Jordan and the ‘Deal of the Century’

The “Deal of the Century” is getting a lot of media attention lately. There is an important sidebar to the agreement that must be addressed.

May 27, 2019 22:26
3 minute read.
Jordan and the ‘Deal of the Century’

Jordan's King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2018. (photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)

The “Deal of the Century” is getting a lot of media attention lately. There is an important sidebar to the agreement that must be addressed.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II is in a very precarious situation. Abdullah, who was never a very strong leader, is now in a more weakened position than ever. He is in danger of becoming even weaker, and he is certainly in danger of being overthrown.
Countries in the region see Jordan’s king as irrelevant. They have no interest and no need for Jordan. Abdullah is not looped into any talks, strategy conversations or meetings. Washington barely speaks to him, and even when he travels to DC he gets little respect and even less information.

King Abdullah II of Jordan has been given no details on the famous peace plan.

Israel barely bothers to speak to the Jordanian king. And yet, Jordan needs Israel just like it needs backing from Washington and regional leaders like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Jordan needs their economic aid and needs their commitment to protect and defend the monarchy – his monarchy. But that aid has been dwindling. Leaders do not see the value of Jordan.

Jordan is petrified of neighboring country Syria, petrified by its President Bashar Assad, ISIS, Hezbollah and Iran. On Jordan’s other border, Iraq is teaming up with Iran. Jordan has been the magnet for refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq. With those refugees come extremists from ISIS and al-Qaeda as well as Iranian agents.

But Israel has not forsaken Jordan. Israel not throwing Abdullah to his neighboring wolves. Israel is helping to make Jordan secure, and it is probably Israel that leaked intelligence to an Arabic media outlet that said there was a plot to assassinate key players in the Jordanian government.

Once upon a time Jordan was an important ally to Israel and an important player in the region. Today, the Hashemite Kingdom is no longer essential.

IN 1990, Jordan chose not to condemn neighbor Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Thinking it a wise political and diplomatic move, Jordan decided to remain neutral as the United States took action against the tyrant in Baghdad. In response to Jordan’s decision, the US pulled important aid from Jordan. It has taken time, but now Jordan is back on serious footing when it comes to US foreign aid. It has gone from receiving the relatively paltry sum of $145 million in US aid annually to over a $1 billion. That aid is important to Jordan but pales when compared to the sums Egypt and Israel receive.

Even with that, Jordan is in deep financial trouble. Unlike many of the kingdom’s Arab neighbors Jordan has no oil and no natural gas. Jordan no real exports to speak of. Its GDP is a measly $40 billion per year, and the average annual income is $4,000. Jordan’s foreign debt today is over $19 billion, and if it were not for a serious austerity program the king enacted, his country’s foreign debt would be as high as 90% of its GDP.

Not too long ago, Jordan had the most pro-Western leadership in the Arab Middle East. Jordan, along with Egypt, has an official peace treaty with Israel, and that treaty has helped Jordan maintain a semblance – however slight – of relevance.

The treaty itself became a valuable commodity for Jordan.  Because Jordan had a relationship with Israel, and because the United States had a relationship with Israel, in a diplomatic play on piggyback, Jordan and the US had a relationship. And being an ally of the US after the Gulf War was significant. Jordan had something to offer the US: it could exert influence and pressure upon Palestinian leadership. 

Today, however, the role that Jordan plays in the Middle East is limited. Israel and the US know that. But neither one wants to see Jordan go down, go under or get swallowed up. The alternative to this king is an even more economically unstable country. The alternative would almost certainly be hostile to the West, and that situation is far worse.   

Those trying to overthrow Jordan are extremist Muslim groups and anti-Western. So despite its current status, for the sake of a stable region, Jordan and King Abdullah II will be reinvigorated and revitalized. Israel and the United States know that they must make certain that Jordan remains stable in order to keep the region stable. A stable region is best for everyone.

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