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King Abdullah
photo by Rhonda Spivak

photo by Rhonda Spivak

Fuel for Thought: Is Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Purposely Trying to destabilize King Abdullah of Jordan by withholding gas supplies?

by Rhonda Spivak, November 6, 2012

In September I wrote an article about Canada trying to help Jordan with it's energy needs, which I considered to be an effort to help stabilize the Hashemite Kingdom, which is something that both the governments of Canada and Israel agree want to see happen. Abdullah signed a deal with Canadian Firm to Produce Oil Shale, which ultimately will reduce Jordan's need to import fuel. (To read it click here: ).

Jordan, a non-oil producing country, has to import 97% of its energy needs, and it currently gets the bulk of from Egypt. In the past year, however, 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 full extent and urgency of Jordan's fuel crisis can now be gleaned through an article published in the Jordanian Times on November 1, 2012 as its top story, as Jordan is going to have to take unprecedented emergency measures to tackle its fuel crises. The government is weighing options ranging from encouraging car pooling, to restricting the number of vehicles on the roads, to restricting the number of hours of lighting up roads. Under a current proposal, Jordan would cut in half the number of active streetlights among major routes while completely blacking out roads that have little evening traffic (As an aside, I have been on Jordanian roads in the North of Jordan in 2008 , and I wouldn't have considered them well lit at that time, and have a difficult time imagining driving roads at night with half as much light ].

One option being considered is “alternate driving days”, a system under which authorities would only allow cars on the roads with license plates ending in even or odd numbers on alternate days. As a " worst case scenario" the Kingdom is even considering " pre-planned regional blackouts," under which "electricity would be cut to various neighbourhoods across the country for as long as three hours a day in order to sustain electricity generation."

“The government views scheduled outages as an option of last resort, but it may be our last option left,” a Jordanian Cabinet source told the Jordan Times .
The article goes on to explain that the need to reduce fuel consumption comes "amid ongoing disruptions in Egyptian gas supplies, which as recently as 2010 served as Jordan’s main energy source, and rising international oil prices."
It continues saying that since the overthrow of Mubarak Egypt has been providing a lot less natural gas to Jordan, and that "Egypt suspended pumping entirely this month in order to address a recent rise in local demand."
Further down on the website of the Jordan Times, on the same day, there was another article in which the government of Jordan alleges that " the new Islamist leadership in Egypt is using the energy issue as a means of pressure on Jordan." The allegation quite simply is that Egypt is purposely withholding gas supplies to the Kingdom in order to enable the Moslem Brotherhood, which is the organized opposition in Jordan, to foment protest and ultimately unseat the Hashemite Kingdom.

The Jordan Times 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 Jordan Times 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. "
The article goes on to note that "The analyst in the London-based Asharq Al Awsat Arabic daily, Tariq Hmeid, accused Cairo in his column Wednesday that it seeks to 'fan the fire of Jordan’s domestic crisis' by further pressuring it economically, so that the Muslim Brotherhood can take advantage of the situation and fuel public protests."
Also , it mentions that op-eds in two Jordanian dailies on Wednesday opined that Egypt was without justifications to not respect its commitments under the agreement signed with Jordan.
Since the media in Jordan is far from independent, one can only assume that the Hashemite Kingdom published these two articles on the same day in the Jordanian Times, with the hope that someone in the West might pressure Egypt's Morsi to meet his obligations to Jordan.
It is also interesting, isn't it that Egypt cut all gas supplies to Jordan, this past month when President Obama has been working on his re-election, and would be less likely to devote any attention to this and/or threaten the withdrawal of US aid if Egypt does not live up to its commitments in Jordan.(not that Obama has been very forceful when it comes to keeping Morsi in line).
Is Jordan correct that Egypt is purposely failing to provide Jordan with gas to fuel an uprising against King Abdullah? My gut is that King Abdullah is no dummy. And when it comes to this issue, he's seen the light.
Update: Three more articles Nov 3 and Nov 4, 2012 show again how King Abdullah is desperately trying to find solutions ot Jordan's fuel crisis
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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.