Lamees Al Hadidi, Al-Jazeera | June 2003
Al-Jazeera's Lamees Al Hadidi examines Jordan's position in the Arab world and its relationship with the U.S.
Trapped between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Iraq conflict, Jordanian relations with the U.S. have been subject to extreme changes.
Throughout much of its history, Jordan has been a pro-Western, modernizing country that has adopted moderate policies on most regional issues.
Its small size and lack of major economic resources have made it dependent on aid from Western and neighbouring Arab countries, which presents a dilemma: whether to adopt American policies or look out for Arab interests.
Jordan's geographic position wedged between Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia has made it vulnerable to the strategic designs of its more powerful neighbours, but has also given Jordan an important role as a buffer between these potential adversaries.
This, and other reasons, led the U.S. to depend on Jordan and on its late King Hussein, then his son King Abdullah, to help sustain its policies in the Middle East.
Rift over Iraq
The 1990s, however, saw a brief rift in American-Jordanian relations.
Jordan had close economic ties with Iraq, which allowed it to import cheap oil.
Initially, King Hussein expressed an unwillingness to join the allied coalition against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait, which disrupted relations between the U.S. and the Gulf states.
However, that did not last long.
CP Picture Archive (Doug Mills)
The same King Hussein changed course by getting more involved in the Arab-Israeli peace process in late 1991 by tightening the enforcement of UN economic sanctions against Iraq, allowing an Iraqi opposition group to establish an office in Jordan and permitting U.S. fighter aircrafts in Jordan to help enforce the no-fly zone in southern Iraq.
Jordan, nevertheless, managed to maintain long-standing economic ties with Baghdad and the popular sympathy many Jordanians have with the Iraqi people; at least 400,000 Iraqis live in Jordan.
Jordan's role in the peace process was another milestone in its relations with the U.S.
In October 1994, Jordan and Israel signed a fully-fledged peace treaty at a ceremony on the Jordanian-Israeli border attended by former U.S. president Bill Clinton.
The history of American aid to Jordan goes back to 1951. Total aid given until 1997 is estimated at $3.9 billion, including $2.1 billion in economic assistance and $1.8 billion military aid.
Levels of American aid have fluctuated, increasing in response to threats faced by Jordan and decreasing during periods of political tension.
In 1991, due to Jordan's sympathy for Iraq during the Gulf crisis, the U.S. Congress suspended aid to Jordan. But the president exercised a waiver later that year to maintain informal funds.
After signing a peace treaty with Israel, stipulation on aid to Jordan was removed.
As part of a five-year Middle East peace and stability fund announced by the Clinton administration in 1997, both Egypt and Israel agreed to the diversion of $50 million from each of their respective aid programs in 1997 and 1998 to augment economic aid funds available to Jordan.
That brought U.S. economic aid to Jordan to $112 million in 1997 and $150 million in 1998, and total aid for Jordan for those years to $152 million and $228 million respectively (including military aid).
Since then, U.S. aid stabilized at $150 million in economic assistance, $75 million in foreign military financing and $1.6 million in international military education and training.
In 2003, however, the Bush administration sought to double the U.S. aid to Jordan in view of its support for the "War on Terror."
In October 2000, Jordan and the U.S. signed a free trade agreement, the third for the U.S. and its first with an Arab state, which eliminates duties and commercial barriers to bilateral trade in goods and services originating in the two countries.
Great political and economic ties between Jordan and the U.S., however, do not reflect the mood in the Jordanian street.
Because of American support for Israel perhaps half the Jordanian population originates from Palestine and the anger at what happened in Iraq, the Jordanians find themselves filled with deep anger at American policies.
That anger was reflected in several violent acts against U.S. diplomats and local police.
Though the Jordanian government has described them as "isolated incidents," these were signs of resentment of U.S. policies in the region, and this anger cannot be mended by free trade agreements or direct economic assistance.
Whether that will change with more American involvement in implementing the road map remains to be seen.