Jordan's role in the defense of Israel

For some time now, images of Jordan's King Abdullah II, wearing the uniform of the Israeli army, have begun to circulate on social media. Which, in a country where a fifth of the population is Palestinian (2.3 million people), sounds rather strange. Obviously, this is a photomontage, but the meaning is clear: a part of Jordanians and Palestinians are vehemently protesting against his Majesty's government because, according to them, it is aligned with Israel and not with the Palestinian cause. Where do these controversies come from?

The answer lies entirely in the Iranian attack on Saturday night against Israel. That is, when the Pasdaran, the military caste that shares power in Iran with the ayatollahs, started a massive shipment of drones and missiles, which however was completely neutralized by Israel. The striking military success of which, perhaps unexpected by the Pasdaran themselves, is due to the effectiveness of the anti-aircraft defense system Iron Domebut also and above all to Jerusalem's active collaboration with other countries, which have concretely helped the Israelis to neutralize the threat.

In fact, if the anti-aircraft worked properly against the rain of drones and missiles coming from Tehran (over 300 in total), without external and coordinated help it would not have produced the same admirable results. This is because the simultaneous launch of so many carriers at the same time can saturate any defense system, even the super technological one Iron Domeand therefore some missile would probably have pierced the “iron dome” anyway and would have penetrated Israeli territory.

However, it didn't happen. And the credit goes first and foremost to the United States and the United Kingdom, who promptly took action to protect Israel with their fighters, in tandem with the anti-missile systems of the American ships. Together, they shot down dozens of cruise missiles (Paveh 351), unmanned kamikaze aircraft (Shahed 137), and Kheibar hypersonic ballistic missiles.

But also to Jordan, whose support for Israel – by no means a given – certainly represented the most welcome surprise for the Netanyahu government during those terrible hours. The Iranian Shahed 137 drones, in fact, were almost all destroyed within Jordanian airspace, therefore well before they reached Israel and theIron Dome would be activated. This allowed Jerusalem to better manage the threat.

Why did Amman resolve to help shoot down Iranian drones? Officially “not so much to defend Israel but to preserve our airspace”, as the Jordanian authorities were keen to point out. But it is clear that the interest at stake is something else: and more precisely, the construction of a pro-Western alliance in the Middle East. An objective which the United States has been working on for years, together with France and the United Kingdom, and which aims to involve Jordan and Saudi Arabia in an anti-Iranian way rather than in favor of Israel. As if to enforce the ancient biblical proverb according to which the enemy of my enemy is my friend: “If you listen to his voice and do what I tell you, I will be the enemy of your enemies and the adversary of your adversaries” it is written in the Book of Exodus. Which has certainly been carefully studied in these latitudes.

The Saudis and Jordanians have never been kind to Israel: in Jordan, for example, a fifth of the population (equal to around 2.3 million people) is Palestinian, and Amman has harshly condemned the invasion of the Gaza Strip and has always maintained the distances from Jerusalem. But, since Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan share a much more serious threat to their very survival, namely Iranian expansionism, the ends more than justify the means in their view.

Both countries are governed by Sunni monarchies, and view with extreme concern Iran's aggressive project to create a Shiite corridor from Tehran to Lebanon (and therefore the Mediterranean Sea) via Iraq and Syria. First of all because this has already caused wars and insurrections that threaten the security of their borders, with Riyadh even having to go to war against the Houthis in Yemen; and then because the “Suleimani doctrine” envisages arming informal militias and jihadists, including Sunnis such as Hamas, so that they provoke wars to destabilize the entire region, to the benefit of Tehran. The Iranian general Suleimani, head of the Quds brigades, was killed for this very reason by the Americans.

The United States, which maintains excellent relations with both Amman and Riyadh, intends to push for ever-greater integration between Israeli defense systems and those of Arab countries: in an anti-Iranian perspective, first of all, but also with a view to disengagement from the Middle East which they have been trying to accomplish for some time, for the moment without great success. This is also why today the control room between Jerusalem and Washington has passed to Centcom – i.e. the US military command center in the region, which also includes coordination with the countries of the Middle East – and no longer to the European Command.

The effective coordination of the military operations on Saturday night demonstrates that the American strategy of coalescing a military alliance around Jerusalem can be successful and constitute the basis for a normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world, the foundation stone of which is in those so-called « Abraham Accords” which the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain and Sudan have already signed, and to which the signing of Saudi Arabia and Jordan would now also be linked.

While Riyadh is now one step away from signing the Agreements, Jordan must take various factors into account: ally of the United States, the fact of hosting millions of Palestinians makes the population's consent to these palace initiatives very low and the Jordanian politicians themselves extremely wary of Israel. Since October 2023, it is no coincidence that the Jordanian authorities have been trying to deal with a large popular protest. Protest that has already seen over a thousand people arrested by security and intelligence forces “for expressing their support for the rights of Palestinians in Gaza or for criticizing the government's policies towards Israel”, as has been clarified several times Amnesty International. Hence the images of King Abdallah II of Jordan wearing the uniform of the Israeli army, in relation to which Amman has even passed an ad hoc law on cybercrimes: it serves to prevent the spread of posts on social media expressing anti-government sentiments , or who criticize peace or economic agreements with the Israeli authorities or, worse, those who call for strikes and public protests.

Although Jordanians therefore remain very skeptical of their closeness with the West, King Abdallah's government instead views with growing favor a normalization of relations that have been preventing the country from full development for too long. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has focused on this in particular, who since the Biden Administration took office has promoted the importance for Sunni Arab countries to constantly coordinate at a diplomatic level with Washington and Jerusalem.

It was precisely the precipitation of events between Israel and Hamas from 7 October 2023 onwards that made Egypt and Jordan emerge as the regional actors on which the future regional balance will depend. An important role, which marks a reversal compared to recent history, which saw them clash with Israel both during the Six Day War of 1967 and during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. After then, however, Egypt and especially Jordan have changed tune and participated in all negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

In the name of realpolitik and the search for stability in relations and lasting peace, King Abdallah had even organized a summit in Amman between the president of the United States, Joe Biden, the Egyptian leader, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and the leader Palestinian, Mahmoud Abbas. But the sovereign was forced to cancel the event to avoid unrest in the country, following the bombing of a Palestinian hospital and humanitarian convoys by Jerusalem. Now that Iran has taken the field directly, however, we have moved on to the next level: today's alliances, the survival of Israel and the defeat of the Iranian Pasdaran, also affect the destinies of the Saudis and Jordanians. Simul stabunt vel simul cadent, «together they will stand or together they will fall».