emerging as such an important player? Here’s the brief version:
- Any peace deal that might be struck between the Israelis and Palestinians will be predicated on the stability of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the security the King’s military and intelligence services can provide to make sure a Palestinian state would be peaceful and not radicalized.
- If the King is overthrown by Radical Islamists, all the assumptions undergirding the current peace process would collapse.
- Removing Jordan’s moderate, pro-Western monarch is a top priority of the jihadists.
- The King’s father — the late-King Hussein — negotiated and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
- King Abdullah II was the originator of an Arab peace plan that eventually was refined by the Saudis as the “Arab Peace Initiative” and was ratified by the entire Arab League.
- The King has a great deal of trust with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, something the President doesn’t have himself.
- The King is well known and liked on Capitol Hill among key House and Senate leaders, both Democrat and Republican.
- The King also has a good working relationship with American Jewish leaders, some of whom he met with in Washington this week to discuss the latest developments in the peace process.
- The President visited Jordan in March 2013 as part of a Mideast trip that included stops in Israel and with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah. [Read text of press conference.]
Understanding Jordan is not a high priority for most Americans, but for anyone interested in the epicenter it should be.
As I pray for the peace of Jerusalem in accordance with Psalm 122:6, I pray especially for the King, as well as the other key players in the region at this delicate, challenging time.
- “President Barack Obama will launch a new round of Middle East diplomacy Friday in a plush oasis in the arid California desert, hosting a Valentine’s Day summit with Jordan’s King Abdullah II,” reports Agence France Presse. “Obama and the king will swap the piles of snow in Washington for the Sunnylands retreat at the Annenberg estate in Palm Springs, to discuss issues including the pitiful torrent of refugees pouring into Jordan from Syria.”
- The meeting will be the first of a trio of meetings between Obama and key Middle East leaders in the coming weeks.
- On March 3, the US president will sit down at the White House for his latest encounter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made no secret of his skepticism over an interim deal that Washington and other world powers reached with Iran on its nuclear program.
- Then at the end of March, he will travel to Saudi Arabia, for what is likely to be a sharp personal reminder that Saudi King Abdullah shares Netanyahu’s doubts about Obama’s strategy of testing the sincerity of an Iranian diplomatic opening.
- Obama and his royal guest will sit down in California just two days after the US president admitted that Syria was “crumbling,” while his Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the civil war-splintered country as an “apocalyptic disaster.”
- Jordan has borne the brunt of much of the humanitarian overflow — nearly 600,000 Syrian refugees have now crossed its borders, straining its infrastructure and finances.
- Obama has all but admitted that his policy is failing in the expressed US aim of sparking a political transition in Syria leading to the exit of President Bashar al-Assad.
- But he frequently notes that the United States is the largest aid donor to Syrian refugees. Washington has so far donated $1.7 billion to the cause, according to the US Agency for International Development.
- But there are no signs that the Obama administration believes that a new US policy — or a change in its reluctance to either to do more to arm opposition rebels or to commit direct US military resources — would bring an end to the crisis any closer.
- Obama will also discuss US efforts to broker a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians with the Jordanian monarch, who strongly backs US efforts.
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