The Gulf war between Iran and Iraq is not going according to script, in the opinion of experts here. Iraq is continuing to pound Iran's oil installations and other vital "economic" targets, something not in the original plan shown to Iraq's Jordanian supporters.
Thus, Iraq's newest assaults on Iran's oil cities on Abadan and Khorramshahr -- and the long waiting period before they began -- puzzle leaders in jordan, the most outspoken backer of Iraq among the Arab nations.
"Iraqi war aims, as the Iraqis explained them to us," said a senior adviser of King Hussein, "did not include penetrating those cities, capturing them, or taking the oil province of Khuzestan from Iran."
"What is more," added another aide of the king, "the iraqis said they intended to seize the disputed Shatt al Arab waterway quickly, and they expected the war to end quickly, once Ayatollah Khomeini's regime had been taught a lesson."
However, this beginning of wonderment about what Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may be up to in Irans has not disturbed an oth" erwise serene, almost tranquil jordan.
Jordanians have been amused by reports from abroad that Jordan was at or near the brink of active involvement in the war on Iraq's side, but they have been not at al amused by the adverse effects these reports already have had on Jordan's revenue-bringing fall and winter tourist season.
None of the signs of war nerves or even uneasiness appear in this prosperous, expanding city, but as the war next door moves hussein's government obviously is weighing carefully what the prolonging of the conflict may portend. Among the new factors:
n1. Ayatollah Khomeni's Iran regime, say analysts here, appears to be drawing on patriotic fervor to gain a new lease on life.
n2. Iraq is not sticking to its stated war aims. Its Army continues trying to hammer its way into Abadan and Khorramshahr, or their remains. This may be only as a reaction to the unexpectedly sharp and persistent raids of the Iranian Air Force and to Iran's refusal to accept a cease-fire. But. to Jordanians at least, it was not in the original script outlined to them.
3. Jordanians fear that the subversive threat to the Gulf oil states, where Jordanian advisers and military teams help to assure stability amd security, is growing. Bahrain, Emirates may be especially threatened.
All have large Shia Muslim minorities, peculiarly sensitive to appeals to revolution from the Iranian ayatollahs of Tehran.
Does all this mean that Jordanians feel that King Hussein has backed the wrong country, or that perhaps he should have backed no one at all in this war?
Emphatically not, respond the King's most experienced and loyal advisers. Jordan could never regret supporting as loyal a friend and ally as Iraq has proven to be, they say. It has made subsidy payments in excess of $1 biillion since Jordan joined with Iraq and others in the "steadfastness front" to resist Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's Camp David peace deal with Israel.
The Jordan-Iraq alliance, add these Jordanians, has become even more critically important because of the behavior of King Hussein's neighbor and former friend, Syrian President Hafez Assad.
Mr. Assad's new pact with Moscow and his announced intention to unite with the firebrand North African leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi of Libya (both leaders support Iran and oppose Iraq), are seen as dangerous signs here.
"Assad," explain King Hussein's advisers, "is obviously desperate for friends and support. He may genuinely fear in Israeli attack, and want a Soviet umbrella to ward it off. He may even have that umbrella.
"But we think the Soviet-Syrian pact, however you regard it, is a storm warning of new and possibly major turbulence to come in the divided Muslim and Arab worlds."