Arab summits have faced many challenges and rarely ended with fruitful results. The Kingdom of Jordan is doing its best to bring all parties to the table to resolve the conflicts that broke out during the Arab Spring uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa in 2011.
Jordan’s King Abdullah will face many major challenges as he tries to ease tensions among the Arab states.
The first challenge is the increased presence of Russia in the Middle East. After the Russian military action in Syria, which allowed Assad's army to reconquer Aleppo and other parts of the country torn by war, Moscow seems to be occupying a larger role in Libya. In that country, the Kremlin has supported General Khalifa Haftar and his forces in the east, who are loyal to the government based in Tobruk and not to the government in the Libyan capital Tripoli which, though inefficient and fragile, is internationally recognized and supported by the West.
The tension between the two major powers of the Sunni Arab world - Saudi Arabia and Egypt - is King Abdullah's second challenge. He hopes to remove the obstacles to improving the Egyptian-Saudi relationship.
The third challenge is how to deal with the fallout from the fighting to wrest ISIS control over Mosul and Raqqa. These decisive battles in Iraq and Syria, respectively, will place a heavy burden on Jordan in terms of border security. As Jordan is a custodian of the Arab Gulf countries, the Hashemite Kingdom's ability to protect itself from terrorists on the other side of its Iraqi and Syrian borders is important to its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The King’s fourth challenge concerns Iraq-GCC relations. Reconciling the ties between the Arab monarchies of the Gulf and Baghdad, especially when Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias are present and strong in Iraq, will not be an easy task. With regard to the GCC, Iraq, since the ouster of Saddam Hussein following a US-led invasion in 2003, is under the geopolitical influence of Iran.
The fifth challenge for the Jordanian monarch is the heavy economic burden on Jordan due to the influx of refugees fleeing regional conflicts. According to the United Nations, there are more than 650,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. Jordan is already hosting Iraqi refugees who fled after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Palestinians who fled during the Israeli-Arab wars of the 20th century. Other Arab League states, including Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, face similar challenges as a result of the war in Syria.
The sixth and perhaps most daunting challenge is to work with the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Jordan's leaders pay close attention to the White House's position on the Jewish settlements, the rhetoric on the move from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and Israeli pressure to end U.S. support for A two-state solution. Arab capitals see in this decision to move the US embassy in Jerusalem a "red line" that is likely to inflame the Islamic and Arab streets and would serve as a gift to extremists.
King Mohammed VI alerted the Arab heads of state and sounded the alarm in a message read on his behalf at last year’s Arab summit in Mauritania. He affirmed in substance that true Arab unity and regional peace cannot be achieved on the basis of the militaristic statecraft of the twentieth century. Arab countries must instead resolve their differences on the basis of empathy and compromise. The only alternative, he indicated, is continuing fissures and chaos in the region. There is a false jihad proclaimed by the likes of ISIS, but there is also an authentic, “constructive jihad” which strives to get the Arab house in order and resolve differences peacefully. The Jordanian and Moroccan regents clearly share the hope that their fellow Arab leaders will too.