Jordan ‘deeply worried’ about Israel-Gaza escalation as it calls for US air defence missiles

Jordan is “deeply worried” about situs slot the Israel-Gaza conflict spiralling into a wider regional war, an expert has said amid fears of an escalation that will threaten the security of other Arab countries and test their alliances.

On Monday, Jordan called for the US to deploy Patriot air defence missiles to bolster its borders as the next phase of the war arrives, throwing its often strained relationship with Israel into the spotlight.

Jordan participated in the three Arab-Israel wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973, before signing a peace treaty with the country in 1994, an unpopular decision with its people. It is a close partner of the West, particularly the UK and US, and maintains strong relations with countries in the EU.

It also has a large Palestinian population, and Queen Rania, who is married to Jordan’s long-serving monarch King Abdullah II bin al-Hussein, is Palestinian.

Though it has recently condemned Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, Jordan maintains a strategic partnership with the US, Israel’s greatest ally, and is financially dependent on the $1.25bn it receives every year.

Dr Tobias Borck, senior research fellow for Middle East security at the Royal United Services Institute, said this was because Jordan is “deeply worried about the [Israel-Gaza conflict] spiralling into a wider regional conflagration”.

“Jordan is in a very unique but also very challenging position in the Middle East,” he told i.

“It has for years been worried about Iran and Iranian-backed militia in Iraq. It has long felt surrounded by threats, so of course it welcomes any further military support it can get from the US and the West.”

Despite the threat from Iran, it is very unlikely the state will itself declare war on Israel, and the more immediate threat would be from Iran-backed militant groups, he added.

“Militias in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, all of which are not proxies of Iran but certainly very close partners and supported by the state – that’s the most likely next escalation.”

Dr Neil Quilliam, associate fellow with the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, said Iran engaging in warfare would “risk its own security back home, inviting Israel to carry out a series of punishing air strikes against sensitive targets and also risk drawing the US into the conflict”.

He said that “despite the uptick in exchanges” of fire between Israel and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in the north, “Hezbollah has little appetite for engaging in an all-out war for the sake of Hamas, which would not only risk its current position in Lebanon, but also expend its arsenal and leave Tehran more vulnerable to Israel and US counterstrikes”.

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, professor of global thought and comparative philosophies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, said Hezbollah is “Iran’s most powerful strategic ally in the region”.

“Both the Iranian state and the Hezbollah leadership closely liaise their steps towards crises like these, even in terms of command structures for military operations.

Hezbollah supporters in Beirut protest against Israel’s attack on Gaza (Photo: Bilal Hussein/AP)
Hezbollah supporters in Beirut protest against Israel’s attack on Gaza (Photo: Bilal Hussein/AP)

“The degree of co-ordination is not comparable to any other alliance in the region, certainly not to Iran’s relations with Hamas which are politically close, but not always strategically aligned.”

He added that “Iran will continue to push and shove in order to signal to Israel the limits of a military solution to the conflict”.

Dr Borck said a key question that should be addressed right now is what the future Palestinian leadership looks like.

“A number of Arab countries are going to be really important in helping a new strong legitimate leadership emerge,” he said, saying we should be looking for the next moves of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

“I don’t think the future Palestinian government can’t include Hamas – I don’t think that is palatable for anyone.”