Jordan is perhaps less violently exposed to the regional changes taking place around it than say Lebanon. But make no mistake; regional events are already shaping Jordan’s internal affairs in a profound way.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s successful election campaign and its ability to clinch Egypt’s presidency is an inspirational story for Islamic parties in the region. This includes, of course, Jordan’s own Islamic Action Front (IAF).
Immediately after Mohammed Morsi’s victory, members of the IAF expressed hope for a ‘Morsi contagion’ to spread to the rest of the Arab world. They also called for a delegation of 100 Muslim Brothers to go to Egypt to congratulate the new president.
Even more than a success story, the IAF undoubtedly feels that it has been given the possibility of a strong regional alliance. Much speculation exists around the Egyptian president’s foreign policy, but there is reason for the IAF to hope that Morsi’s election can translate into political clout at home.
This regional alliance might quickly turn into a liability however, depending on how the international community receives Morsi’s presidency. Nonetheless, for the interim, the Jordanian government might be less rash in dismissing the IAF’s political demands. Rather, recent signs are showing that the Jordanian government is rightly seeking some form of rapprochement with the Muslim Brothers.
The less tangible and more speculative of these signs is Jordan’s recent contact with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. This has fuelled much debate about what role, if any, Jordan is looking to play in Syria. Considering the increase in the number of refugees fleeing the violence into Jordan, there is an urgent need for the Kingdom to formulate a coherent policy towards Syria.
The more obvious sign however has been the undeniable shift in Jordan’s policy towards Hamas. Khaled Meshal’s warm recent reception in Amman seems to have completely reversed past bitterness between Hamas and Jordan. This is not entirely unusual considering their tumultuous relationship. Yet the recent warmth is also an indication of the potential for symbiosis which regional changes have given rise to between the Hashemite regime and the Islamic movement.
Hamas’ external leadership is increasingly attempting to align itself with the Arab people against authoritarian regimes. The movement is looking to define its role in the region after having left Damascus, and is seeking to avoid marginalisation. Jordan could presumably provide Hamas with the stability it needs to ride out this period of transformation.
In return, Hamas could be just the interlocutor the monarch needs to reach an agreement with the IAF. Jordan’s government is aware that such an agreement is particularly important following the announcement of its election law, which the IAF opposes. The government will work hard to ensure IAF participation in the elections, as that will extend much needed legitimacy to the new cabinet.
At a time of significant turmoil, the Jordanian government is right to build networks of open communication with the Muslim Brothers regionally. They are, after all, an integral part of this transformation.