Marc Lynch

Jordan Going Darker

Jordan Going Darker

The Middle East Channel Editor’s Reader #8

King Abdullah’s approval this week of a controversial new law imposing potentially draconian controls over Jordan’s internet is finally drawing attention to the country’s increasingly dangerous political situation. 

The new law’s effort to stifle political expression puts at risk the Jordanian IT sector, which makes up some 14 percent of the country’s GDP, produces a very significant share of youth jobs, and is one of the few bright spots in its grim economy. It’s hard to see the gain in further alienating disaffected youth and crush their primary source of economic hope at a time of grinding economic problems and simmering political protests (for more background, see May’s Jordan, Forever on the Brink). Jordanians in the IT sector, as well as conbributors to its vibrant political public sphere, point to the irony of the famously dysfunctional Parliamentary system managing to suddenly work so effectively to produce this legislation out of all the real problems in the country it has spent years neglecting. 

It’s also hard to see much hope in the regime’s response to its political problems. The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is reportedly again discussing a push for constitutional monarchy which it has intermittently floated for the last five or six years. But there does not seem to be much of a sense of urgency. Instead, there has been a combination of more repression and more of the same, tired political games: rumors of yet another prime ministerial shuffle, plans for a Parliamentary election by the end of the year under an extremely disappointing new election law. Fears of replicating Syria’s bloody chaos may restrain protestors from fully challenging the King even with these escalating grievances, a familiar theme in Jordanian political history. But for how long can this be enough? And will a disappointing election be a trigger for simmering discontent to turn into something more? 

Last week, as part of our new weekly series of POMEPS Conversations with leading Middle East experts, I sat down with Curtis Ryan, one of the leading American experts on Jordan, to talk about the country’s political prospects. 

You can find more of these POMEPS Conversations here, including last week’s conversation with Gregory Gause about Saudi Arabia. For more on Jordan’s political situation, see

Jordan, Forever on the Brink: POMEPS Brief, May 2012

– Sarah Tobin, "Jordan’s Arab Spring: The Middle Class and Anti-Revolution" Middle East Policy 2012 (paywall)

– Andrew Barwig, "The new Palace Guards: Elections and Elites in Jordan and Morocco," Middle East Journal 2012 (paywall,  unless Michael wants to liberate it)

– Curtis Ryan, "Identity Politics, Protest and Reform in Jordan," Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 2011 (paywall)

– International Crisis Group, "Dallying With Reform in a Divided Jordan" (May 2012)

– Fida Adely, "The emergence of a new Labor Movement in Jordan," Middle East Report (2012)

– Jillian Schwedler, "The politics of popular protest in Jordan" FPRI (March 2012)

Tariq al-Tall and Lama Abu Odeh debate political opposition, the nature of the regime,  and Jordanian history. Jadaliyya

– Julian Barnes-Dacey. Jordan: Reform Before It’s Too Late.  European Council on Foreign Relations (April 2012)

– Jean-Loup Samaan. “Jordan’s New Geopolitics.” Survival: Global Politics and Strategy (2012).

– Shadi Hamid. How Stable is Jordan?  Brookings Doha (November 2011) [PDF]

– Naseem Tarawnah, "Jordan’s Internet Goes Dark," Foreign Policy (August 2012), and posts at The Black Iris:  "Hello Internet Censorship"; "When Jordan thought internet censorship was a bad idea"; "Jordan moves to censor internet, again"; and just scroll down. 

– David Schenker, "As Jordan stumbles, the U.S. response is crucial." WINEP (Sept 19, 2012)

As always, if I’ve missed something good let me know and I’m delighted to update!