Diplomatic unease casts shadow on Jordan-Iran ties
Jordan cancelled a football match with Iran that was scheduled to take place in Tehran.
Better days. A 2014 file picture shows Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) walking with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Amman. (Reuters)
2017/04/23 Issue: 103 Page: 16
London - Diplomatic relations between Jordan and Iran are going through a period of unease following the trading of insults between Amman and Tehran.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said it summoned Iranian Ambassador to Amman Mujtaba Fardousi Bour to deliver a “strongly worded protest.”
The protest was against a statement from Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi branding comments Jordanian King Abdullah II made to the Washington Post as “silly and careless.”
King Abdullah told the American newspaper that Iran was involved in “strategic problems” in the region. “There is an attempt to forge a geographic link between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah/Lebanon,” he said.
He added that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps troops were within 70km of Jordan’s border and that non-state actors approaching the frontier “are not going to be tolerated.”
In a response published in Arabic by Iran’s Fars news agency, Ghasemi said: “It appears the Jordanian king made a fundamental and strategic mistake in defining terrorism.”
Ghasemi said King Abdullah’s comments showed “his ignorance and his superficial view of developments in the region.”
“It would be better if (King Abdullah) put aside some of his time to study the logic, history and geography of the region,” he said.
“It is advisable that the Jordanian king take a passing look first at the statistics released about the Jordanian terrorists joining [the Islamic State] and other blood-spilling and ignorant groups and then make an opinion on Iran which is on the frontline of the fight against terrorism and extremism and striving to strengthen security in the region,” Ghasemi said.
Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said Ghasemi’s “unacceptable” comments were “a failed attempt to misrepresent the central role the kingdom plays in supporting regional security and stability and fighting terrorism.”
Former Jordanian Ambassador to Tehran Bassam al-Amoush told the website AlkhaleejOnline.net that the “Iranian transgression against Jordan needed a strong response, especially since the proximity of the Iranians from the Jordanian- Syrian border represents a threat to Jordan.”
“Amman is an influential player in the region, and the Iranians must know that Jordan will not stand idly while Iran makes hostile statements or threats against Jordan,” he added.
Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani said: “We’re a country that deals positively with the rest of the world but such rhetoric (by Iran) is shameful and unacceptable.” He added: “Iran would be more welcome if its officials learn how to control their tongues.”
In response, the Arabic-language Iranian media outlet Alalam accused King Abdullah of being a “submissive… fixer for hire” to Arab Gulf sheikhs who reward his services with “crumbles and leftovers”.
“Jordan is bowing to pressure from the United States and Gulf states to accuse Iran of supporting terrorism in exchange for material support,” stated an article on Alalam’s website.
Amid the tensions, Jordan cancelled a football match with Iran that was scheduled to take place in Tehran in May.
Relations between Amman and Tehran were warm prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Jordan took Iraq’s side during its 1980-88 war with Iran.
Jordan cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016 in solidarity with Riyadh after Saudi diplomatic missions were attacked in Tehran and Mashhad by Iranians protesting the execution of Shia Saudi cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
The Jordanian government at the time stressed its condemnation “of the Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Arab states” as well as Tehran’s “interference in internal Saudi affairs,” in a reference to Iran’s criticism of Nimr’s execution.
“For years, Amman has been keen on having a policy of ‘minimal problems’ with the Iranians,” wrote the London-based Arabic newspaper Rai al-Youm. However, Jordan “has a lot of reservations on the Iranian intelligence, which Amman believes is trying to penetrate some of its institutions,” it added.
Jordan hosts tens of thousands of refugees from the war in neighbouring Syria and is part of a US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS). Amman has also provided support to Syrian rebels fighting ISIS. Those rebels are also opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which Iran staunchly backs.
The foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Syria discussed the redeployment of US military equipment to the border with Jordan during a meeting in Moscow, reported TASS.
“There have been some reports the United States has moved military equipment to Jordan’s southern borders,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was quoted as saying. “We discussed that question and I can confirm that we have common procedures against any aggression that might have occurred in relation to Syrian territory.”