Category Archives: Jordan

TROUBLE BOILING IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 487

September 28,  2020

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

TROUBLE BOILING IN THE MIDDLE EAST

This year in my recent trip to Israel, I observed the bitter feelings that exists between Israelis and Palestinians and vice versa. Hostilities are everywhere.  In recent blogs, I’ve celebrated the diplomatic breakthroughs achieved between Israel and Arab countries. Such is an important achievement. However, those accomplishments only mask a fierce reality waiting below the surface.

The Jerusalem Post suggested that Hezbollah had stored massive amounts of weaponry in Lebanon that were part of the terrible explosion in Beirut. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said,  “Iran has taken Lebanon hostage through Hezbollah.”   Moreover, in August Prime Minister Netanyahu warned Hamas (who controls the Gaza Strip) that Israel would respond forcefully if the terrorist group did not stop launching incendiary and explosive balloons into Israel.  

What is currently happening inside Gaza? Hamas military prosecutors on Thursday charged three Palestinian activists in the Gaza Strip with “weakening revolutionary spirit” — a charge that could lead to years in prison — for holding a video conference with Israelis.

Rami Aman, a 38-year-old peace activist and Gaza resident, was detained in early April after holding a public “Skype With Your Enemy” video call in which Israelis participated. He has said his organization seeks to empower young Palestinians and that many in Gaza share his view that speaking to Israelis should not be forbidden.

“If I were to go into the streets and tell people ‘let’s talk with an Israeli,’ thousands of people would be here,” Aman said during a videoconference, (Facebook)

Authorities in Gaza view “normalizing” with Israelis as a criminal offense. While Hamas does permit merchants and those seeking humanitarian assistance inside Israel to communicate with Israeli authorities, it has cracked down on those who have sought to establish person-to-person ties with Israelis. “Holding any activity or communication with the Israeli occupation, under any cover, is a crime punishable by law; it is a betrayal of our people and its sacrifices,” Interior Minister Iyad al-Bozm wrote in a Facebook post in April.

Hamas routinely arrests and tortures critics and dissidents within the coastal enclave. Aman himself had already faced harassment by security forces for his activism. In July 2019, Hamas detained him for two weeks after organizing a joint bike ride with Israelis: Gazans biked side by side with Israelis, with only the security fence dividing them. On another occasion, Aman was detained for three days after he publicly criticized the alleged beating of a young man by officers from the Hamas-run interior ministry, according to Human Rights Watch. Although both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International immediately called for the activists’ release, Hamas authorities have held the detainees for five months without trial.

Get the picture? Hostilities could  explode at any time.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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THE SHIFTING MIDDLE-EASTERN SCENE

BLOG 484
August 24, 2020

deal

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

THE SHIFTING MIDDLE-EASTERN SCENE

There’s an old joke Jews tell each other. A wealthy man proposed to give a thousand-dollar check to representatives of faith if they could tell him who was the greatest man that ever lived. He asks the Protestant. The man answered, “Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformation.” “Thank you, the wealthy man said, but that’s not what I’m looking for.’ He asks the Roman Catholic and was told, “It is the Pope.” Again, he said this is not the answer. He asks the Rabbi who is the greatest man who ever lived. The Rabbi says, “Jesus.”

“Good heavens!” the wealthy man said. “I was sure you would say Moses.” The Rabbi replied, “Moses is Moses. Business is business.!”

The Rabbi’s answer describes the situation in the entire Middle-East regardless of country or background. They may scream and holler in public, but when they sit down at the business table. Business is business.

Keep that in mind when trying to understand the shift in politics when the Arab Emirates went public on their working with Israel in secret. They had concluded it was in their best interest to come out of the closet and admit they had been doing business with Israel for some time.

The Arab leaders had heard from both Jordan and Egypt about Israel’s reliability and assistance in times of need. Israel had helped shore up Egypt’s problem with terrorist in the Sinai bringing that intrusion to a halt. On the other hand, Arabs had become increasingly disillusioned with Washington not coming to their aid as they once believed American politicians would do. They could see in the last four years that Washington had backed away from stopping Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power or crippling them with sanctions. Israel was now seen as more dependable than America.

Moreover, the Arab Spring brought the recognition that that popular anger at repression and corruption could backfire on them. Old campaign slogans against Israel were going out of style. The real menace was now Iran. Israel had demonstrated they were prepared to halt Iran by themselves if necessary. Because of the longstanding struggle with Iran, the Emirates were now glad to lean on Israel.

Former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan much earlier recognized an intersection of interests in the Arab world with Israel’s concerns. The old problems were dying as new ones emerged. Prejudices were shifting.

Let’s fact it. Business is business.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Arabs, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, The Middle East

RESPONSE TO TRUMP PEACE PLAN

BLOG 461
February 24, 2020

free Gaza

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

RESPONSE TO TRUMP PEACE PLAN

Last week I made an initial examination of the Peace Plan for the Middle East that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, submitted to the Palestinians and Israelis. Here’s some additional update insights.

Tovah Lazaroff writes for The International Jerusalem Post. His analysis offers us further details. The Trump Plan totally dismisses the l967 line and offers the Palestinians less territory than any previous plan. On the other hand, the plan does not offer what the right-wing elements in Israel want and the settlers what they feel they need.

Settlers remain concerned for the fate of 15 isolated Jewish settlements that they believe Trump’s plan would ultimately leave doomed. They view his guidelines as making it untenable for residents to continue to live there.

Israeli elements do not want the creation of any Palestinians state in the West Bank in any form. They had hoped the Trump Plan would recognize their concerns. While Trump has pontificated about what eventually might be offered, initially nothing is on the table.

The Trump Plan suggests that people of every faith should be able to pray on the Temple Mount. (Called Haram al-Sharif by Muslims). In the past, Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount has been a flash point for violence. Muslims claim allowing such could start a religious war.

Trump’s Plan would leave Israel in control of security from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) would not leave the West Bank. At the same time, the plan does not include immediate recognition of a Palestinian state. Rather, it recognizes Israel’s willingness to accept a pathway to statehood based on specific territory that makes up about 70% of Judea and Samaria. A Palestinian state would come four-years after the Palestinians recognize the plan. They must also recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The bottom line? Dead on arrival. The Trump Plan is far too favorable to Israel. Makes sense to many in America, but not to Palestinians in the West Bank. It is hard not to believe this wasn’t clear when Kushner developed the plan. Many are concluding that the plan has more to do with politics than peace.

Will it finally be accepted? Not by the Palestinians.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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Filed under America, Gaza, Israel, Jordan, Muslims, Palestinians, The Middle East, Trump

WHO REALLY SUPPORTS ISIS?

BLOG 313 August 1, 2016

A new concern about the jihadi threat has alarmed the public in Jordan. An assault at the Syrian-Jordanian border checkpoint killed seven Jordanian soldiers in June. Then an attack on Jordan’s General Intelligence Service in the Baq’a Palestinian refugee camp near Amman killed five members of the security force. The deaths resulted in a crack down on even an appearance of sympathy with the incursion.

Jordan’s Muslim population are Sunnis. In the past, more than 2,000 Jordanian youth left for Syria and joined the Islamic State radicals. Of course, with high levels of unemployment and poverty, the lure for young men to join the ISIS fighters is strong. I met many of these young people when my two of my sons taught at different times as professors at the University of Amman. I watched heavily veiled young women coming into the campus to study a wide range of subjects. One of my sons also lectured in their medical college. I found that Jordanian young people take their education, their futures, and their faith quit seriously. Their sympathies run deep for the Sunni minority in Iraq and the Sunni elements fighting the Alawi ruler Bashar Assad and the Iranian supported Shi’ite regime.

But the big question across the entire region is what do everyday Arabs really think about ISIS.

Political science professors from prestigious universities as well as the director of the Arab Barometer ran an in-depth investigation and study of this question in five Arab countries. They added several important questions to the standard battery of Arab Barometer surveys to find exactly how the ISIS campaign and agenda is sitting with the Arab public.

The results are unexpected and surprising.

The highest percent agreeing with the Islamic State are 6.4% in Palestinians territories. However, in Jordan only .4% agree. Interestingly enough, 1% in Jordan agree that the ISIS tactics are compatible with Islam while the highest agreement came with the Palestinians at 8.9%. These numbers for agreement with ISIS are remarkably low.

In the five Arab countries surveyed, the tactics of ISIS using extreme violence compared with Islamic teaching had almost no support. The exception is Tunisia. This country has also sent the largest number of fighters to join ISIS.

However, when ISIS’s stated goals were published, a reduction followed in the number of young, poorly educated man who approved of these goals. The realization that ISIS is fighting and combating Shiite influence had a major effect on reducing support for their cause. Support for radical Islam diminished as men in the five Arab countries realized that the goals of ISIS were not relevant for their own societies.

The Arab Barometer results suggest that ISIS influence is far more limited that the media has generally indicated. Possibly, their days could be numbered. When information on their jihadist violence and brutality is available and the goals of ISIS are fully known, the extremist appear to be running out of gas.

Could be.

Who actually supports ISIS? A rather small crowd.

 

 

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AND WHAT ABOUT THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATIONS?

            The good readers of my Middle East Blogs will remember my skepticism about whether the current negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians will go anywhere. The fundamental reason is the Palestinians resolutely refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist. Arafat’s killing of a possible treaty that ended up starting the second Intifada was based this on fact. Time has not changed the Palestinian position. Secondly, Israel will not negotiate their security. These two facts must change for any progress to be made. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong but –

            Almost nothing has appeared in the media to tell the world where the negotiations are going. The minuscule leaks have not been positive. The outsiders must struggle to get any sense of what is happening.

Let’s take another look at other dimensions that make an agreement difficult to achieve. One issue is that many Arabs have decided that no agreement is coming and have thrown in the towel by joining the Israeli state. They have recognized that attempts at settlement of old Palestinian property claims after the Arabs started the 1948 war aren’t going to happen. They have concluded a better life is possible only by starting where they are now and going forward.

Here’s another problem. The issue of the Jordan Valley farming area that borders Jordan and runs down to Jericho is seen by the local 60,000 Palestinians as the bread basket of their future country. The 8,600 acres of farm land is held at the mercy of the Israeli control of water that allows Arabs running water once every three days. The Palestinians must store every drop in bottles and cisterns. They fear the Israeli Likud Party’s position that maintains Israel should annex the land permanently.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu believes the strip is vital to Israel’s security. If left without military oversight, the strip would be a natural corridor for the shipment of missiles and weapons into the hands of Israel’s enemies. Israeli’s also point to the mismanagement of the Palestinian Authority which the Arab residents of the area often complain about. The P.A. is known for being dysfunctional and in many cases corrupt and open to bribery.

Israeli settlers have now moved into the area and figured out how to make date palms a financially success crop. Some young Israelis have moved back because of cheap housing and community living. They are certainly opposed to the government negotiating their settlements.

How can these diametrically opposed positions be reconciled?  At this point, the Israeli’s have the upper hand because of their military strength. However, the Palestinians are fiercely resistant. The end result is a gigantic elephant sitting in the middle of the negotiating room.

Just another reason for why progress has not appeared on the horizon.

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THE MIDDLE EASTERN DRUG OF CHOICE: VIOLENCE

            Anyone following events across the Middle East cannot avoid the constant theme that runs through every story. Violence never stops.

            After the seemingly endless war George Bush visited on Iraq, the proclamation was that we have now planted democracy. Really? This week a bomb exploded in a Sunni Mosque in Baghdad killing at least 13 people. Another attack at a funeral northeast of Baghdad killed three more people. Near evening a blast at the Khalid bin al-Walid mosque wounded 35 people. The fact is that Iraq has been experiencing the worst violence it has seen in some time. Of course, these are all Sunni mosques. The attackers were possibly Shiite militia. Sunni extremists and remnants of Al Qada just as frequently target the Shittes. The wars between the two Islamic factions only feed on the violence

Though unreported, Israel airplanes attacked a storage of antiship cruise missiles that Russia had sold to the Syrian government. On July 5, near Latakia (Syrian’s principal port city) the Israelis made an airstrike on Russia’s Yakhont missiles stored in a warehouse. Though the Israeli government will not discuss the attack, it is the third attack inside Syria this year. Pre-emptive strikes are never commented on by Israel.  However, they are prompted by concern that missiles will be transferred to Hezbollah. In January, Israel attacked a convoy carrying Russian made SA-17 missiles that were intended for Hezbollah. Of course, Iran sends weapons to Syria by flying through Iraq’s airspace.  My, my, who would have thoughts that Iraq would allow such a thing.

Of course, the drug of choice is violence.

Meanwhile the United States maintains warplanes and antimissile batteries in Jordan. American F-16s and Patriot missies are supposed kept in Jordan at the request of Jordanian military. We also know the CIA has been training Syrian rebels in a covert program to put more pressure on the Syrian government. Could it be possible that the United States also prefers violence as their drug of choice?

Of course, the specter standing in the shadows is Vladimir Putin. Russia is suppling all the weapons that keep the Assad Syrian government in the war against their own people. Russia’s economy directly prospers by the Syrian conflict. That old KGB agent Putin certainly understands how Russia can profit from violence.

Let us not forget Egypt where the military just deposed President Morsi. Of course Morsi was attempting to impose Islamic authoritarianism on the country. But even to this hour, his followers are confronting the Egyptian military and the bodies continue to be stacked up in the streets. Egypt can tall us a great deal about violence.

My point is basic. Violence only spawns violence and the Middle East is caught in a downward spiral. All attempts to stop the killing must be pursued with diligence. Lives are precious and talk is cheap. Forget the clowns; send in the peace doves. It’s time for action that counts.

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EXPLORING THE JORDANIAN SITUATION FURTHER

In my last blog, I suggested that there were a number of  reasons for President Obama’s visit to Jordan. While little has been in the news about this country, things are not good for the monarchy. As noted earlier, I first visited Jordan in the late ‘60s when the country was poorly developed. Even good hotels were lacking. Over the decades, I have watched the country develop and new stability return. With the death of King Hussein and the exit of Queen Nor to America, the power shifted to his son King Abdullah. The country seemed on an even keel and life appeared stable. However, income remained low and many people struggled.

With two sons who taught at the University of Amman and my own visits there, I saw students eager to gain a good education and develop a successful life style. Tourists came and went as well as many going to Petra to see the caves and ancient treasury where caravans once stopped. This tranquility was shaken as the “Arab Spring” brought turmoil to the entire region. Like a giant earthquake, the uprisings brought nations like Egypt and Syria to their knees. People would no longer accept the conditions of poverty or near poverty they lived in.

Such economic earthquakes reach into every level of life and are always an invitation to extremists to rush into the streets with radical promises of  improvement through upheaval. Egypt continues to struggle with this problem. Certainly the Al-Qaeda extremists found multiple opportunities to attempt to depose various governments. These tremors were certainly felt in Jordan.

While little has been published about Jordanian politics, much has transpired. King Abdullah recently met with President Vladimir Putin. The London-based Al-Quid Al-Arabi  newspaper suggested this could signal a major shift in how Jordan relates to Syria. The same article reported that Putin discussed establishing  Russian weapon factories in Jordan. These reports indicate the Jordanians are attempting to get the media to suggest that the upraising in Syria is led by Islamist fundamentalists whose objective is next to topple Jordan in order to attack Israel. Of course, there are radical Islamist terrorist fighting in Syria, but Syrian Christians are highly involved as well as well as combatants opposing oppression. It is known that Jordan’s intelligence agency has been cooperating with Syrian intelligence. Moreover, Jordan has supplied the Assad regime with diesel fuel and drinking water. Of course, many refugees have fled into Jordan, but Abdullah has returned rebel opposition to the Syria government. In addition, allegations suggest the King Abdullah has been trying to influence Western media’s reporting by offering journalists gifts.

Not a good situation!

The point is that attempts to distort reporting is an old trick of tyrannical regimes. If this strategy is proven true, it will highly discredit the entire Hashemite government. History suggests that Jordan has always been late in making up their mind about what to do and then ending up on the wrong side. They lost the West Bank area because at the last minute they jumped into the Yom Kippur War after saying they were staying out.

We can conclude that President Obama’s visit was highly important for reasons we have not yet discovered. Let’s hope King Abdullah doesn’t try to buy time by making foolish gambles.

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