RealClearWorld Newsletters: Mideast Memo
The Jordanian Bellwether
What we know about Monday's deadly shooting at a U.S.-funded police training facility in Amman, Jordan, remains limited. Early reports reveal that 29-year-old Anwar Abu Zaid -- a police captain at the facility with reportedly no history of extremism -- opened fire on instructors at the center. He killed at least five people -- two Americans, one South African, and two Jordanians -- before being shot dead himself by his peers at the center.
While his family insists that Abu Zaid was in good mental health and "not an extremist at all," the timing of the shooting suggests otherwise. November 9 marked the 10th anniversary of deadly bombings at three Amman hotels that left 60 dead and scores injured.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a key Western ally, serves as a hub for a variety of regional security training programs. The Kingdom has hosted police trainees from Iraq and the Palestinian territories, as well as recruits from the failed, and recently shuttered, Pentagon program intended to build an anti-ISIS rebel force in neighboring Syria.
Though Jordan has managed to weather the unrest and uprisings that have plagued other parts of the Arab world, the country has been put under tremendous strain by a refugee crisis spurred by war and violence in nearby Iraq and Syria. Lacking the petrodollars enjoyed by other Arab regimes, the country's ruler, King Abdullah II, must maintain a delicate political balance between native Jordanian tribes originating from the eastern bank of the Jordan River -- often referred to colloquially as "East Bankers" -- and the kingdom's sizeable Palestinian population. The immolation of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh in February of this year by the Islamic State group caused outrage throughout the country, but especially in the tribal community from which Al-Kassabeh originated.
King Abdullah II's response was swift and at times showy, but not without purpose: The tribes have long served as a base of support for the Jordanian monarchy, which has historically secured said loyalty with patronage and government jobs. Economic hardship and regional upheaval have made the doling of such entitlements more difficult in recent years, however, resulting in discontent and increased extremism within tribal communities. And though it has successfully managed to marginalize its own Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, the Islamic Action Front, the Hashemite Kingdom may be unprepared for the radicalism brewing in its traditional tribal base.
"Another significant change in the demographics of Salafi jihadists supporters in Jordan resides in the increasing attraction it holds for members of the middle class," writes Mona Alami of the Rafik Hariri Center. "Interestingly, the Jordanian jihadist movement has known significant transformations in the last two years. While initially most Salafi jihadists were of Palestinian origin, there is now a growing number of Transjordanians who have joined the organization."
Editor's Note, 11/10/15: A previous version of this article inaccurately reported that the location of a deadly shooting in Amman, Jordan, was the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center. The shooting in fact occurred at the International Police Training Center.
Jordanian Islamist Responses in Spring and Fall -- Brookings Institution
Discontent Simmers Among East Bank Jordanians -- Al Jazeera
Sleep-Away Camp for Postmodern Cowboys -- New York Times Magazine
Around the Region
A frigid reception for Bibi. While yesterday's sit-down at the White House between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister benjamin Netanyahu appeared cordial enough, Al-Monitor's Ben Caspit reports that the Obama administration didn't exactly roll out the proverbial red carpet for the Israeli premier:
"Another very clear signal sent by the administration was that while the visit is described as ‘official,' the Israeli delegation was not invited to stay in Blair House, the president's official guesthouse. They will have to make do with a Washington hotel instead. Official Israeli sources claim to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that ‘Blair House is undergoing repairs,' but a cursory Google search shows that the president of South Korea stayed there just two weeks ago, while the president of China stayed there two weeks before that. If repairs are really underway, they were scheduled to coincide with Netanyahu's visit."
Down on peace -- up on arms. A recent Gallup survey of public attitudes in the Palestinian territories found that a record 75 percent of Palestinians doubted the Obama administration's ability to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel. More troublesome is the uptick in support for armed resistance, now at 32 percent approval. Gallup has more:
"No more than 3% of Palestinians have ever viewed Obama very favorably or favorably. At the same time, Palestinians also have limited confidence in their own leadership as an avenue for solutions. A slim majority (53%) rate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas favorably or very favorably, and less than half have favorable opinions of Hamas politician Ismail Haniyeh (44%) or Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah (41%)."
A Saudi-Pakistani Reset. Finally, Bruce Riedel reports on the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Relations between the two Sunni governments have been frigid since April, when Pakistani lawmakers voted to stay neutral in Riyadh's military campaign in Yemen. Riedel:
"The vote was followed by a wave of editorials in the Pakistani press harshly critical of the Kingdom. This criticism was highly unusual given the long history of close relations between the two states. Pakistan deployed thousands of soldiers in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s to deter any aggression by Iran against the Kingdom, for example, and Saudi Arabian money has helped bankroll Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. There are also 1.5 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia.
"For their part, senior Pakistanis have doubts about the stability of the succession process in Saudi Arabia. They are monitoring carefully the king's son, Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who is also deputy crown prince as well as defense minister, and who is very ambitious. The king has already deposed one crown prince this year, his brother Prince Muqrin, with no explanation. Many Pakistanis are also unhappy with the Saudi response to the tragic stampede at the Hajj this year, in which dozens of Pakistanis were killed."