From Aic-background

Jump to: navigation, search


COUNTRY: conventional long form: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan conventional short form: Jordan local long form: Al Mamlakah al Urduniyah al Hashimiyah local short form: Al Urdun former: Transjordan

Image:Jordan_Flag.gif OVERVIEW

The Kingdom of Jordan is the direct political descendant of the eastern portion of the British Mandate of Palestine. The western portion became the state of Israel, and the much larger portion east of the Jordan River became the personal kingdom of the Meccan nobleman Abdullah bin Hussein, who the British crowned King Abdullah I, ruling from the ancient city of Amman. Owing to its intimate geographical connection with Israel Jordan has always played an important part in Arab-Israeli relations. More importantly, as an economically and militarily weak state in a dangerous region, the Kingdom of Jordan is a fascinating example of how skillful diplomacy and dynamic internal developments have kept a small country from being destroyed by its much more powerful neighbors.


The majority of Jordan is inhospitable desert, the meeting place of the barren Syrian desert and the much more extensive sandy Arabian one. As a result most of Jordan’s habitable land clings to the eastern bank of the Jordan river, where there is decent irrigation opportunities and seasonal rainfall from the Mediterranean. The population is concentrated in urban areas around this region, most notably the capital Amman. The rest of the country is home to small villages around oases and the Bedouin who inhabit the deep desert.

AREA: total: 92,300 sq km land: 91,971 sq km water: 329 sq km

CLIMATE: mostly arid desert; rainy season in west (November to April)

TERRAIN: mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west; Great Rift Valley separates East and West Banks of the Jordan River

NATURAL RESOURCES: phosphates, potash, shale oil

NOTE: strategic location at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba and as the Arab country that shares the longest border with Israel and the occupied West Bank

Image:Jordan_Bedouin.jpg Image:Jordan_Rania.jpg PEOPLE

Jordan was built on a schizophrenic demography that is only being erased slowly by time. Its original overlords, the Hashemites and their allies, descend from the old Arabian nobility of Mecca, and their associates were at one time Bedouin warriors on camelback. The other portion of the population is descended from the old urban and village inhabitants of the region that became British Palestine, most of which is now controlled by Israel. These are primarily farmers and craftsmen, who as much as possible have continued their way of life with the blessing of the Jordanian government. The other component of this village culture, however, is made up of the refugees who escaped the creation of Israel in 1948, and more since the Israeli conquest of the West Bank in 1967. These refugees have been given full citizenship by the Jordanian government and have been integrated as much as possible into Jordanian society, but they remain a much less patriotic group than other subgroups—for many of these Palestinians, Jordan is merely a place of refuge while their true home is under foreign domination.

POPULATION: 5,611,202 (July 2004 est.)


ETHNIC GROUPS: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%

RELIGIONS: Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shi'a Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)

LANGUAGES: Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes


The Jordanian government is described as a “Moderate Arab State,” but it is also a highly authoritarian one. The king has power to enact all legislation and appoint the acting government. A Jordanian parliament has been in operation since 1992, but under current king Abdullah II this body’s freedom has been curtailed significantly for fear of a surge in Islamist activities within Jordanian society. Outside observers worry that Jordan is turning towards more oppressive policies in dealing with dissidents, especially suspected terrorists, who are now reportedly tortured by Jordanian police. Arrests and short jail terms are frequent for enemies of the king, though the Jordanian system is still much more open than that of any of its Arab neighbors.

TYPE: constitutional monarchy


CHIEF OF STATE: King ABDALLAH II (since 7 February 1999); Crown Prince HAMZAH (half brother of the monarch, born 29 March 1980)

CABINET: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the monarch

ELECTIONS: Infrequent parlimentary elections at the King's discretion.

Image:Jordan_Amman.jpg ECONOMY

OVERVIEW: Jordan is a small Arab country with inadequate supplies of water and other natural resources such as oil. Debt, poverty, and unemployment are fundamental problems, but King ABDALLAH, since assuming the throne in 1999, has undertaken some broad economic reforms in a long-term effort to improve living standards. These measures have helped improve productivity and have put Jordan on the foreign investment map. The US-led war in Iraq in 2003 dealt an economic blow to Jordan, which was dependent on Iraq for discounted oil (worth $300-$600 million a year). Several Gulf nations have provided temporary aid to compensate for the loss of this oil; when this foreign aid expires, the Jordanian government has pledged to raise retail petroleum product prices and the sales tax base. Other ongoing challenges include fiscal adjustment to reduce the budget deficit, broader investment incentives to promote job-creating ventures, and the encouragement of tourism. In general, the economy is well run, but simply does not have a large enough GDP to provide all of the services necessary to its public, or keep its modern military funded without outside support.

CURRENCY: Jordanian dinar (JOD)

GDP: purchasing power parity - $23.64 billion (2004 est.)


UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 16% official rate; actual rate is 25%-30% (2001 est.)

AGRICULTURE PRODUCTS: wheat, barley, citrus, tomatoes, melons, olives; sheep, goats, poultry

INDUSTRIES: phosphate mining, pharmaceuticals, petroleum refining, cement, potash, light manufacturing, tourism

EXPORTS: clothing, phosphates, fertilizers, potash, vegetables, manufactures, pharmaceuticals

IMPORTS: crude oil, textile fabrics, machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods


BRANCHES: Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) (Royal Jordanian Land Force, Royal Naval Force, Royal Jordanian Air Force, and Special Operations Command or SOCOM); note - Public Security Directorate normally falls under Ministry of Interior but comes under JAF in wartime or crisis situations

AGE AND OBLIGATION: 17 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription at age 18 was suspended in 1999, although all males under age 37 are required to register (2004)

EXPENDITURES DOLLAR FIGURE: $2,043.2 million (2003), 20.2% (2003)

The Jordanian military is small, but since its very creation has maintained a reputation for professionalism and excellence in leadership. Despite its small size, the Israelis have routinely described the Jordanians as the most formidable army they have ever fought. This does not mean that the Jordanians could win a fight against most of its much larger neighbors, but the military has always been equal to the task of protecting Jordan's internal security, which under the Hashemites has been its primary purpose in any case.


Image:Jordan_King_Abdullah_I.jpg Image:Britain_Mandate.jpg BRITISH MANDATE AND KING ABDULLAH I

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire as a result of World War I, the British Empire took possession of much of the Arab Middle East, including the area surrounding the drainage basin of the Jordan River, which it ruled under the technical name of the “British Mandate of Palestine.” The western part of this territory is the modern state of Israel (with the Occupied Territories) and the eastern portion is now the Kingdom of Jordan, with the biggest natural border between them marked by the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Jordan was first spilt off from the rest of the Mandate in 1921, when Britain gave the eastern portion of its territory to a World War I ally, Prince Abdullah ibn Hussein of Mecca, which had recently been conquered by the Bedouin army of AbdelAziz ibn al-Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia. This appointment was part of a larger British plan to rule the Middle East through Abdullah’s family, known as the Hashimites: his brother Faisal was already the king of the British colony of Iraq. Abdullah and his Arabian followers ruled the desert environs of Amman as a British pupil until 1946, when Britain officially recognized the independence of the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan, and the rest of the world soon followed suit. Britain kept a small measure of control over its former protectorate, which included providing military training for the Jordanian army, then known as the Arab Legion.

Image:Jordan_Jerusalem.jpg Image:Israel_Independence.jpg


Abdullah had watched with concern as the influx of European Jewish settlers into the western portions of the British Mandate had progressively destabilized the situation there. During the 1920s and 1930s the British were unable to stop several serious outbreaks of violence between the Jewish and local Arab communities, and by 1947 the situation had grown so serious that Britain could no longer handle the situation: Britain declared its intention to the newly formed United Nations to vacate the Palestine Mandate by May 1948. Against this unrest terrorist activity continued amongst all sides of the British Mandate, with Jewish guerillas killing UN envoys sent to investigate the region’s problems and Arab militants taking shots at Jewish farmers. The situation reached a head on 14 May 1948, when David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel.

Shocked by the audacity of the Jews, who Abdullah and most Arabs saw as European colonialists, Abdullah joined the armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq in declaring war on the new state of Israel. The unofficial Israeli army was able to repulse all of these invading armies from its territory, in a feat that stunned the rest of the world. Recent documentary evidence shows that such an outcome was really not so extraordinary: the Jewish army had been training in secret for years prior to the declaration of independence, and had also procured large amounts of surplus military equipments during the course of the 1940s. Compared with this efficient model most of the Arab invaders were from poorly organized armies that had recently been administered directly by European powers, giving them a serious deficit in morale and battle experience. The sole exception to this model was Jordan’s Arab League, which had been superbly trained by its British commanders and was thus able to fight Jewish forces to a standstill in the hill country west of the Jordan River, which has since come to be known as the West Bank. Jordan emerged from the 1948 war with this area firmly under its control, and so from 1948 until 1967 the West Bank, including the holy city of Jerusalem, was under Jordanian control.


Jordan’s conquest of the West Bank, technically a part of Mandatory Palestine and not a component of the Kingdom of Jordan, was a very controversial move at the time. For one thing, the Jordanians diverted much of their army to defensive operations once they had secured this area, which the Egyptians and Syrians have used to blame the Jordanians for their defeat in this war; if only the Jordanians had pressed their advantage, so this theory goes, the Israelis would have been defeated. For their part the Jordanians retort that the Egyptians did almost the exact same thing when they took possession of the Gaza Strip, and administered their conquests more poorly to boot.

In 1950 Abdullah made the controversial decision to formally annex the West Bank, which at the time only Britain formally acknowledged. This was a chancy proposition for the king, since the citizens of the West Bank were culturally very different from his Bedouin subjects in the eastern portion of the kingdom, and they had also recently been through the traumatic experience of war, during which many had been expelled from their homes within what was now the state of Israel. As such, these new Jordanians subjects, who were not yet being called Palestinians, were bitter, desperately poor, and did not look kindly on their new Bedouin overlord. In fairness, however, Abdullah ruled his refugee population much more humanely than any other country which took them in: all West Bank citizens received Jordanian citizenship and were given funds to help rebuild their war-torn village systems. That is why to this day the West Bank is much more village-centric than Gaza; Abdullah did not force his Palestinians to live in refugee camps, and encouraged them to relocate to villages and attempt to rebuild their shattered lives. All the same, this group remained scarred by its experience, and as such was much more violence-prone than other sections of Jordanian society. In 1951, a Palestinian youth assassinated Abdullah on the steps of the Dome of the Rock, on the rumor that he was contemplating peace with Israel.

Image:Jordan_Hussein.jpg KING HUSSEIN IBN TALAL

After Abdullah’s assassination his son Talal briefly ruled the country, but was deposed for being mentally unstable in 1953, placing the burden of rule on Talal’s 18 year old son Hussein, who would rule the country until 1999, becoming the longest serving monarch in the world for much of his life. Hussein was a naturally cautious man of small physical stature, but he made up for this unimposing nature by being a very shrewd diplomat who had a natural gift for survival. Playing to these strengths, Hussein’s long reign transformed Jordan from a small Bedouin principality into an internationally-recognized diplomatic force in the Middle East, because Hussein was respected by friends and enemies alike for his good sense and naturally stoic disposition. His British attendants, who continued to help him administer the country until the 1960s, referred to him as “Our P.L.K.” meaning “Plucky Little King.”

Upon ascending the throne, Hussein’s immediate challenge was the threat of Arab nationalism, or “Pan-Arabism” emanating from Syria and Egypt. Syria was ruled by the Ba’ath party, which envisioned a secular united Arab republic that would rejuvenate the region and throw off western oppression. The bigger challenge, however, came from the charismatic Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose theories were less scientific than the Ba’ath but carried by his great personal charisma. He railed against the corruption of the west and its use of “royalist puppets” to rule the region, which meant the House of Saud and the Hashemite Kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq. After 1958, when the Iraqi monarch was brutally killed during a military coup, this left Jordan alone, with none of ibn Saud’s money or power. Hussein survived several assassination attempts during this period, but western observers still looked on in pity, assuming he would not survive long like the last Hashemite king. He did survive, however, by skillfully presenting his kingdom as a moderate, anti-communist, pro-western force in the region, which gained him the support of the United States, for whom communism was an important issue, as well as serving to strengthen his ties with Britain, who supplied him with advanced weaponry, albeit in small quantities.

Image:Jordan_Hussein_Nasser.jpg SIX DAY WAR AND LOSS OF THE WEST BANK

Ever since 1948 low level skirmishing between Israeli forces and neighboring Arab populations, especially refugee populations in the Jordanian West Bank, had become a constant part of Israeli border affairs. These nuisances began building into a deadlier momentum in 1964, when Syrian and Israeli forces began periodically shelling each other in the area of the Golan Heights, the site of major Israeli water-diversion projects at that time. The Syrians and Lebanese countered with their own water diversion projects, and by 1967 it became clear that Israel and Syria had entered into quiet war with each other over water access that the Israelis estimated would proved crucial to the growth of their country.

On the Jordanian border, Israel made a series of large-scale punitive incursions into the West Bank in 1966 to attack refugee villages believed to be responsible for bombing attacks in Israel, some of which were carried out by the newly founded Fatah organization. All of this combined to make King Hussein profoundly uneasy about the security of his own country, which culminated in his signing a defense treaty with former rival Egypt in May 1967. Even though Hussein distrusted Nasser and his ideas, Hussein’s hand was forced by his own population: Jordan at the time contained many Arab nationalists, not to mention Palestinian refugees, who were tired of their king’s caution and gravitated towards the violent rhetoric of Nasser, who promised an imminent, climactic battle with Israel. Analysts at the time observed that Egypt’s large new Russian-supplied army was barely out of the box, and certainly didn’t make Egypt ready to fight a war, but in constructing his new alliance Nasser did not reveal these weakness: he told the world that the Arabs were ready to fight, and that this fight would spell the eradication of Israel. To flex his muscle he closed the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping on 22 May 1967, cutting off Israeli access to the Red Sea and thus all southern sea traffic.

Unlike Nasser, the Israelis were prepared for war, and the closing off of Tiran gave them the justification they needed to destroy the Egyptian war machine. At 7:45 AM on 5 June, the Israeli air force snuck up on Egyptian territory by flying low over the Mediterranean, and destroyed the entire Egyptian air force while it was still on the ground. Having thus assured air superiority within the first hours of the war, Israel poured a massive armored force into the Sinai Peninsula, supported by the bulk of the now-dominant Israeli air force. Nasser responded to these attacks by telling his Syrian and Jordanian allies that the Israeli air force had been wiped out by Egyptian defenders, and with this encouragement those two countries joined the war. Jordan pushed towards Israeli occupied areas around West Jerusalem, while Syrian forces adopted a conservative policy of shelling the Galilee region without committing ground forces. For Hussein this was an incredibly difficult position: he was secretly working on a non-aggression agreement with the Israelis, had good relations with their government, and was not really interested in either enlarging his territory or gambling his entire kingdom on an attempt to wipe out Israel. Unfortunately, he had recently signed into the Egyptian military alliance, and bowing out of that alliance in the heat of what promised to be a decisive war would likely have resulted in a revolution in Amman. Reluctantly, Hussein sent his small army into action.

Image:Jordan_1967_Refugees.jpg Image:Jordan_1967_Tank.jpg

Within days, the Israeli advance had captured the entirety of the Sinai, which left Israelis forces free to mop up the Jordanian advance and neutralize the Syrian artillery barrage. Both operations succeeded entirely, and by 10 June Israel found itself in possession of the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights in southern Syria. Israel had tripled in size, acquired a million new Arab subjects, and stunned the world with an unimaginably successful war. The Arab states were all deeply ashamed by this failure, none more so than Nasser, who lost almost the entirety of his international influence with this humiliating defeat. The best the Arabs could manage was a declaration in fall 1967 that there would be no recognition of Israel and no peace with Israel…but the combined Arab League no longer spoke optimistically about the possibility of Israel being destroyed.


Internationally, responses to this war were mixed; Russia responded by rearming its Syrian and Egyptian allies with a speed and efficiency that stunned the west, while America swung fully towards supporting Israel after her incredible showing. At the UN, deliberations over the newly occupied territories produced one of the most significant motions in UN history, UN Resolution 242, which stipulated that Israel would receive peace assurances from its Arab neighbors in return for the lands conquered during the war. Egypt and Jordan immediately signed the document, though Syria long resisted this resolution. The Middle East had changed irrevocably in only six days. For Hussein, he had lost almost a third of his kingdom, and now had to contend with a Palestinian population that had been driven to even greater depths of fury and desperation.

Image:Jordan_Black_September.jpg Image:Fatah_Young_Arafat.jpg BLACK SEPTEMBER

After 1967 the Palestinian refugees of the Fatah organization, the main component of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) became convinced that they would have to liberate Palestine themselves. To this end they began orchestrating large raids into the West Bank from Jordan, where they had deep roots in the Palestinian communities which had been formed since 1948. Since Jordan had rejected the refugee camp model followed by Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, Palestinians within Jordan thus also had much greater freedom of movement, which the Fatah leaders, including Yasser Arafat, used to their advantage. The PLO gained prestige for being willing to continue the fight against the Israelis while the king of Jordan was perceived to be uninterested in continuing the struggle. By 1968 these sentiments had allowed Arafat to create the equivalent of a state within a state in several regions of Jordan, which he described as “liberated regions.” Clashes were common between the Jordanian police and Palestinian militants, averaging more than 500 incidents each year.

By 1970, Hussein had decided that enough was enough; he had attempted to accommodate the Palestinians as members of his own kingdom, and they had responded by shaking the foundations of his kingdom. In September 1970 he declared martial law and sent his military out to forcibly disarm, then expel, the PLO forces. The PLO fought back, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians in Amman. At the same time, the Ba’athist Syrian regime, which did not like or trust King Hussein, sent a division of armored vehicles into northern Jordan with the intent of aiding the Palestinians and potentially overthrowing Hussein. The Syrians were turned back when Israeli fighters began flying over their positions, threatening to strike. Meanwhile, the Jordanians succeeded in expelling the Palestinian leadership, at the cost of somewhere between three and ten thousand civilian lives, an overall grim episode referred to by its participants as “Black September.” The PLO left for Beirut, while Hussein began consciously reining in his own Palestinian population and attempting to create a separate Jordanian identity apart from the struggle for Palestine.

1970s AND 1980s

Jordan stayed out of the 1973 war between Israel, Egypt and Syria, though it did contribute a small number of troops to fight with the Syrian army. During this period Hussein decisively oriented his country towards the west and made deeper unofficial contacts with the Israelis, which helped to enhance his regional representation as an honor broker and diplomat. He attempted to mediate between Iraq and Iran during their long war (1980-1988) to no effect, but nonetheless Jordan emerged from this period relatively unscathed. Jordan was still a very poor country, but using his western allies Hussein was able to build up a fairly strong administrative base for his country, though it was still subject to the whims of foreign aid donors.

This foreign aid was briefly cut off in 1991, when Hussein did not participate in the coalition to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. King Hussein felt that Kuwait and its Gulf allies had actually created a conspiracy—with American involvement—to lure Saddam Hussein into Iraq to give the UN a pretext to destroy his military capabilities, and as such Jordan took no part in what King Hussein saw as a dirty and deceptive war. As a result America cut off its funding to Jordan for several years, but Jordan bounced back by appealing more to the Europeans, the UN, and other Arab governments. The most notable internal development during this period was the continued move towards “Jordanizing” the population of the kingdom, making the descendants of Palestinian refugees identify primarily with their Jordanian identity and not their connection to the Occupied Territories.

Image:Jordan_Hussein_Rabin.jpg PEACE WITH ISRAEL

During the early 1990s Israel, Syria, Jordan, and Fatah began holding secret negotiations with Israel for the creation of a more lasting regional peace. This dialogue process culminated in the signing of a Declaration of Principles between Israeli PM Yitzkhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat in 1993, which has since been referred to as the Oslo Accords. As a result of this move towards a just peace between Israeli and the Palestinians, Hussein finally felt able to publicly announce his cessation of hostilities with Israel, which had been a de facto reality since the 1970s but was finalized in the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, which made Jordan only the second Arab state to reach a formal state of peace with Israel. Since this signing relations between the two countries have deteriorated significantly, largely as a result of Israel’s election of conservative Likud governments which have proven unwilling to implement many aspects of the Oslo Accords.

Image:Jordan_Abdullah.jpgImage:Jordan_Hussein_Mourning.jpg KING ABDULLAH II AND CURRENT EVENTS

King Hussein died of cancer in 1999 after rising from his death bed in one last attempt to invigorate the peace process by meeting with Arafat, the Israelis, and President Bill Clinton. He was succeeded by his eldest son Abdullah, a British-educated young man with few political credentials prior to assuming the throne. He has not had to deal with the Israeli conflict as his father did, but he has had to face his own challenge: the rising tide of political Islamism throughout the region. His father opened up the Jordanian political system to limited parliamentary democracy in 1992, and since that time the number of committed Muslims in the parliament has increased dramatically, many of whom would like to establish an Islamic state without the Hashemite dynasty. This situation has not been improved by the Iraq war, which has severely destabilized the kingdom in a number of ways. On the one hand, everyday Jordanians have became deeply opposed to the western powers which currently prop up the Jordanian monarchy, and on the other, the wild Jordanian desert has become a key transfer location for militants traveling to Iraq to fight the American and British occupiers. Several of these figures have become enmeshed in the Jordanian underworld and have conducted acts of terrorism against Jewish and Jordanian targets within Jordan itself. Abdullah has responded by rolling back many of his father’s political reforms, and now rules his country in a fairly authoritarian style, though this police state is still much more subdued than similar situations in Syria or Egypt. Abdullah remains very concerned about the fate of the Palestinians as a result of the newest Intifada, and his entire country reels with each new shock of the Iraq war. Even if situations have changed since Hussein took the throne in 1953, he and his son share the responsibility of trying to rule a small country in the eye of a terrible storm.



Ever since the ascension of Hussein diplomacy has been Jordan’s greatest strategic asset: by being inoffensive and open to all comers Jordan has become a friend to all and an enemy of none. Abdullah has tried to pursue these policies, and as a result Jordan finds itself, by Middle Eastern standards, in very good standing with the international community; the drawback to this situation, however, is very clear. Jordan enjoys these friendly relations with its neighbors because it is not a threat to anyone: with few economic or military resources Jordan can talk to anyone, but cannot really convince any to do anything.

Britain: Jordan’s former colonial master has maintained a strong relationship with the Hashemites for almost a century now. At present these connections are mainly through education and the military. Many Jordanian officers receive training in Britain, just as many British weapons make up the Jordanian army. Britain is also a large aid donor to Jordan via the EU.

Egypt: Egypt and Jordan share the uncertain honor of having both made peace with Israel, and facing the wrath of their own populations as a result. Egypt’s ruler Hosni Mubarak and the Hashemites often act in tandem on Israeli issues, especially when it comes to addressing the rights of the Palestinians. The Egyptians maintain better direct contact with the Palestinians via Gaza, and the Jordanians likewise have closer diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt and Jordan use these complimentary abilities to advocate for Palestinian rights and attempt to make the Israelis see the wisdom of sitting back down at the bargaining table.

European Union: the EU is the main source of imports for Jordan, and is becoming a key technical advisor in Jordan’s ongoing efforts to keep its unsteady economy administered efficiently. The EU appreciates Jordan’s role as a peaceful government in the region and has rewarded it with a generous aid package, though the EU remains concerned about the rollback of civil rights under Abdullah.

Israel: as long as Israel exists, there will be instability in Jordan. That said, the Jordanians realize that they are too busy dealing with their own unruly population and shaky economy to do much about the problems in either Israel or the Occupied Territories. Jordan continues to advocate for the Palestinians, but tries to keep its day to day relations with the Israelis focused on practical issues like trade and water rights. The last is an especially serious issue for the Jordanians, because much of Jordan is an extremely arid desert that will need serious irrigation to become productive, and the fact is that Israel uses the vast majority of the region’s water. Most water disputes between these countries go to outside mediation, usually with the US, but they are still common and unlikely to become less serious in the future.

Palestinians: despite Jordan’s advocacy for Palestinian rights, Jordan has rocky relations with the Palestinians themselves. Fatah and Jordan have predictably had strained relations since Black September, while the Jordanian government finds Hamas’ ruthlessness and uncompromising religious vision deeply unsettling, especially as such a worldview has gained more credence within Jordan proper. Although the Jordanian government acknowledges that its own Palestinian descendants make it impossible for Jordan to ignore the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Territories, the Jordanians would probably be happy if they could just make the entire situation go away.

Saudi Arabia: as opposed to the old days when the Hashemites seriously threatened the credibility of the House of Saud, the rise of oil power has rendered Saudi Arabia the de facto leader of the Arab world. As a result, Jordan rarely defies Saudi policies and the Saudis for their part supply Jordan with cheap energy and donate widely to help lubricate the weak Jordanian economy.

Syria: Syria and Jordan will never trust each other, but are too close to avoid each other for long either. The Ba’athist ideology of Syria calls for the abolition of all Arab monarchies, which in the past has certainly included Jordan. Currently Syria is far too weak to push this ideology, but the Jordanian government remains instinctually wary of Damascus, and is probably happy to see the Syrians isolated as much as possible, or at least fully occupied by the situation in Lebanon.

United States: as a result of Hussein’s careful Cold War diplomacy Jordan has come to be seen as America’s closest Arab ally. Egypt gets more money and the Saudis get more attention, but the Americans appreciate that only the Jordanian government can really be relied on to pursue policies that won’t further destabilize the region. At the same time, Washington cynically appreciates the fact that Jordan is completely dependent on foreign aid, most of which is American, to run its government, and can thus be counted on to back American policies as needed in the region, which is especially useful given Jordan’s history of strong and skillful diplomacy. For their part, the Americans reward this loyalty by giving Jordan absolute military security; as a result of recent dictums issued by the Bush administration, Jordan’s sovereignty has been fully backed by the American military in the event of some future crisis.


Personal tools