Relations with the United States

Jordan Table of Contents

Although Amman established diplomatic relations with Washington in 1949, the United States did not become actively involved in Jordan until 1957, when it replaced Britain as the Hashimite Kingdom's principal Western source of foreign aid and political support. Jordan and the United States never entered into treaty commitments, but Washington's policy was to ensure Jordan's continued independence and stability. Thus, the United States assisted Jordan in equipping and training its military forces. During the civil war of 1970-71, the United States firmly supported Hussein, although it did not become directly involved in the conflict. After Jordan's army had defeated the PLO guerrillas, Washington extended substantial budgetary and military aid to the Hashimite Kingdom. This aid contributed significantly toward Jordanian recovery from the damages suffered not only in the civil war but also in the June 1967 War and during the intensive Israeli shelling of the Jordan valley between 1968 and 1970. Hussein's close alignment with the United States before and after the civil war predictably aroused strong anti-American sentiment among Palestinians in Jordan and elsewhere.

The October 1973 War, in which Jordan was not a direct participant, brought Jordan and the United States much closer in the peace process that began after the conflict. Jordan joined with the United States in support of UN Security Council Resolution 338. This resolution called on the parties involved in the October 1973 War to cease their hostilities and to implement UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 providing for a peace based on Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories. Hussein hoped to obtain American backing for a return of the West Bank to Jordanian control. His expectations were buoyed by Washington's success in negotiating disengagement and limited withdrawal of forces agreements between Egypt and Israel and Syria and Israel.

The failure of the United States during 1974 to persuade Israel to pull back its forces from part of the West Bank as an initial step toward a peace agreement with Jordan disillusioned Hussein with respect to the ability of the Americans to pressure Israel on the issue of withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories. Although he continued to value Washington's reaffirmations of support for Jordan's security and economic progress, Hussein became increasingly skeptical of American assurances that the West Bank would be reunited with the East Bank. Consequently, he refrained from participation in the Camp David process, which he was convinced would be used by Israel to perpetuate its control of the West Bank. After Egyptian and Israeli negotiations on the autonomy plan had stalled, Hussein tried to rekindle United States interest in an international conference to deal with territory for the Palestinians.

Throughout the 1980s, the United States continued to assign Jordan a key role in a resolution of the status of the West Bank. Hussein believed, however, that Washington did not understand how essential it was for the stability of his regime to regain full control over all of the West Bank and how politically dangerous it would be for him to agree to any partial measures. For example, Hussein did not publicly criticize President Reagan's September 1982 proposal for Middle East peace: but since this plan restricted self-determination for Palestinians on the West Bank to an "autonomous authority" in association with Jordan, he regarded American expectation of his endorsement as unrealistic. Hussein accepted that political developments since 1974 made it impossible to ignore the PLO in any peace negotiations. Thus, one of his policy aims vis--vis the United States became to convince Washington to deal--at least unofficially--with the PLO. From the end of 1982 until the end of 1988, Hussein served as an intermediary between the United States and the PLO, attempting to get both parties to make the kind of political concessions that were necessary before a dialogue could be initiated.

During the early 1980s, Hussein seriously considered expanding Jordan's military relations with the United States. He gave tentative approval for the creation of an unpublicized 8,000-strong Jordanian strike force that would respond to requests for assistance from Arab countries within a 2,400-kilometer radius of Jordan. The intended target of this special force was to be the Persian Gulf, where the traditional allies of both Jordan and the United States feared the potentially destabilizing consequences of the Iran-Iraq War. The United States agreed to provide the special Jordanian unit with weapons and other military equipment. In an apparent effort to obtain approval of the United States Congress for the extra funding needed to arm the strike force, in early 1984 the Reagan administration disclosed its formation. This unexpected disclosure caused consternation in Amman, and news of the Jordanian strike force provoked harsh criticism from Syria and from Palestinian guerrilla groups opposed to Hussein. In order to minimize negative repercussions, Hussein tried to distance his country from the strike force by portraying it as a United States initiative in which Jordan had no real interest or substantive involvement. Congress did not approve the requested funds, and the plan was subsequently abandoned.

Hussein's disappointment with American policy increased when Congress later refused to authorize selling weapons to Jordan and voted to reduce the amount of aid the administration requested as punishment for its perception that Amman had failed to cooperate with Israel. Hussein resented these measures because he believed he had exerted great efforts in persuading Palestinian and other Arab leaders to adopt more moderate and flexible positions and had himself agreed to several private meetings with Peres. In 1989 Jordan's relations with the United States remained friendly and cooperative in economic and military matters but were clouded by Hussein's lack of confidence in Washington's policy toward Israel and the occupied territories.

More about the Government and Politics of Jordan.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress