7 NOVEMBER 1958, Page 8

Jordan's Future

By ROY JENKINS, MP BRIT'S!i troops This is a highly disputable propositio:I. But even its acceptance raises in acute 1.,1-1 the question of whether we should again ,g1-..e cox- selves so little room for manoeuvre. Are we to move troops into Jordan whenever King Hussein feels threatened and to move (hem out again when he feels a little more secure?

The consequence of accepting such an obliga- tion would be disastrous for Britain's position • in the Arab world. We would be singling 0!.!. the Jordanian regime as the one government in the region whiCh• we were prepared to support -with force. As such, it would inevitably appear as the chosen instrument of British policy in the Whole Middle,East. It is difficult to imagine a more unfortunate instrument to choose. The policy of running client regimes and attempting to build up one bloc of Arab States against another was unwise even before last July. But if it was unwise while King Feisal was 'still on his throne in Baghdad, it would now be insane. Jordan and Iraq together provided an inadequate basis for such a 'policy. Jordan alone would be a ludicrous basis.

In the first place .the country is, as everyone knows, economically unviable. It can exist only on subsidies, previously provided by Britain but now supplied by the United States. Secondly, the Hashemite regime in Jordan is, almost cer- tainly, the least popular government to be found anywhere in the Middle East. Everyone now agrees that the fatal.weakness of Nuri es-Said in Baghdad was that 'he was 'supported by practically nobody except the King, the Crown Prince and the British Ambassador. There is little reason to assume a greater strength for the government of Samir Rifai in Amman. The only question at issue is whether the Jordanian army will prove more loyal to its sovereign than its Iraqi counter- part did to his cousin. In Amman it is argued forcefully that this will certainly be so. But an element of doubt remains in my mind, partly because the view that the Iraqi army was notoriously disloyal is so obviously hindsight, and partly because the high-ranking Jordanian officers whom I met seemed .fairly cautious in their loyalties. • In any event, a faithful army, although in itself highly desirable, is hardly a full substitute for civilian popularity. One of the dangers of British thinking here is that in the absence of free elections it should be held impossible to dis- tinguish between a popular government and an unpopular one. No Middle Eastern Arab State is a model of parliamentary democracy. But this does not mean that a clear distinction cannot be drawn between a government which enjoys a good deal of mass support, like that in Egypt, and one which does not, like the former regime in Iraq. And there is no doubt that Jordan is much nearer to the latter category.

In addition to its economic weakness and to its dismal lack of popular support, the government of Jordan also has the distinction of living In the most unrealistic atmosphere to be found any- where in the Middle East. To travel round the rest of the area and then to arrive in Amman is to enter a dream world :• a world where there is belief in the possibility of a counter-revolution in Iraq; where recent events in the Lebanon are seen as an important tilting of the balance of power against Nasser; and where the UAR is believed to be on the verge of collapse. But this optimism, even when it is supported, as in the case of the King himself, by great personal courage, fails to carry conviction. To construct a post-Suez and • a' post-Baghdad basis for a successful British policy in the Middle East will be difficult enough in any case. To do so while singling out the Jor- dan regime for especial support will be impossible.

This does not mean that the withdrawal of British troops will necessarily be followed closelY by the, collapse of the Jordanian State. The country and even the present government maY easily survive for some time. But this will net be due to the inherent stability of the regime. It will be due, first, to the Jordanian government having used the interval provided by the British occupation to gaol or exile a large further batch of its opponents; and, secondly, to the fact that the balance of conflicting forces in the Middle East is such that it may at present be in nobody's interest to promote upheaval in. Jordan.

Iraq has no desire to undertake external finan- cial liabilities. Nor, probably, has Egypt; and in this case there is a further strategic complication. Revolution in Amman might encourage the Israelis to advance to the Jordan River. In these circumstances Cairo would have to try to defend the Arab world against such a loss of territorY, and the attempt might prove embarrassing t° Abdul Nasser's military prestige. It may well be that in fact the Israelis would make no such move. They might rate the absorption of a big, Arab minority and the alienation' of world opinion as more than neutralising the advantage of a good strategic frontier. They may be 35 unenthusiastic as anybody else to take over the liability of Jordan. But so. long as their exPall‘ sionist tendencies are accepted in Cairo, 3 spurious stability-may, paradoxically. be give" to the area.

British policy should be that of leaving these conflicting forces to work themselves -out. If the_Y lead to the survival of the present Jordanian. government, well and good. But if they do 11°` the result should also be accepted. The alterna- tive is to accept a dangerous continuing colnon,`_. ment, to tie up our prestige with that of the weakest regime in the area, and to incur the odium of still appearing as a major obstacle 47 Arab unity.