Its design personally approved by King Hussein, an enormous sculptured globe bearing only the outline of the Arab world has appeared literally overnight in the center of Amman's Interior Ministry traffic circle.
Meant as a symbol of Arab unity, it has become instead an ironic reminder of the increasingly well defined Arab side-taking in the Iranian-Iraqi war that is frustrating Hussein's efforts to be friends with all his Arab brethren at once and complicating his relations with the superpowers as well.
A long block away, the finishing touches are being put on an ultramodern cultural center and convention hall, the pride of the king's ambitious program to turn Amman from a small town into an Arab crossroads. It is here where Arab heads of state and government are to meet next month in the 11th Arab summit conference, a gathering that, if it comes off, promises to be one of the most acrimonious summits in the turbulent history of intra-Arab relations.
Against the background of the Persian Gulf war, Hussein will have a hard time papering over Arab splits enough to direct deliberations against the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the major reason the summit was convened. But perhaps just as important in the long run, Hussein also will have to be careful in coming months with the new tone he has tried to set in Jordan's relations with the United States and the Soviet Union.
There has already been some fallout in the Soviet Union from the king's pro-Iraqi leadership role, with Moscow earlier this month canceling the monarch's scheduled visit to meet with Kremlin leaders. As he has in the past when relations with the United States were tense, Hussein was using his travel plans to Moscow as a way to remind Washington that he cannot be taken for granted as an ally.
Officially, the trip was called off because of scheduling conflicts and the urgency of the king's state business at home in the middle of the Persian gulf crisis. Jordanian officials explained that the palace had proposed to Moscow that the king's visit be shortened, but then had agreed that the agenda of meetings could not be crowded into the suggested two days.
However, informed diplomatic sources said the Soviets canceled the trip because it could not have come at a worse time, given the king's role in rallying Arab support behind President Saddam Hussein of Iraq in his campaign against the Iranians.
Moreover, President Hafez Assad of Syria was due in Moscow at the same time to sign a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union. A simultaneous visit by Hussein would have embarrassed Assad and the Kremlin, considering the worsening of relations between Jordan and Syria since the outbreak of the Iraqi-Iranian war and charges that Assad is cooperating in the dispatch of Libyan military equipment to Iran.
The Soviet-Syrian friendship treaty is bitterly resented by the conservative Arab states, which are committed to a policy of limiting Soviet influence in the region.In addition, most back Iraq in the war against Iran, a trend bucked by Assad and Libya's Muammar Qaddafi.
Hussein has been determined to maintain active bilateral relations with the Soviet Union, and has repeatedly said that he will even consider purchasing arms from Moscow if doors are closed to him in other arms markets, most notably the United States. But it seems assured that strong Soviet ties to Iran's Arab allies -- the same revolutionary governments that are aligned against the Arab monarchies in the side-picking in the gulf war -- will complicate the king's efforts with Moscow and, possibly, put in abeyance any top-level Jordanian-Soviet meeting.
Official Jordanian sources and diplomatic observers are agreed that, in the short run, there is little likelihood that U.S.-Jordanian relations will be seriously affected by the war, barring any overt American intervention on behalf of Iran, either to achieve the release of the 52 American hostages or for strategic purposes.
Jordan and the United States maintain classic bilateral relations, although clouded by differences over the Camp David peace process. But if anything, interchange between the two countries has picked up since the outbreak of the gulf war as U.S. officials have sought to explain to the king's satisfaction the perception of a U.S. tilt toward Iran, according to diplomatic sources.
But if the war took a turn against Iraq, and the king made good on his readiness to supply direct military assistance instead of just logistical support, observers here agree, then the Jordanian-U.S. relationship might be subjected to greater strain.
It is conceivable, observers note, that the United States could attain a rapprochement with -- and even give comfort to -- Iran, a declared enemy of Jordan, while still being estranged from Iraq, King Hussein's wartime ally. This is a situation that would strain any relationship.
Looking farther ahead, if Iraq prevails in the war and Jordan begins to reap the expected benefits of friendship, the likelihood is that King Hussein would expect the United States to reassess its judgment of Saddam Hussein's potential of regional leadership.
This also could lead to a U.S.-Jordanian misunderstanding, according to observers.