Israel-Jordan-Egypt alliance deepens


Two recent media reports of Israeli drones operating over Jordanian and Egyptian territory have not been acknowledged or commented upon — unsurprisingly — by any of the governments involved.

What is surprising, however, is that such reports now barely create a stir in the region.

Israeli military assistance to its two neighbours, while low-profile, is almost de rigueur in the context of the intensifying battle against Islamic State (IS).

The immolation of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh by IS last week brought Jordan’s fight against the jihadis temporarily into the headlines but the challenge that the fundamentalist movement poses to the Hashemite Kingdom is constant and enduring.

IS has been adept at latching on to unrest in Jordan’s poorer regions and exploiting the growing tensions between its Bedouin, Palestinian and other Sunni communities.

The gruesome death of its pilot has given King Abdullah an opportunity to focus his subjects’ minds on what he would like to treat as an external enemy — although the true threat is from within. IS has many Jordanian members and remains popular in some quarters despite this latest atrocity.

Jordan needs Israeli assistance, particularly with advanced surveillance and intelligence, to close its borders to IS infiltration and launch more effective air-strikes. The return of Jordan’s ambassador to Israel last week, withdrawn last year in the wake of the violence around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, was not a coincidence.

King Abdullah is facing an existential threat while, for Israel, Jordan is crucial as a moderate and functioning buffer zone on its longest border to the east. In these circumstances, security considerations trump issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The same is true about Egypt, perhaps even more so. Under General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the battle against Islamic radicals has widened — both on the streets of Cairo and other cities against the Muslim Brotherhood; and in Sinai, against Ansar Bait al-Makdas (ABM), which swore allegiance to IS.

In this context, Israel’s enemy, Hamas — the Brotherhood’s protégé — is also an enemy of the Egyptian regime, which accuses it of aiding ABM.

Co-operation between Israel and Egypt over the security situation in Sinai is closer and more constant than ever. The Egyptian army is, for the first time, seriously destroying the tunnels to Gaza and all talk of Egypt-brokered talks on Gaza’s future is on hold.

The security ties between Israel, Egypt and Jordan are now also part of a wider alliance which includes Saudi Arabia, where the concern over IS and other jihadis exists alongside the fear of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Exasperated by the Obama administration’s apparent eagerness to include Iran in any future regional solution, US allies in the Middle East are overcoming their differences and looking to each other for support.

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