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The Story the West has Buried: How Egypt's Moslem Brotherhood has Helped Foment This Week’s Riots in Jordan by Withholding Gas Supplies

by Rhonda Spivak, November 15, 2012

While Western media outlets have reported on the unprecedented protests that have erupted throughout the Kingdom in Jordan two days ago, they have failed to publish Egypt's role in fanning these protests, ones which could set off a process that ultimately could lead to the overthrow of King Abdullah of Jordan.

The violent protests, which erupted as soon as Jordan announced the reduction of subsidies on fuel, were very predictable, but the West, particularly the United States, appears to have done nothing at all to help the Hashemite Kingdom by pressuring Egypt to have resumed the supply of gas or meet its obligations to Jordan under their agreements post-Egyptian revolution. The hike in gas prices resulting in a 14 percent increase on prices at the pump, further directly hits the pockets of the average Jordanian as natural gas is used for cooking. The 50 percent increase in gas used for cooking affects the ability of Jordanians to put bread on their table-literally. Significantly, in these current protests, people have been directly calling for the overthrow of the King.

On November 1, the Jordanian Times, a mouthpiece of King Abdullah, published an article which pointed the finger at Egypt for its exacerbated fuel shortages. The article in my view was a plea for help, but the mainstream media didn't cover the story. In the article entitled "Government Criticises Egypt's Stance on Gas Supplies", Jordan openly alleged that "the new Islamist leadership in Egypt is using the energy issue as a means of pressure on Jordan."

The Jordanian government spelled out the fact that in its view Egypt has been purposely withholding gas supplies to the Kingdom in order to enable the Moslem Brotherhood, which is the only organized opposition in Jordan, to foment protest [with the purpose no doubt of unseating the King so that the Muslim Brotherhood can take over.]

Jordan, a non-oil producing country, has to import 97% of its energy needs, and it currently gets the bulk from Egypt. As of this October, there were approximately 150 days of interrupted supply, due to sabotage of the gas pipeline from Egypt in the Sinai, which has occurred repeatedly since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

The Jordan Times article quotes Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Samih Maaytah as saying, "We all have the right to politically question the behaviour of the Egyptian government especially in the aftermath of the revolution with regards to their non-abidance by the natural gas supplies agreement signed in 2004 and amended in the post-revolution phase."

The report continues, "He [Maayatah] noted that in the amended version of the deal, Jordan responded positively to the Egyptians’ demand to raise the prices of the vital commodity. However, Cairo did not abide by the quantities set in the agreement; leaving Jordan struggling with a widening budget deficit that officials and experts have warned has a social downside."

This article should have begun raising alarm bells in the West, and anyone who read it couldn't be surprised to learn of protests erupting in Jordan over the increase of fuel prices. The US provides Egypt with $1.5 billion in aid each year. It seems legitimate to ask what if anything has the United States under President Obama's leadership done up to now and what could it do in the future to pressure Egypt to keep its commitment to Jordan to supply gas ? Why aren’t any Western journalists asking the question?

On November 1, another article appeared in the Jordan Times as its lead article, outlining that "Egypt suspended pumping entirely this month in order to address a recent rise in local demand." It is interesting, isn't it, that Egypt cut all gas supplies to Jordan, during the past month when President Obama was working on his re-election, and America would be less likely to devote any attention to this. Was this timing just a co-incidence?

Isn’t it time to begin to ask if Obama could have and should have made it clear to Egypt that since it is sending Egypt an extensive aid package, it expects Egypt to live up to its gas commitments to Jordan and not undermine the Kingdom's stability? The US's aid to Egypt is supposed to be dependent on Egypt upholding its peace deal with Israel, and may be the only sway over Egypt that the United States really has.

A lengthy article on the Jordanian protests in the New York Times [one which like so many others fails to mention any suggestion that Egypt has helped fan the flames of these protests], refers to Jordan is as "an important ally of the United States, helping to preserve its peace treaty with Israel and offering crucial intelligence support in Iraq and on terrorism."

If that's the case, then maybe America should focus more on bailing out King Abdullah from his economic crises, and not just work on bailing out Morsi's government, especially if the latter is undermining the former? Where is the overall strategy here? Why not send more US foreign aid to King Abdullah and less to Morsi? [As an aside, one has to wonder, if Jordan eventually should plunge into civil war which side will the Americans help-the Hashemite Kingdom or the Muslim Brotherhood, or neither?]

Jordan relies on foreign aid and investment to cover deficits. As Blumberg Business Week has reported on November 15, "Grants from abroad have fallen by 98 percent to 25.8 million dinars in the first nine months of 2012 in the absence of donations from Arab states, particularly in the Gulf. Jordan is so short of money that it can’t pay for the cargoes carried by two fuel ships docked in the port of Aqaba, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said on November 13."

The tragic part about Jordan's fuel situation is that a real peace with Israel, not one that is paper thin, would solve Jordan's fuel problem. Israel is on line to become a net oil and gas exporter, with the Tamar gas fields, recently discovered scheduled to become operational within the next year. Israel could supply much needed gas to Jordan. However, unfortunately, the majority Palestinian population of Jordan, which has never reconciled itself to Israel’s right to exist within the region, likely would be against this normalization of trade with Israel. As such the King probably won’t be able to import gas from Israel.

It’s tragic, that ultimately Jordanian Palestinians would rather hate Israel than put food on their families’ tables—and plunge their immediate surroundings into chaos and instability.

P.S. If Jordan eventually should plunge into civil war, which side will the Americans help-the Hashemite Kingdom or the Muslim Brotherhood, or neither?

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.