By James M. Dorsey

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Jordan’s King Abdullah is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Hamas and its regional supporters, as well as Israeli politicians and vigilantes, are pressuring King Abdullah from both ends of the political spectrum.

Iranian-backed Syrian and Iraqi militants seek to draw the kingdom, in which Palestinians account for at least 50 per cent of the population, into the Gaza war.

Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran want to turn Jordan into a regional flashpoint and funnel for weapons for Palestinian militants on the West Bank.

“The Iranians have instructions to recruit Jordanians and penetrate the Jordan arena through agents. Their recruitment efforts span all segments of society,” said Saud Al Sharafat, a former senior Jordanian intelligence official.

In support of Hamas, Iranian-backed Iraqi groups in January attacked a US military base, killing three American soldiers and wounding at least 34 others.

Iran was quick to rein in the militias after the United States retaliated with a series of airstrikes.

At the other end of the political spectrum, vigilante Israeli settlers have attacked Jordanian humanitarian truck convoys as they traversed the West Bank en route to Gaza.

At the same time, Israeli politicians, with far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in the lead, complicate King Abdullah’s life with provocative visits to the Jordanian-administered Temple Mount or Haram ash-Sharif, Islam’s third holiest site. Jordan is Haram ash-Sharif’s custodian.

King Abdullah has put himself in the firing line by intercepting Iranian drones traversing Jordanian airspace in the Islamic Republic’s massive April 19 drone and missile attack on Israel and cracking down in March and April on pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

King Abdullah defended the downing of Iranian drones violating Jordanian airspace as an act of self-defense, insisting “Jordan will not be a battlefield for any party.”

Even so, King Abdullah, dependent on US military and economic support, may not have had a choice but to take down the drones.

Critics posted concocted images on social media of the king wrapped in an Israeli flag or donning an Israeli military uniform with comments such as “traitor” and “Western puppet.”

Hamid Jahanian, an engineer, congratulated King Abdullah, “who not only failed to support the fellow Arab Palestinians but also took the extra mile to support their genocidal murderer.”

The crackdown and assistance in Israel’s defense have drowned out the fact that Jordan is the only Arab country to have withdrawn its ambassador to Israel and consistently sends aid to Gaza. Jordan is one of five Arab countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.

Meanwhile, Jordanian sources assert the Muslim Brotherhood organised the protests.

With an unemployment rate of approximately 22 per cent and nearly half of young people unable to find a job, officials feared that the pro-Palestinian demonstrations could morph into social and economic protests.

Long a close US ally, King Abdullah’s predicament highlights the Gaza war’s potential to further destablise the Middle East.

Jordan’s geography doesn’t help with the West Bank on its Western border, Syria in the north, and Iraq in the east.

The pressure on King Abdullah comes as politics could spark paradigm shifts in several key Middle Eastern states, including Israel and Iraq.

King Abdullah likely sees benefit in Binyamin Netanyahu’s space to maneuver narrowing as a result of mounting Israeli public pressure to free Hamas-held hostages by ending the Gaza war and international courts acting to force Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza and hold the prime minister and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant accountable for its war conduct.

Hamas’s recent rocket attack on Tel Aviv will probably offer Mr. Netanyahu a brief relief, if at all.

King Abdullah may also see mileage in popular Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr’s decision to reenter politics and compete in next year’s elections in a move that would challenge the pro-Iranian Coordination Framework, the backbone of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s government.

For now, King Abdullah’s crackdown on mass pro-Palestinian protests has reduced domestic pressures, even if widespread anger continues to bubble at the surface.

Even so, Jordan sources said earlier this month that security services had foiled a suspected Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons into the kingdom to help King Abdullah’s opponents carry out acts of sabotage.

The sources said an Iranian-backed Syrian militia had sent the weapons to Jordanian Palestinian members of the Muslim Brotherhood with links to Hamas, a Brotherhood affiliate.

In March, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency said it had foiled attempts by Iran to smuggle large amounts of advanced weapons into the West Bank.

Shin Bet said the smuggling was organized by Unit 4000, the intelligence unit of the Special Operations Division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Special Operations Unit 18840 of the Guards’ Quds Force in Syria.

The agency said Munir Makdah, a senior Lebanon-based official of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Al Fatah movement, was involved in the foiled smuggle.

It said the weapons cachet included fragmentation bombs, anti-tank landmines with fuses, grenade launchers, shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles, RPG launchers and rockets, and C4 and Semtex explosives.

In response to the most recent plot, Hamas insisted it had “no ties to any acts targeting Jordan.” A Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood official said its arrested members had acted independently.

Even so, Hamas leaders have repeatedly called on Jordanians since the Gaza war erupted in October to step up to the plate.

“We call on our brothers in Jordan, in particular, to escalate all forms of popular, mass, and resistance action. You, our people in Jordan, are the nightmare of the occupation that fears your movement and strives tirelessly to neutralize and isolate you from your cause.,” said Hamas military spokesman Abu Obeida.

Senior Doha-based Hamas official Khaled Mishaal, who survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Amman in 1997, told a women’s gathering in Jordan in a video address that “Jordan is a beloved country, and it is the closest to Palestine, so its men and women are expected to take more supportive roles than any other people towards the land of resistance and resilience.”

Iranian-backed Iraqi militants asserted in April that they stood ready to arm 12,000 fighters of the Islamic Resistance in Jordan that would open a new front against Israel.

Abu Ali al-Askari, a Kataib Hezbollah security official, suggested the offer was inspired by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s assessment that all Jordanian militants needed was access to weapons.

There is no evidence of an Islamic fighting force in tightly controlled Jordan despite mounting public anger, a limited number of border incidents, and the efforts by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iranian-backed groups.

Much of the threat of renewed protest and increasing militancy may be more bluster than real.

Scholar and journalist Rami Khouri suggested Jordan was managing a delicate balance, “but it’s always been there. The Jordanians have always figured it out… The situation is not going to threaten the stability of the country as long as you still have the large-scale American military (and) financial support for Jordan.”

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and the author of the syndicated column and podcast, The Turbulent World with James M. Dorsey.

By James M. Dorsey

is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.