As the world focuses on the escalating military action between Israel and Hamas, it appears that Jordan is about to experience its "Arab Spring" and the U.S. State Department is sending warnings to Americans in the region.
One U.S. business executive in Jordan has sent text messages (which TheBlaze has seen) from Amman back to America with her observations about the riots and what's causing them:
"The angry rioters aside, many Jordanians DO believe the fuel crisis was an intentional power play by the Brotherhood to deepen unrest in Jordan in order to take over the political apparatus (i.e. we will save you from the bad government that's trying to starve and freeze us). They also think there isn't a helluva lot the King or anyone else can do about since it is widely believed-whether true or not-that the US is supporting the Brotherhood's regional rise to power. So the mainstream majority here is basically just trying to stay out of the fray in the streets and waiting for what they're convinced is inevitable anyway."
The action on the streets also prompted the U.S. State Department to issue an emergency warning to American citizens in the country, and TheBlaze has obtained a copy:
Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens
Subject: Due to Fuel Protests, Defer Non-Essential Travel Throughout Jordan
Spontaneous, sometimes violent, demonstrations have continued throughout the day across Jordan, including in Amman. These unpredictable protests (as well as some planned events) may continue through the weekend. Multiple, confirmed reports indicate that protesters have blocked major highways at different locations, and that the security services have used non-lethal measures to disperse crowds. The police are unable to predict when these closures will take place and how long it will take to re-open the roads. While there is no indication that these events are directed at Americans or foreigners, the U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel through Saturday, November 17.
"Spontaneous, sometimes violent demonstrations" - Today was the second day of the protests, and several outlets are reporting that at least one person has been killed and 17 people were seriously injured.
The letter from the State Department continues:
The Embassy will continue to inform U.S. citizens of updates as warranted. In general, the Embassy encourages U.S. citizens to monitor the news for the latest developments on potential protests. Spontaneous protests or conflicts could take place at any time, especially at police stations, government buildings, gas stations, and establishments that sell cooking fuel.
U.S. citizens should avoid areas where demonstrations are ongoing. Spontaneous and/or planned demonstrations occur in Jordan from time to time in response to world events or local developments. We remind U.S. citizens that protests intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. As always, please be aware of your surroundings and monitor local media.
The Embassy advises U.S. citizens to maintain valid travel documents and enroll with the Department of State through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and the Android market to have travel information at your fingertips.
American citizens in Jordan are advised to use Facebook and Twitter to avoid the"spontaneous protests?"
Was this a surprise? Not really. Just over a month ago, TheBlaze reported that U.S. troops had been sent to Jordan.
Map Image: Geology.com
The initial reasons for this action, according to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta:
- The security of Syria’s stock of chemical weapons.
- Rising numbers of refugees fleeing Syria and moving across the border into Jordan.
- To build a local headquarters for our troops in the region.
Further investigation showed that other reasons might be behind the move. Several media outlets reported that Jordan’s government was being pressured by the Muslim Brotherhood.
ABC News in Australia claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has pressured the King to dissolve the parliament. Jordan’s nagging economic problems, worsened by the influx of refugees from Syria and the loss of needed gas supplies from Egypt have given power to the Muslim Brotherhood’s populist pitch.
Qantara, a German news outlet, called Jordan “A Small Kingdom With Big Problems” in their September 29th story on the growing unrest. The report closed by stating:
Despite the king’s far-reaching political powers, this popular support has strengthened the brotherhood’s determination to gain political influence and achieve fundamental constitutional reforms. It now intends to boycott the parliamentary elections planned for the end of the year. Viewed in this light, it seems as if the Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to stage its own little “Jordanian Spring”.
Today, TheBlaze received word from the streets of Jordan that widespread riots have broken out in several cities in response to the government's raising of fuel prices.
The AP is reporting that the energy price increases were the government's answer to a looming financial crisis due to rising fuel costs in Jordan caused by a disruption of the country's supply lines from Egypt.
Disruptions in cheap Egyptian gas shipments cost Jordan an extra $7 million a day, the government said, pushing the budget deficit to a record high of nearly $3 billion this year.
The pipeline that carries Egyptian natural gas to Israel and Jordan has been blown up more than a dozen times over the past year by militants in Egypt's Sinai desert, halting shipments. Jordan has switched to the more expensive fuel oil to generate electricity.
TheBlaze will update our reports from Jordan as we receive more information.