Yesterday King Abdullah II of Jordan gave one of his regular interviews with the Western media, this time for the Wall Street Journal. As per usual, Abdullah reiterated his optimism that Obama is on the right track and, as has been his style in recent years, criticised Israel for not being coherent enough in its engagement with the peace process. Interestingly, the WSJ – often highly critical of Syria – included a question about Jordan’s northern neighbour at the end:
WSJ: One factor in all of this, and no one can really see where we are headed, is Syria…How is Jordan’s relationship with Syria and how do you see that?
HM: Jordan’s relationship with Syria is better than it has been in a long time; probably the best it’s ever been. … So the engagement now between the Syrian and Jordanian government on economic cooperation are at an all-time high. The Israeli-Syrian issue is obviously high on their priority list.
WSJ: The message you get from Syria is they’re ready to talk?
HM: Yes, they are ready to talk but again I think everyone is still trying to decide what this Israeli government is all about. The rhetoric is positive, but actions on the ground show us something completely different, so there is frustration from Syria towards Israel.
This, of course, betrays the WSJ’s ignorance or, perhaps, self-delusion about Jordan’s importance. He might be the friendly face of the Arabs for the Western media, but Abdullah has no influence over Damascus alone. If anything, Damascus is enhancing its clout with Amman due to the growing reliance by Jordan on Turkish trade (and water) that comes through Syria.