U.S. and Jordanian officials familiar with Abdullah’s congressional briefings said the monarch was particularly concerned about the growing dominance of al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist militants. Jordanian officials warned that the Islamists could be a destabilizing force in the region for years and could even come to power in some provinces if the country breaks apart.
Despite the failure of previous initiatives, the king urged a renewed attempt at a negotiated settlement as the only realistic path toward ending the conflict without splintering the country or condemning it to endless bloodshed. But he has acknowledged that such a settlement would not be acceptable to the rebels as long as President Bashar al-Assad remains in power.
A more immediate worry for Jordan is the burden of caring for more than a half-million Syrian refugees who have sought sanctuary there since the start of the conflict two years ago. The king has asked for $850 million in new U.S. aid this year to help Jordan cope with the flood of refugees that threatens to overwhelm the kingdom, a resource-poor country of 6 million that already was struggling with high unemployment, chronic water shortages and energy-supply disruptions before the crisis began.
Jordan’s largest Syrian refugee camp, known as Zaatari, has swollen to 125,000 inhabitants, making it essentially Jordan’s fifth-largest city. By the end of the year, the number of refugees in Jordan is projected to surpass 1 million, straining the capacity of the country’s schools and hospitals.