Jordan and the Gulf Crisis

Courtesy Reuters

Jordan has carefully nurtured a reputation as the most consistently pro-Western Arab state. Thus, it came as a shock to many to find most Jordanians taking the side of President Saddam Hussein in the gulf crisis, and Western leaders are disturbed by King Hussein's reluctance to join forces against the Iraqi ruler. Given Amman's growing dependence upon Baghdad, however, neither surprise nor irritation is warranted; the gulf crisis has simply thrown into stark relief the extent to which the futures of these two countries have become intertwined, as well as the precariousness of the king's position in his desert land.

Public support for the Iraqi leader is extensive across Jordan and encompasses a wide spectrum of society. Pro-Saddam demonstrations, of which there are often several a day, are even advertised in the once-tame local newspapers. The sponsors of these gatherings run the gamut from the leftist Jordan People's Democratic Party to the extremist Islamic Jihad, but the rallies themselves do not vary much. Speakers vilify the deposed Kuwaiti ruling family, the al-Sabahs, for squandering Arab wealth on gambling and prostitutes; Kuwait's supporters, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are jeered as traitors; American flags are burned; the crowd chants, "Oh Saddam, we are willing to die for you!"

While more circumspect than his constituents, King Hussein has given the impression that he, too, sympathizes with Saddam. Days after the Iraqi invasion the king told NBC News that Saddam was "a person to be trusted and dealt with." And he called the Iraqi president "an Arab patriot in the eyes of many." The king was also slow to comply with U.N. economic sanctions against his neighbor. While the truck traffic across the Jordanian-Iraqi border is now down to virtually nothing from its pre-invasion 1,000 vehicles a day, Jordan still imports its oil from Iraq, contending that to do anything else before a replacement source is located would be to commit economic suicide. Additionally, Jordan continues to allow daily Iraqi Airways flights from Amman, which

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