News / Middle East

Syrian Civil War, Refugee Crisis Challenge Jordan

Syrian Civil War, Refugee Crisis Challenge Jordani
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October 10, 2013
Syria's civil war and the refugee crisis it has created are growing challenges to the government in neighboring Jordan.

Syrian Civil War, Refugee Crisis Challenge Jordan

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— Syria's civil war and the refugee crisis it has created are presenting a growing challenge to the government of neighboring Jordan.

The impact of the fighting in Syria is felt far beyond its borders; it has drawn in militia from Lebanon and Iraq and seen refugees flee to Turkey and Jordan.

In an interview with Turkish television, President Bashar al-Assad said all of Syria's neighbors are paying a price for the war against him.

"If we look at it as though it is a raging fire that is burning society, it must extend its reach.  So it's impossible that Syria will be on fire and Turkey is cold, comfortable. The same goes for Iraq and Lebanon and Jordan," explained Assad.

In Jordan, there have been demonstrations against the Kingdom's alliance with the United States.  It is a public discontent emboldened by the war in Syria, according to former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli.

"Domestic unrest and political unrest and popular dissatisfaction with governmental policies is present in Jordan.  And looking at what's happening in Syria influences that," said Ereli.

Fighting in Syria unsettles Jordan, which is already at the crossroads of regional crises, claims American University professor Akbar Ahmed.

"Sooner or later that would affect the Palestinians, draw in Hezbollah and then back to the Shia/Sunni confrontation and the regional powers. And that is a nightmare for Jordan," said Ahmed.

The most visible impact on Jordan is more than half-a-million Syrian refugees. Jordan's King Abdullah told the United Nations that, "the damage and dangers are mounting."

"These are not just numbers. They are people, who need food, water, shelter, sanitation, electricity, health care, and more.  Not even the strongest global economies could absorb this demand on infrastructure and resources," continued Abdullah.

That challenges the structure of Jordanian society, says U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

"They are going through huge demographic changes following the refugee influx, unsettling their social and economic fabric," explained Guterres.

Ahmed points out that this is all happening at an especially precarious time for King Abdullah.

"Jordan is a very fragile state. So it has a charismatic, intelligent, wise ruler but a fragile base to it," said Ahmed.

The demands of Syrian refugees only make that worse as Jordanian leaders try to insulate themselves from the conflict.

"It requires money, which they don't have. It requires flexibility, innovation, reform which they do have and they are working on.  But I would say it is a very tense situation," said Ereli.
 
Jordan wants to avoid being drawn further into Syria's civil war and is part of efforts by the United States and Russia to find a political solution to a conflict that has already killed more than 100,000 people.

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