The Prime Minister, we are told, has been trying to reach the King of Jordan to see if some kind of arrangement can be made so that Abu Qatada can be deported legally and that no forms of torture-gained evidence will used against him in a Jordanian court. This seems like a sensible thing to do. But it is important that the government balances its counter-terrorism policy with its foreign policy.
Here is what I mean. Jordan is a friend of Britain, but the King is under tremendous pressure to reform. There are daily demonstrations against his rule and the protests are gathering pace. His reforms, meanwhile, have been limited and the country is running out of money. It is no longer unfeasible that Jordan could face what many other countries in the region has seen. So the King is doing what he and his family has done so well over the years — showing how indispensable he is to the West. He is revving up efforts on the Middle East Peace Process and is going to go out of his way to solve the Qatada problem for Britain. He will use the goodwill garnered — and money from the West and Saudi Arabia — to shore up his rule.
But if he does not undertake genuine reforms, his rule may be shakier than most people realise. And if swept from power, Britain could be seen — much as Italy was after cutting deals with Muammar Gaddafi to keep Libyan immigrants away from Italy — as only to happy to prop up the Middle East’s authoritarian rulers, and so not a real friend of the Jordanian people. This would be an awful outcome, especially after Britain’s role in Libya’s liberation. So while it may be the right thing to deport the troublesome cleric, we ought to ask: at what cost?