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An idea to unite Jordan and Iraq in a pro-U.S. Hashemite kingdom after a U.S. war is being floated in diplomatic and opposition circles, reports Stratfor, the global intelligence company. The plan could be Washington’s best scenario for ensuring a stable post-war Iraq.
As a U.S. war against Iraq appears to be nearing, both Washington and Middle Eastern players also are working to make sure the expected American victory will result in strategic long-term gains. The idea of a central Iraq populated by Sunni Arabs joining with Jordan to form one Hashemite kingdom is being considered as one way to secure such gains.
Such a plan reportedly was discussed at an unusual meeting between Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan and pro-U.S. Iraqi Sunni opposition members in London last July. In September, Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth stated that the U.S. goal in Iraq was to create a united Hashemite kingdom embracing Jordan and Iraq’s Sunni areas. Israeli terrorism expert Ehud Sprinzak recently echoed this sentiment on Russian television Sept. 24.
In a nutshell, the plan may involve uniting Jordan and Sunni-populated areas of Iraq under the rule of the current Jordanian regime. This could be done if Iraqi Sunni leaders appeal to King Abdullah with such a request, which has a weak but still legally valid justification, as Abdullah is the second cousin of the last Iraqi king, Faisal II, who was overthrown in 1958.
Who is floating the Iraq-Jordan idea, and who might benefit from its realization if it ever comes through? Although it might be wishful thinking by some Iraqi opposition members and Israeli media, it also could bring strategic benefits to the United States, Israel and Jordan.
Possible gains for U.S.
Sprinzak stated that the authors of a “Hashemite plan” are U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, both considered the most hawkish of Bush administration officials. Russian television program “Drugoye Vremya” also reports that it was U.S. officials who twice invited Hassan to meet the Iraqi opposition last summer.
The fact that the Western-based Iraqi opposition completely depends on Washington supports these allegations. And Washington showed much interest in the Jordan-Iraqi opposition talks in which the Hashemite idea was discussed.
The administration may be looking into the proposal because the current goal of replacing Saddam Hussein with a pro-U.S. Iraqi government still would not guarantee long-term U.S. control over the territory and its oil. First, it may become too hard for a new government in Baghdad to effectively control the whole country, even with U.S. troop support. An example is Afghanistan, in which the government of President Hamid Karzai still controls only the capital.
Second, the new government’s attempts to establish control over all of Iraq may well lead to a civil war between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish ethnic groups, with U.S. troops caught in the middle. The fiercest fighting could be expected for control over the oil facilities.
But uniting Jordan and Iraq under a Hashemite government may give Washington several strategic advantages. First, the creation of a new pro-U.S. kingdom under Abdullah would shift the balance of forces in the region heavily in the U.S. favor. After eliminating Iraq as a sovereign state, there would be no fear that one day an anti-American government would come to power in Baghdad, as the capital would be in Amman. Current and potential U.S. geopolitical foes Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria would be left isolated from each other, with big chunks of land between them under control of the pro-U.S. forces.
Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for U.S. protection – and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That in turn would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh.
As discussed in the Israeli media, the richest oil areas would go not to the Hashemite kingdom but to a widely autonomous Kurdish region that still could be formally a part of the Hashemite state. To make sure the Kurds will not upset U.S. ally Turkey by declaring an independent state, Washington would be able to deploy its forces into the Kurdish region, with new bases located just next to oil fields in areas such as Kirkuk.
Washington then would be able to offer the new Hashemite kingdom as a model for other Arab states, combining what the Arab masses see as the advantages of a traditional monarchy with the benefits of a U.S. alliance. The potential combination of educated Iraqis, U.S. aid and military assistance, and oil revenues might help the new state become a beacon for the Arab world to follow.
Were more states to adopt this example, the geopolitical influence of both Saudi Arabia and Egypt would decline, making it easier for Washington to deal with them. In case of a future conflict with Saudi Arabia or Iran, U.S. forces would be in the ideal position to strike not only from sea but also from land by using new bases in the Hashemite kingdom and the Kurdish region.
Possible benefits for Israel and Jordan
The interest of Israeli experts and media to the Jordan-Iraq plan could be explained by the benefits Israel may get if the plan goes through. Iraq, arguably Israel’s most determined foe, would be eliminated. Baghdad’s end would deprive the Palestinians of much financial and other assistance, which could reduce the effectiveness of attacks against the Jewish state.
King Abdullah would vastly expand his role and prominence in the region with a joint Hashemite state, becoming the second-most important U.S. ally after Israel. In addition to his huge territorial gains, he also would get a chunk of Iraqi oil. And Palestinians, who currently make up half of Jordan’s population, would become a minority in the new state, with much less potential to stir up trouble.
The plan may not be free of negative consequences for Washington, however. Iraq’s Shia majority – whose anti-Hussein opposition seems currently divided between the United States and Iran – probably would not agree to become a part of the new kingdom. Iran may interfere by urging Iraqi Shias to join with Tehran. Washington might counter by agreeing to attach the Shia Iraqi region to Kuwait, Israeli media speculates. Turkey, despite a U.S. military presence in Kurdish areas, still might have reservations about the plan. Finally, it is unclear how Sunni tribal and other leaders inside Iraq would react.
At this point, it does not seem that any decision has been made. Even if Washington did opt for a Jordan-Iraq plan, it would not make this goal public until Hussein was overthrown in order to secure Arab and Turkish support of the war, however half-hearted it would be.