"Jordan First": Jordan's Inter-Arab Relations and Foreign Policy under King Abdullah II

By Ryan, Curtis R. | Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

"Jordan First": Jordan's Inter-Arab Relations and Foreign Policy under King Abdullah II


Ryan, Curtis R., Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)


THE HASHEMITE KINGDOM OF JORDAN has long played a regional foreign policy role that seems to belie its small size and its limited economic and military means. (1) That role in no way diminished even after the succession in the Jordanian monarchy from King Hussein to his son Abdullah in 1999. But with the death of Hussein and the accession to the throne of King Abdullah II, Jordan did nonetheless have a new top foreign policy maker for the first time in 46 years. On 9 June 2004, the Hashemite monarchy celebrated the fifth anniversary of Abdullah's reign. This date marked not only five years of rule for the new regime, but also five particularly tumultuous and violent years in regional politics--from the collapse of the peace process, to the renewed Palestinian Intifada, to U.S. wars against both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yet throughout these turbulent events, Jordan has continued to play a key role in the prospects for both war and peace in the region. The May 2003 summit in Jordan's capital, Amman, between President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas underscored the centrality of the Jordanian role in particular in attempts to revive the moribund peace process.

in June 2003, the World Economic Forum held a special summit at Jordan's Dead Sea resort, underscoring the Jordanian regime's determination to court the world's most wealthy and powerful economic actors, while also demonstrating the central role that these economic "powers-that-be" seem to attach to Jordan within Middle East politics. Later that same month, the "Quartet" of officials from the U.S., United Nations, European Union, and Russia again chose to meet in Jordan in an attempt to implement their "Roadmap for Peace." For better or worse, the major powers of the early 21st Century seemed to regard Jordan as geo-politically far more important than its size or resources might otherwise suggest. This paper provides an analysis of Jordanian foreign policy under King Abdullah 11, particularly within inter-Arab and Middle East politics, as the regime has attempted to maneuver between domestic and regional challenges.

Since ascending the throne in 1999, King Abdullah has strengthened Jordan's international ties to major extra-regional powers such as the United States and the European Union, and has further linked the kingdom's fortunes to major international economic institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. Closer to home, Jordan has maintained its peace treaty with Israel, despite the collapse of the Oslo peace process and the start of the second Palestinian Intifada. In inter-Arab relations, Jordan under King Abdullah has managed to complete the long and difficult process (since the depths of the 1991 Gulf war) of reestablishing relations with each of the Arab Gulf monarchies. The kingdom has developed a close relationship with Washington's other major Arab ally, Egypt, as King Abdullah and Egyptian President Husni Mubarak positioned their respective regimes to be major mediators within Middle East politics.

In the sections that follow, this paper examines Jordan's inter-Arab relations under King Abdullah 11, with an emphasis on the two most problematic and contentious relationships: with Syria and with Iraq. The paper then examines Jordan's newly stabilized inter-Arab and regional relations against the context of renewed crises in the region, as the kingdom has been wedged between violence to the west, between Israelis and Palestinians, and to the east, between the United States and Iraq. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the domestic implications of Jordan's regional position and its foreign policy choices.

JORDANIAN FOREIGN POLICY UNDER KING ABDULLAH II

King Hussein had seemed to many in the outside world to be the virtual embodiment of Jordan and its foreign relations. (2) For the most part, King Abdullah's policy views mirror those of his father. …

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