Shehab Al Makahleh

Shehab Al Makahleh

The 28th Arab League Summit in Jordan which will be held in the Dead Sea area on March 29th, 2017 with the participation of Arab leaders, United National Secretary General Antonio Guterres and representatives from Russia, the USA, the EU and the Africa Union would be the last chance for Arab countries before getting into further chaos. This summit is the second to be held in Jordan since 2000, with expectation to push the Arab joint work forward at all levels, presenting a glimmer of hope to tackle most of today’s challenges facing the Middle East, offering opportunities to restart an Arab strategy regarding critical and significant matters as the future of the Arab League and Arab countries is at stake.

Amidst expectations of another wave of Arab Spring amongst the youth in the Arab world, especially after some political, economic and social reforms have yield to zero changes in people’s lives, many started to rethink of stage sit-ins to ask for further consideration of citizens demands in many Arab countries including the oil rich countries which have suffered from a decline in oil and gas prices and huge losses of return accordingly

The summit is a wakeup call to all Arabs that unless constructive measures are adopted by the leaders to solve the stumbling blocks in the Arab cooperation and coordination path things would aggravate as the youth will be losing faith in their governments.

The summit which is presided over by his Majesty King Abdullah II is very important for many in terms of its time and place. Time is critical as the whole Arab nation is passing through hardships whether politically or economically. The venue of the summit in the Dead Sea resorts will give the Israelis that Arabs are stuck to their Peace Initiative for a comprehensive and sustainable peace between Arabs and Israelis based on a two-state solution.

It is said that if the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad is not attending the summit, a representative will be attending and this could be from another country who Al Assad entrusts. What confirms this is the statement issued March 19th by the Jordanian foreign ministry that Syria will not be attending to Arab League Summit in Amman in compliance with Arab League resolutions. 

This summit is the most important in the life span of the Arab League at all as it either solves the pending issues, lead to rapprochement and end up rift among Arabs themselves to counter terrorism and the looming political and economic threats or many youngsters will consider joining radical and terrorism factions against governments.

The summit, according to internal sources, would send a message to the international community that there is a dire need to solve regional issues through a unified Arab stand that help narrow the gaps and rifts among Arab countries.

On the agenda so far are the conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq as well as the Palestinian cause. The visits by two Arab leaders to Washington in January and in March and their outcomes will be also on the table to give Arab leaders an idea how the new American administration is thinking and how the Arab leaders should deal with US President Donald Trump.

Russian participation in the Summit not symbolic

It is said that the Russian participation in the Arab League Summit will not be symbolic but rather it will be very effective due to the Russian key role in the war against terrorism in the Middle East which started with Russian military intervention in Syria.

Russian participation is viewed by some analysts as very important as it will be representing Syria as well expressing their views and perspectives with regard to means to counter extremism and terrorism at the international level. Some analysts said that Russia, Egypt and Jordan strived to invite the Syrian president to attend the summit and to reconcile both Al Assad and Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. Kuwait and the UAE like to see Syria back to the Arab League once again to give a boost to the joint Arab effort at the international arenas and to open a new page in the inter-Arab relations for the betterment of the Arab nation.

The summit will stress the need for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, condemning the flagrant Israeli arrogance and disrespect of international legitimacy based on the two-state solution. The summit which Jordan eyes is one that renders to turn it into a platform to launch “institutional and effective pan-Arab action”. Jordan pins high hopes that it will be able to achieve this goal and that Arab states would have the will to make a difference to the status quo and the hard conditions the whole region is undergoing through collective understanding and cooperation to remove all barriers that would hinder the solution of Arab differences. The kingdom is giving due momentum to the issue of peace between Palestinians and Israelis which is considered as the main reason for the deteriorating economic, military and political conditions in many Arab states.

Shehab al-Makahleh is a co-founder of Geostrategic Media, senior political and economic analyst and senior media adviser, IMESClub member





Jordan’s King Abdullah II ascended to the throne after King Hussein’s passing in February 1999. Ever since, he has ruled over a relatively stable country despite challenges and hardships ranging from terrorism and extremism to economic problems. Benefitting from its strategic location in the Middle East, Jordan is a model of tranquility and security as King Abdullah II usually says. The Hashemite Kingdom is gearing towards becoming an effective regional player, and the Arab country has worked hard to turn challenges into opportunities.

For the past 18 years, King Abdullah II has managed to fend off foreign threats and secure key alliances to protect the kingdom’s political and economic interests. Given Jordan’s location in the middle of a turbulent region and as a resource-poor country, the Hashemite Kingdom has long relied on foreign assistance, especially from Western and Arab Gulf states. The late King Hussein established very well-trained security and military forces that helped keep Jordan resilient despite hardships and pressures. The king’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in early February underscored Washington’s view of Jordan as a pivotal player in the Middle East and the US dependence on Amman for solutions to pending regional issues.

King Abdullah II is presently building on the national ethos of the Jordanian people to develop their country as a model for others to follow in terms of pluralism, cohesion, modernity, and moderation. To be sure, Jordanians of all backgrounds have built the Hashemite Kingdom, and this fabric enhances the unity of the people and their respect for fellow citizens regardless of religion or roots.

Since inheriting the throne in 1999, King Abdullah II has taken an oath to develop the Hashemite Kingdom and make it prosperous through balanced economic plans and socio-economic initiatives, launching private and public partnerships to help boost the country’s growth. The financial crisis of 2008/2009 hit Jordan hard and forced some of these ambitious plans to go on the backburner. In 2011, the Arab Spring uprisings which erupted across the Middle East were a wake-up call for all Arab leaders to implement political reforms and empower their citizens. The king established the foundation for reform that Jordanians sought with constitutional changes to enhance civil rights, separation of powers, and new parameters for the monarch’s responsibilities. The fruits of the political reform after 2011 were the formation of a constitutional court and an independent election committee, where the king plays the role of guarantor of the political reform.

Jordan’s young generation has high expectations, seeking economic and political reforms that can create jobs for recent university graduates. Although the country has been spared the chaotic unrest of some of its neighbors in recent years, the pressures of catering to the demands of a population that have endured the effects of belt-tightening economic reforms are real and continue to pose challenges for the government in Amman. Last month, protests took place across several Jordanian cities/towns (Karak, Tafliah, Salt, and Madaba) as a response to recently enacted austerity measures, including hiked taxes on food items and certain services. Many expressed anger at the “government of taxes” while calling for Prime Minister Hani Mulki’s resignation. Like other Middle Eastern countries, Jordan has a particularly high youth unemployment rate, which is approximately 29 percent, according to World Bank estimates. Last summer clashes broke out between protestors and police in Dhiban district, one of Jordan’s poorest areas. The protestors were demanding improved economic conditions and employment.

Within this context, officials in Amman are focused on addressing the Jordanian people’s concerns which include not only unemployment, but also water, electricity and living conditions. The King through his plans and policies is giving due support to civil society to become increasingly involved in Jordan’s development, helping the monarch save his country the calamities and scourges of the Arab Spring’s destabilizing fallout.

The Hashemite Kingdom receives ample support from many countries outside the Middle East, including the US, European Union, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan. This international support has been crucial as Jordan grapples with the challenges stemming from economic hardships exacerbated by the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the carnage in Syria. Indeed, the crisis in Syria has placed Jordan under heavy pressure, challenging Amman to protect the kingdom from future destabilizing spillover effects. Of course, the ongoing conflict in Israel/Palestine and Iraq’s tumultuous and violent state of affairs continue to threaten Jordan’s interests in terms of promoting a two-state solution in line with the Arab Peace Initiative, aborting terrorism, and countering extremism.

Without peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis, which is unfortunately difficult to imagine, the Hashemite Kingdom will continue to face daunting challenges. In addition to the influx of refugees, the country’s economy is under heavy pressure from the threat of Salafist-jihadist terrorists from Islamic State and other extremist factions in the Levant seeking new targets in the Middle East as the Islamic State loses its grip on Raqqa and Mosul. In the face of such economic and security threats, Jordan continues to want to present itself as an example of a thriving Arab state that embraces pluralism, pragmatism, tolerance, and moderation in a region beset by extremism and tumult.

With King Abdullah II hosting the Arab League summit in Jordan this month—the first in Amman since 2001—the Hashemite Kingdom will attempt to promote Arab consensus and unity on a host of issues. As proxy wars and inter-Arab rivalries have polarized the Middle East, such divisions have prevented the Arab League from finding viable solutions to grave regional crises. Although the positive effects of Arab League summits are usually minimal and expectations for this month’s meeting in Amman are justifiably low, the challenge of promoting realistic ideas for solving the problems facing millions of Arabs is one that Jordan’s ruler has fully accepted.

Shehab al-Makahleh (Sam Mak) is a senior advisor at Gulf State Analytics with experience as a political advisor in the United Arab Emirates, member of IMESClub. Photo: King Abdullah II

Initially published in LabeLog:

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