Foreign policy and defense
According to abbreviationfinder, Jordan is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Amman. Jordan has a geographically vulnerable location, squeezed between strong neighboring states in a troubled region. Its strategy has been to strive for good contacts with a great power (formerly the United Kingdom, now the United States) that can intervene if the country is threatened. At the same time, the Jordanians have invested in their own strong defense and the Jordanian army is perhaps the best educated in the Arab world, equipped with weapons mainly from the United States.
The Jordanian royal house invokes kinship with Islam’s prophet Muhammad, giving the ruler respect not only in the Muslim world. Jordan has also long been seen as a quiet haven in the troubled Middle East.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Jordan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Security and stability have also been the most important for King Abdullah, who has chosen to continue his father’s policy of supporting the West and a peaceful coexistence with Israel. But the king has a difficult balance to go. On the one hand, economic assistance from the West, especially the United States, is important as well as peaceful relations with Israel, not least in view of the distribution of the limited water resources from the Jordan River (see Natural Resources and Energy). On the other hand, a large portion of the Palestinian and Islamist population opposes Western and Israeli-friendly policies. That is why King Abdullah has been actively involved in trying to reach a solution to the Middle East conflict. He has expressed support for a Palestinian state on the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and has demanded that the US and the EU exert pressure on Israel to end its settlement policy in Palestinian territories so that peace talks can be resumed.
Despite close relations with the United States, Jordan refused to participate in the US-led UN alliance’s warfare with Iraq 1990-1991. The reasons were mainly the proximity to Iraq and a dependence on Iraqi oil. The stance led to worse relations with the United States in the 1990s, but the situation improved after King Abdullah’s takeover of power in 1999. Jordan was the first Arab country to enter into a free trade agreement with the United States in 2001. Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11 of that year, the Amman government quickly supported it. US-led alliance against terrorism.
Saudi Arabia and other states around the Persian Gulf severed relations with Jordan following its decision to stay out of the war against Iraq 1990-1991. King Abdullah has prioritized the reestablishment of good relations and the wounds after the crisis are said to have healed largely. With Saudi Arabia, relations in the 2010s have been friendly, and the country has also replaced the war-affected Iraq as an oil supplier.
Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. By then, both countries had formally been at war since the state of Israel was formed in 1948. In practice, peace had prevailed since 1971, when Jordan’s army crushed the Palestinian guerrillas in the country (see Modern History). The peace agreement was made possible by the thaw of the 1990s in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Diplomatic relations were established, trade exchanges and economic cooperation emerged and the countries agreed on the distribution of water from the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers.
Relations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) improved when Jordan withdrew claims on the West Bank in 1988 (see Modern History). The sensitive issue of Jordan’s Israel-backed claim to be the protector of Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem has also been resolved (at least as far as internal Jordan-Palestinian relations are concerned; the area is still occupied by Israel). The Palestinian Authority was given daily responsibility for the sites, while Jordan has legal responsibility until the conflict over Jerusalem’s status is resolved. Relations with Palestinian Hamas have also improved.
Iraq has been economically important for Jordan, both as a market and as an oil supplier. Therefore, the US attack on Iraq in March 2003 put the Jordanian government in a difficult situation. At the same time as there was strong domestic opposition to the war, King Abdullah wanted to safeguard security cooperation with the United States. As a result, Jordan was not actively involved in the war, but the United States and Britain were allowed to station special forces on Jordanian territory. In return, the United States significantly increased its financial assistance to Jordan.
The escalating violence in Iraq led to a growing stream of Sunni Arab refugees to Jordan, which after 2003 received half a million refugees from Iraq. In 2014, a new wave of refugees from Iraq could also be seen, partly from the terror of the Islamist extremist group Islamic State (IS) and partly from increased violence between different ethnic groups (see also Iraq: Current politics).
Despite widespread sympathy for the Iraqis, the Jordanians’ attitude to the refugees has been shared. Wealthy refugees have contributed to an upswing in the Jordanian economy but at the same time to increased inflation and rising housing prices. The majority of refugees, however, have no assets and are a vulnerable group which, despite international aid, has incurred high costs for Jordan.
The previously problematic relations with Syria improved after King Hussein’s death in 1999, when the two countries agreed, among other things, that Syria would supply Jordan with water during the dry periods of the year. The war in Syria since 2011 has again complicated the situation. In Jordan, there are both supporters and opponents of the Assad regime in Syria, and clashes have occurred between them. The opposition party IAF (see Political system) has supported the more moderate opposition to Assad and King Abdullah demanded the departure of Assad as the first Arab. At the same time, the regime’s fall could have serious consequences for Jordan: already in the fall of 2014, the country had received 1.2 million Syrian refugees, and most remain in the country.
Jordan lined up in the US-led bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq against the terrorist group IS. At the same time, a survey showed that IS was supported by at least seven percent of Jordanians. Hundreds had also joined the group even though it was illegal. After IS brutally murdered a captured Jordanian pilot in early 2015, Jordan increased the bombings against IS moorings.
King Abdullah, to the dismay of the Islamic opposition, openly supported the military coup in Egypt in 2013, when the elected president Muhammad Mursi of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown. He was also the first head of state to visit Cairo after the coup.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 74,000 men (2017)
The air Force: 12 000 men (2017)
The fleet: 500 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 4.8 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 15.8 percent (2017)