‘Jordan king may be next casualty of Syrian war’

On eve of Abdullah II’s talks with Obama, Senator Lindsey Graham says monarch may fall unless conflict on his northern border is contained

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (photo credit: AP/Ann Heisenfelt)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (photo credit: AP/Ann Heisenfelt)

A US senator warned Thursday that tension caused by the civil war in Syria could spell the end of the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan if the bloodshed does not cease in the near future.

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that “If [the Syrian civil] war doesn’t end soon, the king of Jordan is going to be a casualty.”

Jordan has taken in close to a half-million refugees from the conflict north of its border, and faces increasing threats from radical Islamist groups residing inside the country.

Fighting from the Syrian civil war occasionally spills over the border into Jordan; Jordanian troops occasionally engage armed groups along the Syrian border. A Jordanian soldier was killed at the border on October 22 while trying to prevent militants from infiltrating into Syria. In August, a Jordanian soldier was injured while assisting Syrian refugees fleeing the regime to enter Jordan.

Last week, newly appointed Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur told parliamentarians in a policy paper that the Syrian conflict threatens the stability of the Hashemite Kingdom.

Graham spoke shortly after American officials confirmed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own population. Following a briefing to senators by Secretary of State John Kerry, Graham called on the administration to develop a strategy “to contain the fighting so the Kingdom of Jordan does not fall.”

“There are enough chemical weapons in Syria to kill thousands, if not millions, of people,” Graham also told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday. ”I want the Syrian opposition council to agree to work with us, the international community, to secure those chemical weapons sites and destroy them.”

US President Barack Obama walks with Jordan's King Abdullah II to participate in an official arrival ceremony at the Al-Hummar Palace on Friday, March 22, 2013, in Amman, Jordan. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Barack Obama walks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to participate in an official arrival ceremony at the Al-Hummar Palace on Friday, March 22, 2013, in Amman, Jordan. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

The Southern senator’s statements came amid Jordanian King Abdullah II’s visit to Washington, a day before his second meeting with US President Barack Obama in the past two months. Obama paid the king a visit in Amman during his trip to the Middle East in March.

Abdullah met with Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday ahead of his Friday meeting with Obama, and the two discussed the logistics of transitioning neighboring Syria into a “peaceful, democratic post-Assad” state in which moderate elements are empowered. Biden reportedly vowed enduring support for the Hashemite regime.

Earlier this week, American officials confirmed the deployment of 200 Special Forces soldiers to Jordan to bolster the US ally’s defenses in case of the sudden collapse of the Assad regime. US Patriot missile batteries stationed in the Persian Gulf were also rumored to be deployed on the Jordan-Syria border to protect Jordan from missile strikes, according to Arab media reports. NATO has already deployed Patriot batteries on Syria’s northern border in Turkey.

Jordanian Islamists have opposed the American boots on the ground in Jordan and have called for Amman to review its decision to accept US troops in Jordan.

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