For months now, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has been urgently warning Western leaders in blunt and stark language that the tidal wave of Syrian refugees into his country and the barbaric violence of the Islamic State poses a clear and present danger to his kingdom. He needs significantly more military and financial assistance than he is currently getting, and he needs it quickly.
ISIS is engaged in “a third world war” against the West and moderate Sunni Arab governments like his own, says the 54 year old monarch.
Jordan has reached “the boiling point,” he adds. “Jordanians are suffering….and sooner or later I think the dam is going to burst.”
“We need the rest of the world to work with us,” the King insists. “This is why I say it [must be] Muslims, Christians, Jews, other religions, all of us fighting this global fight together. It is a war inside of Islam, it is our civil war, but we cannot do it by ourselves.”
The King has taken his message to U.S. and European reporters, news anchors and conferences of world leaders. So far, he hasn’t seen much response. And the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Jordan has welcomed in more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees. Its spending a quarter of its annual budget on people who aren’t Jordanian citizens. They are at the breaking point. Yet last year, the international community provided only about 35% of the financial aid they had promised to the Hashemite Kingdom. What’s more, thus far the U.S. and international military effort against ISIS has been half-hearted. Today, the influence of ISIS is steadily growing. Its leaders are emboldened. And they are looking to hit new targets, like Jordan.
Adding insult to injury, in January — as readers of this column will recall — President Obama said he was too busy to meet when the King went to Washington on official business. In the end, the President carved out five minutes for the West’s most faithful Sunni Arab ally. That was shameful.
Fortunately, the President made more time for Jordan’s King last week — finally. The two leaders met at the White House on Wednesday for an extended discussion of the current state of the fight against the Islamic State, the state of the Syrian civil war, the enormous financial pressures Jordan is facing, and other critical regional issues.
The meeting seemed to go well. The President praised the monarch as “one of our most stalwart allies in the world” and rightly noted that “Jordan is a country that punches above its weight when it comes to the fight against ISIL.”
The King, in return, graciously thanked the President, Congress and the American people for their generous military and financial aid to his kingdom. “We are so grateful for the support that you’ve shown me and our people, our country,” he said. “Truly, no country other than the United States has given us so much support — whether it’s to the economy so that we can take the challenge of refugees to our country, but also to the military and security so that we can defend our borders, but also secure our people.”
“I’m actually leaving Washington very optimistic about the level of support from the United States,” the King added.
I’m glad the meeting happened. I’m glad the President has increased U.S. aid to Jordan in recent years. But I am not as optimistic as the king about the future. I believe Jordan is in grave danger from ISIS terrorism — including chemical attacks — and from the mass of Syrian refugees who I fear could be incited to launch an uprising in the hopes of trying to topple the kingdom. Thus, I believe the U.S. should be doing far more to help our Jordanian friends.
We need to pull out all the stops in our campaign to defeat ISIS, starting with liberating Mosul and all of northern Iraq from the ISIS scourge. At the same time we should be pressing our European allies and the rich Sunni Arab states to provide more financial aid to Jordan. And we should be working far more closely to build a strong alliance between Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states not just against ISIS but against the threat of a nuclear Iran, as well.
- Remarks by President Obama and His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan After Bilateral Meeting (official White House transcript)
- Video of comments by President Obama and King Abdullah (New York Times)
- King holds summit meeting with Obama (Jordan Times)
- Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations (Congressional Research Service)
- Jordan Struggles Under a Wave of Syrian Refugees (New York Times)
- Jordanian Security and Prosperity: An Essential Aspect of Israeli Policy (The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies)
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