For decades, various Middle Eastern countries and factions have clashed over land disagreements, religious differences and historical grievances. Against this backdrop, Jordan has emerged as a bulwark of stability. The kingdom has a history of political security and has long acted as a haven for individuals and families seeking refuge from conflict. Moreover, Jordan has forged strong partnerships with Western countries over the past few decades, particularly the US. Jordan’s historically constructive role in the region and its well-established relations with Western powers have resulted in the kingdom playing an influential role in the Middle East.
A History Of Open Borders
Over the past decades, Jordan has repeatedly opened its borders to refugees. In the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, tens of thousands of Palestinians fled into Jordan. During the second half of the century, waves of refugees continued to enter the kingdom, particularly in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War and 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Many Palestinians who crossed into Jordan opted to remain in the kingdom and established new lives there. In the wake of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis made their way to Jordan. Though some have returned home over the past decade, many Iraqis remain in the kingdom. More recently – since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011 – Jordan has received a large influx of Syrian refugees. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, the official number of Syrian refugees reached 627,287 as of August 2015, although the total is thought to be higher, at more than 1.4m.
Jordan has maintained a steadfast principle of not turning away any refugee, despite the well documented limitations of its resources, as well as budget concerns and donor fatigue on the part of the international community – as of August 2015, Jordan had only received $1.02bn out of the $2.99bn required as per Jordan’s Response Plan 2015; this is approximately 34% of what had been requested .
Strategic Intrest In Jordan's Security
Undefined while Jordan’s role as a safe haven for refugees accounts for much of its good standing abroad, other actors in the international community have a more strategic interest in the stability of the kingdom. Jordan’s security is of particular importance in light of the rise of the regional terrorist group, the so-called Islamic State, since 2014.
Finally, a number of Western powers have deep-rooted economic, political and military ties with the kingdom. This is particularly true of the EU, UK and the US. The combination of all these factors means that there is strong support for the kingdom’s security within the global community. King Abdullah II has been especially active in building up Jordan’s diplomatic and political reputation worldwide, as well as with leading international organisations.
President Barack Obama visited the kingdom in the summer of 2013 and in remarks in December 2014 said, “Jordan is one of our most effective and capable and steadfast partners in not only the Middle East, but around the world.” President Obama’s words were reflected in the February 2015 decision by the US to increase aid from $660m per year over the 2010-14 period to $1bn per year from 2015 to 2017. The US also provided Jordan with a seven-year, $1.25bn loan guarantee in 2014 and $1.5bn in loan guarantees in 2015 ($1bn with a seven-year repayment period and $500m with a 10-year repayment period). Jordan also works closely with international organisations, such as the World Bank and IMF. In 2012 the IMF provided Jordan with a 36-month, $2bn stand-by arrangement, conditional on the realisation of economic reforms.
Despite its relatively small population and the multitude of domestic economic challenges, Jordan continues to play a critical role in a turbulent region.
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