Bashar al Assad Should Step Down Says King Abdullah of Jordan, But What About Reforms in Jordan Itself?

18/11/2011 10:33 GMT | Updated 17/01/2012 10:12 GMT

King Abdullah II of Jordan has been the first Arab Leader to tell Syria's Assad to step down.

King Abdullah of Jordan advised his old friend Bashar al Assad the tyrant of Syria to quit. He said in a recent BBC interview that in the interest of Syria Bashar has to go. Most Arab politicians and observers agree. King Abdullah has shown foresight and courage in uttering these unmentionable words. Two days later Prince Turki al Feisal an influential Saudi Prince said that Bashar al Assad's departure is inevitable. The Arab League has given a final three-day extension to the Syrian regime to end its crackdown against demonstrators. With a few exceptions (Iran, Hezbollah and Yemen) the entire world agrees. The King also said that nobody wants to see a bloodbath in Syria.

The King spoke for many in the Muslim and Arab world who would like to see an end to the dictatorial regime in Syria. This is also in line with the American and European positions. King Abdullah enjoys warm relations with the US Administration, the United Kingdom and the Gulf Co-operation Council members. His words have been taken seriously and were reported in most Arab Newspapers with the exception of the pro-Syrian regime's media which attacked the King.

The British Financial Times, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph gave generous amounts of editorial space to the King's remarks.The Headline in the New York Times Tuesday 15 November said, "King of Jordan Becomes First Arab Leader to Tell Syria's Assad to Quit."

The King's call coincides with the Arab League's decision to suspend Syria and isolate the regime. Meanwhile Turkey is escalating the pressure on the regime. Even Iran the long time ally of Syria is urging the regime to meet the demands of the people. According to Press Reports Iran is also having contacts with the opposition.

The facts are stark and beyond doubt. The Syrian regime is running out of excuses and options. It looks increasingly likely that military action might be the only option. The rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria has impacted Jordan which share borders with Syria. Jordan has already absorbed some 400,000 Syrians and more will follow if large scale military operations take place or if a civil war breaks out. The King's call is timely and is an indication that Syria had lost all opportunities to do the right thing.

The regime has remained defiant in the face of the growing international criticism. Walid Mouallem, the belligerent Foreign Minister of Syria called Arab states last week "conspirators and traitors" and his government announced on Tuesday that it would boycott the Arab Games in Qatar to protest against Arab League suspension.

But what about reforms in Jordan itself?

Jordan does not live in isolation, it is an integral part of the wider Arab world. There have been demonstrations and other forms of peaceful protests such as sit-in and speeches. But it must be said that since the eruption of the Arab Spring almost a year ago, not a single demonstrator has been killed in Jordan. Not a single case of torture has been reported. Let us hope it stays that way. As for reforms, King Abdullah said in October that Jordan would shift to a parliamentary system as of the next general elections, whereby governments are formed by parties or coalitions enjoying majorities at the Parliament.

Most recently on 15 November I listened to the King's speech in London on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce. He said that the Arab Spring is bringing positive change to the region. The King asserted that the people of the region want dignity, freedom and justice. He pointed out that economic reforms must go hand in hand with political reforms. With high unemployment rates among the young people, there is a need for creative solutions. There is a need to stimulate investments to create economic growth. The King said all the right things but there are challenges ahead. The region definitely needs peace and stability.

Unlike Syria, Jordan does not consider the Arab Spring as a Zionist Plot and an Imperialist Conspiracy. Jordan does not shoot demonstrators. But reforms in Jordan are slow and gradual and the majority of the people are impatient and want speedier reforms. But one thing that unites Jordanians is their loyalty to the popular Hashemite Monarchy and they don't want the scenarios of Libya, Syria and Yemen to be repeated in Jordan.