Jordan’s Energy-Policy Options

Jordan’s Energy-Policy Options.

What will Jordan do? To date the most stable Middle East’s monarchy, Jordan is in many ways a litmus test of what could happen in the region, in terms of future geopolitical policies.

In the domestic field, prime minister Awn Khasawneh announced, last november, that his country is willing to revoke the sanctions against Hamas’militants, expelled from its soil since 1999 under american pressure. He called such decision a mistake politically and from a judicial point of view. This position could be the result of a long wooing from Qatar and Iran, both in search of a new alliance with the Hashemite kingdom in exchange for important economic advantages.

The regime in Tehran is plainly worried about loosing a strategical ally like Syria, and is trying to play a long standing attraction on Amman under the promise of a future pipeline that would bring to Jordan Iranian gas through Turkey or Iraq.

At the same time, Qatar is trying to do the same thanks to its renewed political activism in the region both as oil producer and as sponsor of the new Libyan government. Qatar is therefore getting more and more interested in Jordan’s affairs, pushing for its decision to let Hamas militants come back as they’re leaving from Syria. And Qatar as well has put an energy deal on the table: the construction of an LNG terminal far from the seashore of Aqaba, in the Red Sea. Engineers are already working on the project’s viability.

Jordan’s need of oil and gas supplies is predicted to redouble until 2020. Due to costant sabotages of Sinai’s pipeline, Jordan is looking to replace Egypt as an energy partner. Originally intended to damage Israel, these disruptions affected also Jordan economy. Moreover, Amman is dealing with the results of the Arab Spring’s turmoils and in this respect it could reach the decision of doing business with Qatar or Iran.

In this regional background Jordan offered to host direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials, to jumpstart the peace process with a special focus on the sensitive situation of West Bank’settlements. Many analysts share the common opinion of Israel’s increasing diplomatic isolation in the Middle East, connected to the decline of U.S. involvement in the area. And yet, Israel could be just the one to offer an economic agreement to Jordan meeting its energy needs. In this way it could overcome what analyst Daniel Levy calls “Israel’s porcupine syndrome” and open up to a more cooperative attitude toward Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf countries. It seems a common interest, at the moment, to limit Iranian expansion in the area. But an energy deal between Israel and Jordan is only wishful thinking by the liberal Haaretz newspaper, for now.

A pipeline form Israel to Jordan could also pass trough the West Bank, this would have important political implications: more resourses reaching Palestinian territories could boost the peace process. It’s exactly the gas that Israel has been searching with its drilling operations near Cyprus that offended Turkey last summer, which could reach Jordan bringing certain advantages to the Palestinians too. Whether it would pass trough the West Bank or not, a pipeline between Israel and Jordan would be less expensive and less ambitious than its rival project from Iran. But to do this, it is necessary to convince the Hashemite kingdom that it is more desirable to bind its energy future – and also its political one – to Israel than any Iranian option.

paoladifraia@gmail.com

from Aspenia 1/30/2012

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