Jordan’s top diplomat denied that the revolutions that have rocked Tunisia and Egypt over the last month, and which sent the longtime rulers of both countries fleeing their respective capitals, will spread to Amman.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judah said the recent wave of protests in Arab and Muslim states are “certainly not affecting us in Jordan,” where King Abdullah II recently sought to quell unrest by dismissing most of his cabinet.
“We were having demonstrations in Jordan back in the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century, before it became fashionable,” Judeh told “Special Report” anchor Bret Baier Monday night from Amman.
“It’s part of a vibrant, dynamic, democratic society…You correct the system every once in a while. But what makes us so comfortable here is that you have the head of state, the king, who whips the system back into shape when he sees that the democratic process is faltering or going off track.”
The State Department, in its official profile of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, lists the country as a constitutional monarchy.
Judeh’s comments came as cell phone footage and other videos surfaced throughout the day on YouTube, purporting to show Iranian demonstrators clashing with the regime’s security forces. The footage, which could not be independently verified, appeared to show protesters in Tehran erecting barricades made from burning trash cans, fleeing plumes of tear gas, and severely beating a man said to be a member of the brutal pro-regime militia known as the Basiji.
“What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to reporters after meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. She noted that the regime in Tehran “over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt, [but] now, when given the opportunity to afford their people the same rights as they called for on behalf of the Egyptian people, once again illustrate their true nature.”
Even before Hosni Mubarak resigned the Egyptian presidency on Friday, the U.S. and Iran had commenced a war of words aimed at shaping for the greater Middle East the meaning of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Iranian officials had called the protests there “an Islamic awakening” and likened them to those that ousted the Shah from power during Iran’s own Islamic revolution in 1979.
These leaders see no parallels between the protests in Tunis and Cairo and those that erupted on the streets of Tehran in June 2009, after the disputed results of the election that provided Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a second term. The Obama administration, which was then pursuing a policy of “engagement” with the Iranian regime, faced criticism at the time that it had not swiftly thrown its support behind the demonstrators in Tehran.
This time around, Washington is doing so unreservedly. The State Department late Monday night began issuing “tweets” on a new Farsi-language Twitter account that U.S. officials hope will give inspiration to Iranian youth.
"The US State Department recognizes the historic role of social media among Iranians in the world now. We want to join in your conversations..." went one early tweet. Another tweaked the regime, saying: "By announcing that they will not give permission for its opponents to demonstrate…the government of Iran is showing that the very activities that it praised for Egyptians it sees as illegal and illegitimate for its own people."
Analysts with long experience in the Mideast predicted difficulty for those who would seek to export pro-democracy revolution from one country to another in the volatile region.
“If this starts as a movement in Iran, we've got to put the maximum pressure we can on the Iranian authorities,” said Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, adding that “the region will expect us” do so.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton told Fox News that Iran’s ruling mullahs have mismanaged the country’s economy for three decades and consequently created “a lot of discontent” among young people there.
“The regime, I think, overall is on pretty thin ice, and that's why I think the extent of the opposition does give some hope that regime change in Tehran is possible. But I think it's got to be the official policy of the United States government. You can't say we want to negotiate with Ahmadinejad over his nuclear weapons program and really expect people to believe we're serious about regime change.”
Edward S. Walker, the retired diplomat who has served as ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, warned that the Iranian security forces “are not squeamish” about suppressing rebellions with lethal force, and expressed skepticism about the regime in Tehran being deposed anytime soon.
“They will not shy away from arresting and killing people,” Walker said during an appearance on Fox News’ “Happening Now.”
“I don't know whether you can get the same kind of popular move that you got in Egypt.”