Multi-disciplinary lessons


I’m reading The Complete Secrets of Happy Children, by Steve Biddulph. What has this got to do with the Middle East, I feel you wonder. Not a lot, but it does remind me that my honours thesis—A Discussion of Pragmatic Implementation of Peace Agreements—was inspired by a conversation I was having in a pub in Jerusalem. My interlocutors and I were discussing the Israeli–Palestinian dispute and the bad behaviour of each side. ‘We should treat them like children’, I said. ‘Put the offending party in a corner until they are willing to behave themselves!’ 

While I’m happy to report the resultant thesis was a tad more nuanced than that, it’s motivating principle remained the same! The arrogance of youth…

A pattern emerges


I’m reading Dennis Ross’s Doomed to Succeed, which examines the Israel–US relationship since Israel’s establishment. Starting with Truman, I’m up to the Clinton Administration.

A consistent pattern has emerged across the 70-year history. During those administrations that were more friendly to Israel, the ‘moderate’ (that is, pro-Western) Arab states did not drift away from America. And during those administrations that were more critical of Israel, those Arab countries that were antagonistic towards the US did not grow closer. Which is to say the closeness or distance an American administration has with Israel does not really impact on Arab relations with the US. 

According to Ross, the main motivating factor that the Arab states have displayed is security. Those states that look to the US for their security have grown closer to the US when the latter has shown both willingness and ability to provide that security. This pattern has been shown in regards to every administration I have read about in Ross’s book, and it is obvious the same pattern will be described in regards to Obama’s and Trump’s records—a persistent theme of this blog.

The other pattern that has emerged is that State and Defence officials have persistently suggested that America distance itself from Israel in order to draw the Arabs closer. Where American presidents have done so, they have usually been following this logic, but the result has never been subsequent friendliness of non-friendly Arab states.

As a post-script, I don’t mean to suggest that the pro-Western Arab states are not concerned about Israel, or that they haven’t suggested what America should do on many occasions. Rather what I am (well, Ross is) is suggesting, is that Israel has never been the determinant of the warmth or otherwise of Arab–US relations.

The Accidental Strategist 


Despite his best efforts, it’s just possible that President Obama accidentally stitched together the makings of a new Middle East favourable to Western interests. 

Let’s consider Obama’s record. During his administration: the distrust among Israelis and Palestinians became complete; Syria descended into civil war; Saudi Arabia and Iran began conducting a proxy war in Yemen; Egypt went from military dictatorship to Islamist ‘democracy’ to military dictatorship; Iraq went from mostly stable to failed state to Iranian client; the Islamic State rose out of nowhere and took over a third of Iraq; Iran became emboldened and free of UN sanctions (all the while continuing to pursue a nuclear option and missile technology), and is now openly supporting militias that defy Western interests in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, Syria. So, yes, he left the region worse than he found it (which, given his predecessor’s record, is impressive), but the conditions Obama created in the Middle East are ripe for meaningful improvement. 

This is because a key gripe of US strategists—and Trump as candidate—is the assumed expectation among America’s partners that because the US guarantees their security, they need have little responsibility for their actions (or lack thereof). But Obama provided the Middle East with new assumptions. The lessons he imparted is that America is not trustworthy and can no longer be relied upon to guarantee regional security. This created throughout the Middle East a mood that actors would have to help themselves. A wise Trump Administration would not reverse this mood, but rather guide it—a carrot and stick approach along the lines of ‘we will help those who help themselves, but thwart all those who defy us’. 

In order to understand how this policy might work, we first need to understand the region’s strategic environment, as this will explain why each actor acts as they do. 

In a long process beginning with the First World War and culminating during Obama’s presidency, the Middle East coalesced into three main groups of interest. The first is an unofficial ‘Status Quo Bloc’, consisting of most Arab states (Qatar, Syria and Oman being the exceptions). The Status Quo Bloc is Sunni and Arab. It wants things to stay as they are—monarchical or military dictatorships whose security is guaranteed by the US. These states have long experience in swatting away clumsy Western attempts to improve their human and civil rights record, and increasingly accept Israel (which shares their objectives and enemies) as a proxy member. 

The second group is the ‘Resistance Bloc’. Although its members have different end-goals, they are united in their desire to remove America as the source of Middle Eastern stability (since America props up their enemies). Led by Shi’ite, Persian Iran, the Resistance Bloc includes ‘official’ Syria, Hezbollah and, until 2012, Hamas. Iraq is a recent member (Iraq is mostly Arab, and most of its Arabs are Shi’ite. With America asleep at the wheel, Iraq was allowed to drift into Iran’s orbit of influence, a stunning defeat for the US, given all the blood and treasure it spent from 2003). 

The third group is harder to define, which is why I describe it as the ‘Sunni Islamist Continuum’, rather than Bloc. The common end-goal among all adherents is the establishment of a Sunni caliphate over the Middle East and, eventually, the world. But that’s where the commonality ends—some want to start with internal religious reform, others with the ruthlessly-enforced imposition of new rules over areas obtained militarily. Some are willing to work with the West in the short term, others are not. Few cooperate with each other and some fight each other. However, their common end-goal allows us to place them on a continuum from non-violent, political Islamist groups like Hezb u-Tahrir, to increasingly strident groups like the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas to Islamic State and its successors. Turkey and Qatar are also on the Continuum, and act accordingly. 

In a fascinating series of events sparked by the Arab Spring, this continuum almost coalesced into a genuine bloc. Turkey under Erdogan would like a Sunni Islamist Bloc to emerge, and so, after being snubbed by Assad in the early stages of the Syrian civil war, came out strongly against Syria and the Resistance Bloc. In the same period, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt. This saw Egypt leave the Status Quo Bloc. Sunni, Arab Hamas—part of the Resistance Bloc and based in Damascus—was so embarrassed by Syria killing so many Sunni Arabs that it pulled out of both Damascus and the Resistance Bloc. It had the courage to do so because of Egypt’s then-Sunni Islamist government. With Muslim Brotherhood control of Egypt (actively backed by Turkey) and Sunni Islamists on the rise throughout the region, it was thought by many that their time had come. 

However, in July 2013, the Egyptian military regained control of the country and re-joined the Status Quo Bloc. Turkey was on the outer (again) and Hamas realised it had lost badly, which is why it has become so reliant on Qatar. 

The existence of three distinct groups of interest both explains regional actions and the confusion of those commentators that appear to assume the region has only two main blocs, typified by Iranian–Saudi tension. 

The Status Quo Bloc sees the Resistance Bloc as an existential external threat, but the Sunni Islamist Continuum as an existential internal threat. The Status Quo’s diplomatic actions against Qatar is not so much because of Iran, but because Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and al-Jazeera, which is intent on highlighting the Status Quo dictatorships’ myriad shortcomings. (If Qatar’s isolation continues, look for Hamas to seek to re-join the Resistance Bloc and Iranian patronage.) 

As above, as a direct result of Obama’s choices, such as pressure on America’s friends (e.g. Israel), a deliberate lack of pressure on America’s enemies (e.g. Iran in 2009 and the nuclear talks), the pivot to Asia, no help to friendly regimes in need (e.g. Egypt in 2011), and entirely hollow threats (e.g. over chemical weapons), America’s enemies learned that they could defy American interests without consequence. And America’s friends learned that that would have to learn to take care of themselves. 

Iran’s undisguised activity in Iraq and Syria is the most obvious example, as is its missile testing and the recent admission—after years of obfuscation—that it was arming Houthis in Yemen all along. Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s military intervention in Yemen, to thwart Iranian interests, is another example, as is their willingness to countenance attempts to create an ‘Arab NATO’. The isolation of Qatar has provided Fatah (a Status Quo Bloc member) with the perfect opportunity to squeeze Hamas—hence the recent cessation of payments for Gaza’s electricity and the thousands of people still on the PA’s payroll ten years after Hamas kicked the PA out of Gaza. 

So, what is to be done? The new can-do spirit in the Middle East only works in our interests if those so doing are doing things in our interests. A Middle East strategy needs to be developed, one based on a realistic understanding of the Middle East, what our interests there are, and who helps us advance them (and who doesn’t). To put it bluntly, America and the West must thwart our enemies (the Resistance Bloc and the Sunni Islamist Continuum) and help our friends (the Status Quo Bloc and Israel). 

I know it’s not a popular view, but I think Trump is on the right path, mostly. He expresses support for those countries willing to act, and pressures those countries intent on defying America’s will. But he needs to refine this policy, and quickly.  

Take Syria. The West’s focus has been defeating Islamic State. But IS is a symptom of the wider Sunni Islamist Continuum, not the cause of instability. Remove IS and others will step up to the plate. More importantly, the Resistance Bloc is heavily involved in Syria, and is the group most likely to achieve its objectives there. Like it or not, the West’s long-term priorities are to thwart Iranian activities in Syria (and Iraq), not kill a few thousand bloodthirsty jihadis. While Trump (and Congress) are placing diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran, it’s all rather ad hoc. I’m not advocating regime change, but a strategic-level policy of thwarting—diplomatically, economically, and militarily (preferably by proxy)—as many Iranian actions as possible that are against US interests.  

Further, the current and unprecedented (though under the radar) security, intelligence and economic cooperation between Israel and the Status Quo Bloc is an unintended outcome of Obama’s policy of turning his back on America’s friends. Trump must be very careful that, as he demonstrates that America is once again engaged in the region, the Status Quo Bloc doesn’t become so comfortable as to hate Israel again. 

Likewise, Trump has to make sure that by rewarding good behaviour, he does not accidentally recreate the conditions where countries in the region once again become ‘free riders’, and head back to the position they were in before Obama stuffed things up / created the pre-conditions for a new Middle East. When America’s friends defy American interests (such as with unwanted settlements or funding yet more Wahhabi mosques), America must use its considerable leverage to put them in their place. 

This is all rather difficult to pull off, but Trump has two things in his favour. First, despite his personal erraticism, his Secretaries of Defence, State and Homeland Security, appear—mostly—to have the correct strategic view of Middle Eastern realities. Second, Trump appears to have the will to implement policies that aren’t domestically or internationally popular. If convinced the strategy outlined above would make America great again (and they would), he just might put them into action.  

Can Trump channel Kissinger?

 

With US President Trump about to embark on a Middle East tour, the conditions exist for a grand bargain, but does the US have the strategic vision to achieve it?

In the 1970s, US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger identified a rare alignment of the planets and re-ordered the Middle East. Consider the context; a Soviet-backed war against Israel in 1973 (the fifth such war in 25 years) was pushing the Jewish state to the precipice. The oil weapon, unsheathed by Saudi Arabia, produced the first great oil shock for the American economy. President Nixon, mired in the Vietnam and Watergate crises, was otherwise distracted. The American brand was in retreat across the world. 

By the end of Kissinger’s machinations, Israel had decisively won the war, embarrassing the Soviets; Egypt had been plucked from the Soviet camp (the US’s biggest Cold War win) and signed a peace treaty with Israel; a balance of arms was established whereby the 1973 war became the last state-to-state Arab–Israel war; and the Saudis were on their way into America’s fold, allowing for the uninterrupted flow of oil, which has underpinned the global economic rise over the last four decades. 

Now consider today’s Middle East. The policies of the last two US presidents have been dismal. Hundreds of thousands have died. The Arab Spring became an Islamist Winter, and at least four Arab states are currently either failed or nearly there. Countries that once relied on the US to protect their interests now have little trust in Washington. Russia, largely excluded from the Middle East because of Kissinger, has returned in dramatic fashion. Iran has risen from annoying supporter of global terrorism to the most important actor in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Its repressive regime faces little risk domestically. And, on top of that, it now has the license, signed by Barak Obama, to be a nuclear state in a decade. 

But amidst this chaotic outcome of shambolic policy lies the seeds of a grand bargain. That’s because all the parties that have once or might again heed the US want something, and only the US can deliver.  Let’s take a look at the main actors.

Saudi Arabia, most other Arab states and Israel want Iran contained. This includes less influence in Iraq and a defeat in Syria. Israel wants security from Palestinian terrorism (with or without a Palestinian state). The Palestinian Authority wants a state, though isn’t politically strong enough to deliver the minimum concessions, and it wants Hamas contained. Many Arab state leaders want a relationship with Israel, but cannot until the Palestinian question is answered. And the entire Arab leadership wants Islamists undermined, even though they offer little alternative.

Without being too prescriptive, here’s what Trump should be aiming for. Nothing can happen until the Iranian–Russian relationship is effectively severed. Russia is transactional (as, happily, is Trump). Russia should be assured its naval infrastructure in Syria will remain and, more importantly, it should be granted a ‘privileged sphere of influence’ in Eastern Europe, by stopping any hints of NATO expansion and removing support for Ukraine, as well as the removal of anti-ballistic missiles from Poland and the Czech Republic. In return, the US should make clear that the Middle East is its own privileged sphere of influence.

Iran wants to upturn the regional order and replace the US as regional hegemon. Its strategic objective, not its religion, makes it an ideological enemy of the West, and it should be countered, by sanctions, by proxy wars and by funding opposition groups. Remember, it wasn’t UN sanctions that brought Iran to the nuclear negotiation table, but a European Union decision (forced by American action) to exclude Iran from the SWIFT international finance regime.

Saudi Arabia and Israel each have a role to play in countering Iran.

The other group of interest ideologically committed to undermining the West is the Sunni Islamists. The public and private financial support for violent Islamist groups—including those fighting in Syria—needs to end. The Saudis have come a long way since September 2001, but they have a long way to go. By acting against Iran, the US will create considerable leverage over the Arab states to make demands.

On Syria, the US needs to realise that Islamic State isn’t the principle enemy, and needs to make clear that the only way to prevent an Iranian win is a Saudi-led Arab occupation of the country, with US support—a policy of ‘we will help those who help themselves’. With American assistance, Arab country troops should enter Syria and fight all groups associated with Iran, including Hezbollah, Iranian soldiers (if they don’t pull out) and the myriad ‘Popular Mobilisation Forces’. Syrian soldiers will stand down very quickly. Any other group, such as al-Qaeda, that fights this Arab–US coalition, must be swatted aside. Once stabilised—and it wouldn’t take long—the Arabs and the world would be in a position to determine what to do next while Arab (not American) troops occupy the country. The outcome would not be excellent by any means, but it would be better than the status quo, and it would mark an undeniable defeat for Iran by its principle enemies.

Despite finally getting some real aid from the US, the Kurds are drifting towards the Iranian camp, because Iran might give them want they want—independence, or at least greater autonomy in Syria. Kurdish support must be won to the West, and the West, notwithstanding Turkish objections, should promise the Kurds a homeland.

In exchange for action against Iran, Israeli settlement activity must be restrained, and some helpful unilateral moves (such as small withdrawals or issuing of building permits in Area C of the West Bank) should be encouraged. The Palestinian leadership lacks popularity for two reasons; peace with Israel has not brought tangible benefits and endemic corruption. With the threat of reduced aid, corruption must be made to end, and pressure on Israel to make the unilateral moves will help Abbas’s popularity. (But Israeli moves cannot be seen as occurring because of violence, as that will benefit Hamas and harden Israeli attitudes.) Official Palestinian celebrations of violence, such as naming youth events after suicide bombers, must end immediately.

Only the US has the ability to achieve these ends. Pursuing this strategy will not create Utopia. People will still be killed. The losers—Iran and its proxies—will respond with terrorism. But what the above represents is a strategy, not merely a collection of ad hoc tactics. What has been missing for the last 20 years is strategic vision in the US and the right constellation of events on the ground. The latter is now in place. Will Washington step up to the plate?


Ehud Ya’ari is one of the few ‘must-read’ Middle East analysts. He writes well, with authority but without emotion, and he’s usually spot on. He’s written an article in Foreign Affairs about Iranian plans for the Levant, and ended it with concrete proposals for US policy:

In responding to Iran’s plan to secure influence in the Levant, the Trump administration should work with its regional counterparts to thwart Iran’s attempt to build these two corridors. Turkey, a NATO ally, should be encouraged to resist Iran’s efforts to dominate, through the corridors, the main trade routes serving large amounts of Turkish exports to the Arab world. The Kurds, both in Iraq and in Syria, should be provided military equipment to face the Shiite militias. Jordan should assist the Sunnis of western Iraq, as well as the Shamar Bedouin federation of the Syrian desert, which has traditional ties with the Saudis, in organizing their own forces. The United States should back Israel’s effort to prevent the Iranians from securing a foothold on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. But above all, the United States should continue talking with Russia and insist that sooner rather than later, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad will have to go.

A view from Saudi Arabia


A young academic in Saudi Arabia has written an impassioned and respectful open letter to Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Salman about the challenges he ought to address.

It’s worth a read, even if the remarks on co-opting Wahhabi Islamism to modernity is a bit hopeful, and he essentially avoids the third interest group in the Middle East—what this blog dubs the Sunni Islamist continuum (and that Sunni Islamist movements and militias obtain substantial private Saudi donations).

Still, the recognition that Saudi Arabia has to move away from an oil economy (and hints on how to do that), the need to confront Iran and entertain relations with Israel are all important.

Worth watching


An article worth reading reveals Hezbollah fighters are growing tired of their Iranian overlords in Syria, and are causing problems upon their return to Lebanon. A way to fix the situation might be for the Hezbollah leadership to refocus the fight against Israel, as opposed to against fellow Arabs. Watch for increased anti-Israel rhetoric and maybe, if things from a Hezbollah perspective get bad enough, attempts to spark renewed confrontation with the Jewish state.

A word to the wise


Israel should not let itself be carried away by having Trump in the White House. Four years of unrestricted settlement growth will only produce an eventual backlash. Rather, now is the time to build ‘economic peace’.

The recent UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements provoked critical comments from the Australian government (which isn’t on the Council). The peace conference in Paris (for which Israel wasn’t present) provoked critical comments from the British government. And with the Trump ascendancy, there is now a pro-Israel administration in the US (though Trump may well prove to be unpredictable). 

The alignment of conservative governments in these three English-speaking countries (especially since the UK will be increasingly independent of EU foreign policy) has the Israeli government salivating, given the sustained diplomatic pressure placed on Israel during the Obama years.

Indeed, a day after the Trump inauguration, Israel announced hundreds of apartments will be built in east Jerusalem, with Netanyahu boasting he will be ramping up construction in the settlements.

But Netanyahu ought to be cautious, for a couple of reasons.

Although a large segment of the American public love Trump, an equally large section loathes him, as does much of the media. Polite society around the world find him a caricature, at best. If Israel seeks to do whatever it wants, protected by Trump, the popular hatred of Trump will be extended to Israel by association. 

Further, after a couple of years of international diplomatic frustration, the next US administration will pile pressure on Israel as a way to expunge memory of the Trump era, in much the same way that Obama immediately put pressure on Israel, after eight years of American support under Bush. (And there is little doubt, given the depth of feeling about Bush, Obama and Trump, that Trump’s replacement will be an anti-Trump, in much the same way that Obama was an anti-Bush and Trump is an anti-Obama.)

However, the Trump presidency provides an opportunity for Israel. Many, including myself, argue that sustained international pressure on Israel is counter-productive, since it convinces Israel that the world will not have its back when it comes time to make potentially dangerous concessions. Well, now a supportive administration is in place. I’m not suggesting that Israel withdraw precipitously from the West Bank, as this will only encourage terrorism. But Netanyahu and others have spoken in the past of ‘economic peace’, and of building up the Palestinian Authority as a responsible economic actor ahead of, or hand-in-hand with, further withdrawals. This doesn’t mean merely pressure on the Palestinians to curb corruption (though that is vital). It means Israel putting in place measures that really help Palestinian individuals, businesses and government. With Trump in the White House, and conservative governments in London and Canberra, Netanyahu has a unique opportunity to have the international community offer the right balance of carrots and sticks to the Palestinians at the same time Israel does. Will Netanyahu recognise and grasp this opportunity, or will he bow to populist tendencies, and reap the whirlwind in four years time?

The Game of Camps vs Two Blocs and a Continuum

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Former Israeli Deputy National Security Advisor Eran Lerman (now at the Begin–Sadat Centre) has penned a 30-odd-page summary of the strategic environment of the Middle East, which he has dubbed the ‘Game of Camps’. It almost exactly matches the assessments made in this blog, which means I like it very much!

The key difference in the report is, whereas Lerman (and others, including another of my favourite academics, Jonathan Spyer) divide the Middle East into four camps, I say there are three. I combine Lerman’s Islamic State (‘and other al-Qaeda offshoots’) with his Muslim Brotherhood camp, into what I call the Sunni Islamist continuum (‘bloc’ is too strong a term).

Lerman makes the distinction between the two in how they use or don’t use violence, and accept or reject existing state structures – one wants to break them down, the other does not. (Another way to make the distinction is to classify them as being either salafi or otherwise). Both are legitimate ways to make such a distinction, but I’m not sure that such a distinction needs to be or should be made. Groups like the Brothers want to, eventually, combine Muslim states into a regional or global caliphate. But, for now, they’re willing to work peacefully within the physical and administrative/political bounds of their own countries. But is this an ideological rejection of violence, or a tactical decision due to a perception that violence doesn’t work? I think the latter, and my evidence is the pride of place pro-jihadi figures like Sayid Qutb have in the Brotherhood pantheon and, of course, the fact that hamas is officially part of the Brotherhood.

It’s worth remembering that part of al-Qaeda’s founding concept was that violence against strong states like Egypt didn’t work to advance the caliphate. In a way, both the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda came to the same conclusion – the Brothers in Egypt don’t use violence because it doesn’t work and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan used violence against America because violence against the ‘near enemy’ didn’t work.

So, for me, a member of the Sunni Islamist continuum is a person or group that believes that their interpretation of Islam takes precedence over political/state institutions (as we in the West perceive them) and who are willing to act on this belief. Hence, the continuum ranges from groups like the Brothers, to hamas and through all the way to Islamic State.

But all of this is rather academic. Lerman’s work has more parallels with my thinking than differences, only he writes with more and better examples and decades of experience. If you’ve got an hour or so spare, and want to learn about the coming years in the Middle East, read Lerman’s work.

Whither Jordan?


There’s nothing in this article from the Washington Institute to suggest that Jordan is on the precipice, but it’s a timely reminder that a Jordanuan collapse would be catastrophic to Western interests in the Middle East.

Jordan has numerous key population blocs, each of which are influential for different reasons and to whom the establishment must cater. 

The Bedouins that make up the original population of Jordan, but who are today a minority in the kingdom, form the bulk of the military’s officer corps and the public service. They feel that ‘their’ country (and the privileges to which they feel entitled) has been progressively given away to foreigners. 

Palestinians, most of whom are descended from the refugees of 1948, form the country’s majority. Though most have full Jordanian citizenship, they have retained their own national identity, and form a pressure group within Jordan for the King not to be too friendly to Israel. They make up the bulk of the private sector, but are relatively excluded from the public sector. 

There are also hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Some are rotting in refugee camps, others are living in the country’s few cities, begging, working for next to nothing and paying sky-high rent. 

Jordan has long been a loyal, if not particularly influential, member of the Status Quo Bloc. Its wants and needs are closely aligned to those of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel (the latter being only a proxy member of the bloc) – stability and US security guarantees. The problem is, Jordan has next to no resources, which limits its influence. 

Support for Islamist movements ranging the full Sunni Islamist continuum – from Muslim Brotherhood to Islamic State is growing in Jordan. And, as elsewhere, the perceived exclusion from the ‘rightful privileges’ of individuals belonging to various communities is often a pathway to Islamist extremism. 

With poverty, unemployment, cost of living, competing communities, fresh waves of refugees and a relatively impotent government (mostly because of unintentional constraints rather than unwillingness or incompetence), the challenges to Jordan are immense and unlikely to lessen soon. 

Were Jordan to descend into chaos, it would mean the instability that is characterised by Syria and Iraq would continue into Jordan – a contiguous slab of chaos in the Middle East. It would mean more ungoverned territory in which extremist groups could train and operate. Jordan’s long border with Israel would be a nightmare should the country collapse, as jihadis would seek to attack the Jewish state. This might well draw Israel into fighting in a way that the violence in Syria never has. It would also be a powerful symbol of failure if a pro-Western, pro-Saudi country going under at a time when Iran is on the ascent. 

While I don’t think it’s inevitable that it will happen, I can’t actually think of any pragmatic policies (i.e. affordable, actually implementable policies that wouldn’t create serious blowback) the West can implement vis-a-vis Jordan to help prevent it from happening.