Jordan’s signing a military assistance agreement with China throws another moneywrench into any U.S. effort to help stabilize the region.
It gives Beijing a new operating base in the midst of a chaotic Middle East. And it will force the U.S. to take another look at its longtime sponsorship, despite itsd lack of dependability in crisis. The much acclaimed former “Little King”, Hussein, for example, took Iraqi Dictator Salaam Hussein’s side when the U.S. intervened in the first Iraq war to defend the sovereignty of the oil-rich but weak Kuwaitis.
However, sitting at the center of the Arab world, Jordan has been seen as crucial to preserving its balance, especially after it made peace with Israel under Pres. Bill Clinton’s auspices in 1994. Its peace treaty has given the Israelis some stability on their eastern border. Indeed, some Israelis have long argued it is already “the Palestinian state” and should be recognized as such with more than half its 6.5 million descended from some 800,000 who crossed the Jordan from the former Palestinian Mandate areas in the several Mideast wars. That’s despite the fact that Hussein and now his son, Abdullah II, have often been the object of internal Palestinian opposition to their Hashemite royal family supported by their largely Bedouin army.
Now tying up to Beijing seems another manifestation of what Pres. Obama’s policy of “leading from behind” and withdrawal of traditional American leadership in the region is doing to power alignments. Although there is no treaty arrangement between Washington and Amman, since 1951 the U.S. has provided Jordan with economic and military aid totaling nearly $16 billion dollars. And in February, the Obama Administration proposed to Congress another three-year $1 billion a year handout. In addition, the Secretary of Defense would be authorized to extend additional aid in bolstering Jordan’s border with its wartorn neighbor, Syria, through which 1.5 million refugees have entered. The U.S. is also the largest contributor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN’s largest organization with a budget of $1.2 billion and 30,000 employees. Other American contributions are made through the UN High Commission for Refugees [UNHCR]. Both these groups heavily support the original Palestinian refugees from the former British Palestine Mandate and their offspring.
What the Jordan Armed Forces and the Chinese army signed Sept. 5 in Beijing is a military cooperation agreement providing the JAF with unspecified military equipment worth 30 million Yuan [$4.7 million]. The military tieup joins an earlier Jordan-China $7 billion project to build Jordan’s first oil shale-fired power plant and a national railway network.
It remains to be seen, of course, how much of the Chinese projects will actually materialize. There is a long record – which the mainstream media generally ignore – of such Chinese announcements of overseas investment remaining unfulfilled. Others, based in Africa on oil swaps are in trouble as the Chinese economy slows and import demand declines rapidly with world oil prices halved. But payment for Chinese weapons could come indirectly out of U.S. aid.
. Britain lopped off then what was called Transjordan east of the Jordan River from its League of Nations Palestine Mandate [with no expressed international agreement] in 1946. What was once a small city of Amman, populated largely by Caucasian Muslim refugees from the Russian Northern Caucuses, has increased almost tenfold with the steady influx of other refugees backed by subsidies from the U.S., the UN, and other governments. But throughout all these changes, its armed forces, from the original British-sponsored Glubb Pasha’s Arab Legion, have been the bedrock of the regime, closely allied with Western military. A tieup now with the Chinese military not only offers the Chinese center for mischief but might threaten the internal precarious balance of the regime.