Does Lebanon’s violence show what could happen in Jordan?

The last two days have seen clashes in Sidon between the followers of a radical cleric, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir and the Lebanese military, with the cleric taking shelter in his mosque with hundreds of followers, and 16 Lebanese soldiers killed in the clashes. The Lebanese military stormed his mosque but he was nowhere to be seen, although perhaps 30 of his followers were reported killed.

What does this incident mean for Jordan? On the surface, relatively little, because it was a local incident in Lebanon, with a cleric who gained popularity through a series of provocative stunts including repeated calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah, and culminating in attacks on the Lebanese army last week. However, when the incident is examined as a spillover from the conflict in Syria the situation becomes slightly more complicated. Certainly the specific grievances that were articulated are unique to Lebanon, as are the sectarian tensions due to that country’s demographic makeup.

However, there are two factors that show that similar types of violence may have the potential to erupt in Jordan. The first is the fact that Jordan has undoubtedly been the country most affected by the conflict in Syria except for Syria itself. The second is that Jordan itself has had recent outbreaks of violence. An article in Al-Monitor that was written following tribal violence in the city of Karak on a university campus shows that such violence is becoming more common, with 80 fights at universities in 2012 compared to just 31 two years earlier. Logic would dictate that if someone was willing to engage in armed violence related to tribal disputes the potential exists for violence to erupt over other issues such as the conflict in Syria. Meanwhile, the Syrian conflict is showing itself as intractable as ever as the Syrian Foreign Minister said that the regime was not going to Geneva to hand over power to the opposition but to agree to national unity government, which many in the opposition appear highly unlikely to accept.

In this context, it seems much less implausible that even if the conflict in Syria does not actually spill over across the border there might still be violence triggered by the issues relating to that conflict. Make no mistake – the conflicts relating to Syria can spill across international borders even if the actual fighting itself does not.