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After more than a decade of strained relations following Hamas’ attempts to sabotage the monarchy, Mashaal visited the Jordanian king for a long discussion. The bottom line was Mashaal’s announcement that Palestine is for Palestinians and Jordan is for Jordanians. In theory, this is a pledge to refrain from meddling in Jordan, whose population is 3/4 Palestinian.

Jordan’s Abdullah thus hopes to secure himself against yet another Arab Spring revolution, which in his country would be spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Abdullah is especially concerned about Assad’s survival, expecting the Syrian ruler to retaliate for his treacherous support of the rebels by aiding the MB in Jordan.

But Mashaal’s promise is worth nothing. Hamas won’t sit on the sidelines while the Brotherhood overthrows the Jordanian monarchy, and neither would he ignore Palestinian demographic dominance in Jordan.

Mashaal and Abdullah

Salafists in EgyptThe US Ambassador in Egypt met with Salafist leaders. The move is ground-breaking, as White House officials have refused to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood for decades, and the Salafists are the most extreme sort of radicals. Salafists advocate the extreme form of Sharia, militancy toward Israel, and terrorism. These views have made them the second-biggest political party in Egypt.

The Americans’ intentions are transparent. We have seen this before in Israeli relations with Hamas, and previously with Hezbollah. The idea was to nurture a small ultra-radical offshoot, which would counter a major terrorist organization (Fatah and Amal, respectively) without a chance of growing big precisely because it is too radical to attract mainstream supporters. That reasoning has proved wrong repeatedly, and has resulted in the creation of Al Qaeda.

Now the White House is gambling that the Salafists will curtail the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose 49% win came as a surprise to no one but Washington officials. Salafists will agree to cooperate with the Americans precisely because they advocate the most radical form of Islam, which sanctions any deceit in pursuit of its goals.

In any conflict with the MB, the Salafists would win. Though the MB theoretically enjoys broader support, much of this support comes from urbanized liberals who care about their mortgages more than political ends. The Salafists can bring a much more militant crowd into the streets.

With the latest round of US sales, the Saudi air force will become significantly larger and more advanced than IAF. Israel is already inferior in numbers to the combined Arab forces.

But that has been the historical norm. Our pilots have always been trained to fight superior enemy forces. The problem is that for 38 years they have had no real combat experience. Training is all very fine, but our pilots lack those daily encounters we used to have with Egyptians. IAF has become accustomed to slam-dunk raids against Palestinian and Lebanese targets.

January 2012
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