The Arab world is actively under reconstruction due to the influence of tectonic political shifts not in favor of the United States, and after a decade of uprisings, upheavals, “revolutions,” and civil wars, many of which were initiated by Washington. Turning away from US dictates, many Arab states today are trying to seize every opportunity to initiate a transition to good governance, whether in resolving the situation in Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, or Lebanon. It is a difficult task to meet the profound demands of the people of these countries for more democratic forms of governance or to follow the banners of the new world leaders rather than American standards and pseudo-democratic countries.
The latest data on the attitudes of Middle Eastern and North African countries toward the United States and toward the new centers of international life, which include China in particular, were provided by The Arab Barometer of Princeton College, USA. In most of the countries surveyed, more than half of the respondents agree with the statement that democracy is not conducive to a strong economy. The effectiveness of power is more important to them than its nature. Many respondents said they prefer strong leaders. Michael Robbins, director of the Arab Barometer, said, “The economic model that China has been proposing for 40 years has great potential to improve the welfare of the country’s people, at least in terms of income.” According to the Arab Barometer, the United States is seen as a major economic threat to the region by most of the countries surveyed.
Under these conditions, as evidenced by surveys conducted by numerous agencies, in addition to the recent rise of anti-American sentiments and criticism of Washington’s policies, there is also a clear trend in the countries of the Middle East toward increasing rapprochement with China and Russia. However, in addition to these two countries, Iran’s influence in the region also began to grow, mainly due to the intensification of the Islamic State’s foreign policy activities.
Moreover, even historically traditional US allies in the region, including Jordan in particular, have begun to draw closer to Iran. This process caused great concern both in the United States itself and in Israel, as such rapprochement between Jordan and Iran calls into question the future of the US-Israeli-Sunni coalition that Washington has consistently formed over the past several decades.
A sort of signal of such rapprochement was the joint meeting of Jordanian King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Baghdad a year ago (June 27, 2021). At that event, as is well known, the participants in the meeting agreed on the construction of an oil pipeline from Iraq that would pass through the territory of Jordan and Egypt and then be extended through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Tel Aviv, however, saw this purely economic agreement as strengthening Iranian positions not only in Iraq, which is largely dependent on Tehran’s will but also in Jordan. To confirm their suspicions, The Jerusalem Post pointed out that Iran is actively promoting financial cooperation with Jordan through this agreement.
Another area in which cooperation between Amman and Tehran could develop is religious tourism, as emphasized in Israel. Namely, a visit to the village of Kerak, 120 kilometers from Amman, where the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, who died in battle against the Byzantines, is located, which is a holy place for Shiites. Jordanian authorities responded very positively to this interest from Tehran and are considering building an airport near Kerak to receive Iranian pilgrims. In this regard, King Abdullah’s advisor, Ziyad Nablousi, even pointed out that “Iranian religious tourism will breathe life into Jordan.” At the same time, the Israeli media outlets emphasize that Tehran is demanding that provisions be made for Iranian forces to ensure security and protection of pilgrims, which is naturally viewed critically in Israel.
Tel Aviv, or Washington, has also reacted extremely painfully to the fact that the main consequence of the war in Syria has been the appearance of Iranian forces near the Israeli border in the occupied Golan Heights. As a result, the Iranians are now able to establish themselves on the border along the Jordan River.
Under these conditions, Washington decided to take a series of measures to arouse additional interests and tie Amman and other countries in the Middle East to itself. Joe Biden’s first Middle East trip as head of state, on July 13-16, encompassing Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan, was dedicated specifically to this goal. Speaking at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in the Saudi city of Jeddah, President Biden said the United States would remain an active partner in the Middle East and would not allow Russia, China, or Iran to take its place. At the same time, the White House communiqué following the talks between the US President and Jordanian King Abdullah II states, “President Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to a strategic partnership with Jordan and support for stability in the Kingdom.” The US president also said he had ordered the drafting of a new agreement with Jordan that would increase annual US financial assistance to the kingdom from $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion in the coming years.
Following President Biden’s talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II, a memorandum of understanding was signed on September 16, under which the United States will provide $10.15 billion in aid to Jordan over the next seven years. The joint statement by the parties, disseminated by the US Department of State, said, “The fourth Memorandum of Understanding on the Strategic Partnership between the United States and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been signed. The US will provide Jordan with $1.45 billion per year in US foreign assistance from 2023 to 2029.”
At the same time, it became known that the US Department of Defense has signed a contract for the production and supply, including to Jordan, of Javelin anti-tank missile systems: “Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin JV, Tucson, Arizona, was awarded a $311,171,700 [contract] for full-rate production of Javelins. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2026.” A significant portion of the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank systems produced will be supplied under foreign military sales to Jordan, where several types of anti-tank missile systems are already in service with the kingdom’s ground forces. These are US FGM-148 Javelins (at least 162 units) and TOW /TOW-2A anti-tank systems.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.