Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations
June 18, 2020
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a key U.S. partner in the Middle East. Although the United
States and Jordan have never been linked by a formal treaty, the two countries have cooperated
Jeremy M. Sharp
on a number of regional and international issues over the years. Jordan remains at peace with
Specialist in Middle
Israel and is a key interlocutor with the Palestinians. Jordan’s strategic importance to the United
Eastern Affairs
States is evident given ongoing instability in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Jordan also is a

longtime U.S. partner in global counterterrorism operations. U.S.-Jordanian military, intelligence,
and diplomatic cooperation seeks to empower political moderates, reduce sectarian conflict, and

eliminate terrorist threats.
U.S. officials frequently express their support for Jordan. U.S. support has helped Jordan address serious vulnerabilities, both
internal and external. Jordan’s small size and lack of major economic resources have made it dependent on aid from Western
and various Arab sources. President Trump has acknowledged Jordan’s role as a key U.S. partner in countering the Islamic
State, as many U.S. policymakers advocate for continued robust U.S. assistance to the kingdom.
Annual U.S. aid to Jordan has nearly quadrupled in historical terms over the last 15 years. The United States has provided
economic and military aid to Jordan since 1951 and 1957, respectively. Total bilateral U.S. aid (overseen by the Departments
of State and Defense) to Jordan through FY2018 amounted to approximately $22 billion. Jordan also hosts over 3,000 U.S.
To date, Jordan has withstood the impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with minimal loss of life (a reported nine
deaths), but at a steep cost to its economy. Jordan’s small size and strong public health system arguably contributed to the
country’s ability to manage the pandemic effectively. Jordan is one of the first Arab countries to reopen; as of June 2020 the
state had lifted most restrictions on economic activity and certain public gatherings, such as religious worship. Analysts
anticipate that Jordan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will contract in 2020 by 3.5% after growing 2% last year. Losses in
government revenue caused by fewer remittances and a weakened market for tourism are expected to widen the budget
deficit in the years ahead.
As the Trump Administration has enacted changes to long-standing U.S. policies on Israel and the Palestinians, which the
Palestinians have criticized as unfairly punitive to them and biased toward Israel, Jordan has found itself in a difficult
position. While King Abdullah II seeks to maintain strong relations with the United States, he rules over a country where the
issue of Palestinian rights resonates with much of the population; more than half of all Jordanian citizens originate from
either the West Bank or the area now comprising the state of Israel. In trying to balance U.S.-Jordanian relations with
Palestinian concerns, King Abdullah II has refrained from directly criticizing the Trump Administration on its moves, while
urging the international community to return to the goal of a two-state solution that would ultimately lead to an independent
Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Jordanian leaders have expressed strong opposition to a possible Israeli cabinet and Knesset vote on annexing West Bank
territory—in coordination with the United States—after July 1, 2020. King Abdullah II has signaled that should Israel go
ahead with annexation, Jordan is prepared to escalate its confrontation with Israel. As Jordan considers whether to revisit its
ties to Israel, the range of possible options Jordan may be considering include withdrawing its ambassador from Israel,
reducing security cooperation, cancelling its natural gas deal with Israel, and either partially or fully suspending the 1994
peace treaty.
Congress may consider legislation pertaining to U.S. relations with Jordan. On February 18, 2016, President Obama signed
the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-123), which authorizes expedited review and an
increased value threshold for proposed arms sales to Jordan for a period of three years. It amended the Arms Export Control
Act to give Jordan temporarily the same preferential treatment U.S. law bestows upon NATO members and Australia, Israel,
Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. S. 28, the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act, would
reauthorize the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act (22 U.S.C. §275) through December 31, 2022. In the House,
H.R. 4862 also would reauthorize the 2015 Act while also calling on the United States International Development Finance
Corporation to issue a call for “proposals pursuing investment funds with a focus on Jordan.”

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Overview: COVID-19 and the Jordanian Economy .............................................................. 1
Country Background ....................................................................................................... 1

The Hashemite Royal Family ...................................................................................... 2
Political System and Key Institutions............................................................................ 2

Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinians ..................................................................................... 4
Jordan and Trump Administration Peace Plans ............................................................... 5
Possible Israeli Annexation of the West Bank ................................................................. 6
Possible Jordanian Reactions to Annexation ............................................................. 6
Jordan Ends Israeli Access to Two Territories................................................................. 9
Syria ............................................................................................................................. 9
U.S. Relations .............................................................................................................. 10
U.S. Foreign Assistance to Jordan .................................................................................... 11
U.S.-Jordanian Agreement on Foreign Assistance ......................................................... 12
Economic Assistance................................................................................................ 12
Humanitarian Assistance for Syrian Refugees in Jordan................................................. 14
Military Assistance .................................................................................................. 14

Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and DOD Security Assistance .............................. 15
Excess Defense Articles ...................................................................................... 15

Figure 1. Jordan at a Glance.............................................................................................. 4
Figure 2. Jordanian Officials Pray at Area Recently Reclaimed from Israel .............................. 9
Figure 3. Cash Transfers to Jordan ................................................................................... 13

Table 1. Bilateral Aid to Jordan ....................................................................................... 12
Table 2. U.S. Foreign Aid Obligations to Jordan: 1946-2018 ................................................ 15

Author Information ....................................................................................................... 15

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Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

Overview: COVID-19 and the Jordanian Economy
As of June 2020, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (hereinafter referred to as “Jordan”), led by
58-year-old monarch King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein (hereinafter King Abdullah II), has
managed to navigate the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with minimal loss of life (a
reported nine deaths), but at a steep cost to its economy.1 Jordan’s smal size and strong public
health system arguably contributed to the country’s ability to manage the pandemic effectively.
Jordan is one of the first Arab countries to reopen; the state has lifted most restrictions on
economic activity and certain public gatherings, such as religious worship.2 Analysts anticipate
that Jordan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) wil contract in 2020 by 3.5% after growing 2% last
year. Losses in government revenue caused by fewer remittances and a weakened market for
tourism are expected to widen the budget deficit in the years ahead; the Economist Intelligence
Unit predicts that public debt wil peak at 124% of GDP in 2022-23.3 It is currently 97% of GDP.
To cope with the economic fal out from the pandemic, the government has delayed public sector
salary increases that were promised as part of the 2020 budget.4 Jordan has experienced
widespread social unrest in recent years stemming largely from its lackluster economy and cuts in
domestic spending.5 In fal 2019, 100,000 public school teachers organized a nationwide strike,
demanding that the government raise teacher salaries. After the strike shut down schools for a
month, the government partial y acceded to teachers’ demands, despite budgetary strains. The
teachers’ strike marked the second major instance of unrest in the last two years over economic
conditions. In 2018, when the government tried to raise income taxes, mass protests ensued; the
government ultimately revised its tax plan and turned to the Arab Gulf monarchies for additional
Jordan relies heavily on international financial support to cover chronic balance of payment
shortfal s. In May 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lent Jordan $396 mil ion to “help
address the country’s balance of payments needs and al ow for higher spending on healthcare,
containment, and assistance to households and companies most affected by [the] COVID-19
crisis.”6 The IMF had already provided another multi-year $1.3 bil ion loan package to Jordan in
March 2020 (after an earlier three-year $723 mil ion Extended Fund Facility reform program),
but due to the pandemic, the government is now facing a $1.5 bil ion shortfal in its balance of
Country Background
Although the United States and Jordan have never been linked by a formal treaty, they have
cooperated on a number of regional and international issues for decades. Jordan’s smal size and
lack of major economic resources have made it dependent on aid from Western and various Arab

1 Osama al Sharif, “Jordan Left with Struggling Economy Following Lockdown,” Al Monitor, May 6, 2020.
2 For details on how Jordan responded to the pandemic, see Jordan: “Government T akes Steps Aimed at Curbing
COVID-19 Outbreak,” Global Legal Monitor, Law Library, Library of Congress, April 28, 2020.
3 Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report Jordan, Generated on June 4th 2020.
4 “Jordan Postpones Public Sector Wage Hikes to Ease Financial P ressure,” Reuters, April 19, 2020.
5 T uqa Nusairat, “T eachers’ Protest Challenges Jordanian Status Quo,” MENA Source, Atlantic Council, September 27,
6 IMF Executive Board Approves US$ 396 Million in Emergency Assistance to Jordan to Address the COVID-19
Pandemic, May 21, 2020.
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sources. U.S. support, in particular, has helped Jordan deal with serious vulnerabilities, both
internal and external. Jordan’s geographic position, wedged between Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi
Arabia, has made it vulnerable to the strategic designs of its powerful neighbors, but has also
given Jordan an important role as a buffer between these countries in their largely adversarial
relations with one another.
Jordan, created by colonial powers after World War I, initial y consisted of desert or semidesert
territory east of the Jordan River, inhabited largely by people of Bedouin tribal background, the
original “East Bank” Jordanians.7 The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 brought large
numbers of Palestinian refugees to Jordan, which subsequently unilateral y annexed a Palestinian
enclave west of the Jordan River known as the West Bank.8 The “East Bank” Jordanians, though
probably no longer a majority in Jordan, remain predominant in the country’s political and
military establishments and form the bedrock of support for the Jordanian monarchy. Jordanians
of Palestinian origin comprise an estimated 55% to 70% of the population. They tend to gravitate
toward employment in the private sector, most likely due to their al eged general exclusion from
certain public-sector and military positions.9
The Hashemite Royal Family
Jordan is a hereditary constitutional monarchy under the prestigious Hashemite family, which
claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad. King Abdullah II (age 58) has ruled the country
since 1999, when he succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father, the late King Hussein,
who had ruled for 47 years. Educated largely in Britain and the United States, King Abdullah II
had earlier pursued a military career, ultimately serving as commander of Jordan’s Special
Operations Forces with the rank of major general. The king’s son, Prince Hussein bin Abdullah
(born in 1994), is the designated crown prince.10
The king appoints a prime minister to head the government and the Council of Ministers
(cabinet). On average, Jordanian governments last no more than 15 months before they are
dissolved by royal decree. The king also appoints al judges and is commander of the armed
Political System and Key Institutions
The Jordanian constitution, most recently amended in 2016, gives the king broad executive
powers. The king appoints the prime minister and may dismiss him or accept his resignation. He
also has the sole power to appoint the crown prince, senior military leaders, justices of the
constitutional court, and al 75 members of the senate, as wel as cabinet ministers. The
constitution enables the king to dissolve both houses of parliament and postpone lower house

7 For historical background, see Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country Profile: Jordan, September
8 T hough there was little international recognition of Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank, Jordan maintained control
of it (including East Jerusalem) until Israel took military control of it during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and
maintained its claim to it until relinquishing the claim to the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1988.
9 Speculation over the ratio of East Bankers to Palestinians (those who arrived as refugees and immigrants since 1948)
in Jordanian society is a sensitive domestic issue. Jordan last co nducted a national census in 2015, and it is unclear
whether or not the government maintains such national-origin statistics. Over time, intermarriage has made it more
difficult to discern distinct differences between the two communities, though divisions do persist.
10 In July 2009, King Abdullah II named Prince Hussein (then 15 years old), as crown prince. T he position had been
vacant since 2004, when King Abdullah II removed the title from his half -brother, Prince Hamzah.
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elections for two years.11 The king can circumvent parliament through a constitutional mechanism
that al ows the cabinet to issue provisional legislation when parliament is not sitting or has been
dissolved.12 The king also must approve laws before they can take effect, although a two-thirds
majority of both houses of parliament can modify legislation. The king also can issue royal
decrees, which are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny. The king commands the armed forces,
declares war, and ratifies treaties. Final y, Article 195 of the Jordanian Penal Code prohibits
insulting the dignity of the king (lèse-majesté), with criminal penalties of one to three years in
Jordan’s constitution provides for an independent judiciary. According to Article 97, “Judges are
independent, and in the exercise of their judicial functions they are subject to no authority other
than that of the law.” Jordan has three main types of courts: civil courts, special courts (some of
which are military/state security courts), and religious courts. State security courts administered
by military (and civilian) judges handle criminal cases involving espionage, bribery of public
officials, trafficking in narcotics or weapons, black marketeering, and “security offenses.”13 The
king may appoint and dismiss judges by decree, though in practice a palace-appointed Higher
Judicial Council manages court appointments, promotions, transfers, and retirements.
King Abdullah II in 2013 laid out a vision of Jordan’s gradual transition from a constitutional
monarchy into a full-fledged parliamentary democracy,14 but in reality, successive Jordanian
parliaments have mostly complied with the policies laid out by the Royal Court. The legislative
branch’s independence has been curtailed not only by a legal system that rests authority largely in
the hands of the monarch, but also by electoral laws designed to produce pro-palace majorities
with each new election.15 Due to frequent gerrymandering in which electoral districts arguably are
drawn to favor more rural pro-government constituencies over densely populated urban areas,
parliamentary elections have produced large pro-government majorities dominated by
representatives of prominent tribal families.16 In addition, voter turnout tends to be much higher
in pro-government areas since many East Bank Jordanians depend on family/tribal connections as
a means to access patronage jobs.17 The next parliamentary election for the 130-seat House of
Deputies (lower chamber) is tentatively scheduled for September 2020.

11 T he king also may declare martial law. According to Article 125, “ In the event of an emergency of such a serious
nature that action under the preceding Article of the present Constitution will be considered insufficient for the defense
of the Kingdom, the King may by a Royal Decree, based on a decision of the Council of Ministers, declare martial law
in the whole or any part of the Kingdom.”
12 New amendments to Article 94 in 2011 have put some restrictions on when the executive is allowed to issue
temporary laws.
13 See, U.S. Embassy in Jordan, Jordanian Legal System, available online at
14 See “Making Our Democratic System Work for All Jordanians,” Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, January 16, 2013.
15 “How Jordan’s Election Revealed Enduring Weaknesses in Its Political System,” Washington Post, October 3, 2016.
16 Rachel Bessette, “Jordan’s Parliamentary Elections: Why T hey Do (and Don’t) Matter for the Kingdom’s Future,”
Lawfare, September 29, 2016.
17 Sean L. Yom, “T ribal Politics in Contemporary Jordan: T he Case of the Hirak Movement,” Middle East Journal,
Vol. 68, No. 2 (Spring 2014), pp. 229 -247.
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Figure 1. Jordan at a Glance

Area: 89,342 sq. km. (34,495 sq. mi., slightly smal er than Indiana)
Population: 10,458,413 (July 2018); Amman (capital): 4.008 mil ion (2015)
Ethnic Groups: Arabs 97%; other 2.6% (includes Armenians, Circassians) (2015)
Religion: Sunni Muslim 97.2%; Christian 2.2%; Buddhist 0.4%; Hindu 0.1%
Percent of Population Under Age 25: 54% (2018)
Literacy: 95.4% (2015)
Youth Unemployment (ages 15-24): 40.1% (2019)
Source: Graphic created by CRS; facts from CIA World Factbook and World Bank.

Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinians
The Jordanian government has long described efforts to secure a lasting end to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict as one of its highest priorities. In 1994, Jordan and Israel signed a peace
treaty.18 Nevertheless, the persistence of Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be a major
chal enge for Jordan, as the issue of Palestinian rights resonates with much of the population.
Twenty-five years after the signing of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, the Israeli-Palestinian

18 Jordan and Israel signed the peace treaty on October 26, 1994. Later, the two countries exchanged ambassadors,
Israel returned approximately 131 square miles of territory near the Rift Valley to Jordan, the pa rliament repealed laws
banning contacts with Israel, and the two countries signed a number of bilateral agreements between 1994 and 1996 to
normalize economic and cultural links. Water sharing, a recurring problem, was partially resolved in May 1997 when
the two countries reached an interim arrangement under which Israel began pumping 72,000 cubic meters of water
from Lake T iberias (the Sea of Galilee) to Jordan per day (equivalent to 26.3 million cubic meters per year —a little
over half the target amount envisioned in an annex to the peace treaty). See, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry
of Foreign Affairs statement on Water Agreement with Jordan, May 27, 1997.
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conflict has soured attempts to improve Jordanian-Israeli people-to-people relations. Even before
the current annexation issue, various short-lived diplomatic disputes (see below) between Jordan
and Israel have led to tensions in government-to-government relations, despite ongoing security
cooperation. Israeli control of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem (see text box below) is a perpetual
concern for the Jordanian monarchy and its domestic legitimacy.19
Holy Sites in Jerusalem20
Per arrangements with Israel dating back to 1967 (when the Israeli military seized East Jerusalem—including its
Old City—from Jordan) and then subsequently confirmed in the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, Israel
acknowledges a continuing role for Jordan vis-à-vis Jerusalem’s historic Muslim shrines.21 A Jordanian waqf (or
Islamic custodial trust) has long administered the Temple Mount (known by Muslims as the Haram al Sharif or
Noble Sanctuary) and its holy sites, and this role is key to bolstering the religious legitimacy of the Jordanian royal
family’s rule. Jordanian monarchs trace their lineage to the Prophet Muhammad. Disputes over Jerusalem that
appear to circumscribe King Abdul ah II’s role as guardian of the Islamic holy sites create a domestic political
problem for the King. Jewish worship on the Mount/Haram is prohibited under a long-standing “status quo”
arrangement that dates back to the era of Ottoman control before World War I.
Jordan and Trump Administration Peace Plans
Since December 2017, when the Palestinians broke off high-level political contacts with the
United States after President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and
relocate the U.S. embassy there, Jordan has been caught in the middle of acrimony between the
Trump Administration and the Palestinian Authority. Jordan has expressed solidarity with the
Palestinians and tried to encourage the Administration to commit to the two-state solution.
Jordanian officials have repeatedly stated that it is the kingdom’s long-standing position that any
final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement should include a Palestinian state based on the 1967
borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.22 While Jordan did not outright reject President
Trump’s January 2020 Peace-to-Prosperity plan, two days before the plan’s release, King
Abdullah II stated “Our position is perfectly wel known. We wil not agree to proposals that
come at our expense.”23 Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi also issued a statement
responding to the proposed Peace-to-Prosperity plan that reiterated Jordan’s support for a two-
state solution, warned against the “dangerous consequences of unilateral Israeli measures,” and
cal ed for direct negotiations on al final status issues.24

19 Abdullah Sawalha, “Why Israel Should Listen to Jordan on the T emple Mount,” Fikra Forum, T he Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, August 11, 2017.
20 For more information on Jerusalem and its holy sites, see CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S.
, by Jim Zanotti.
21 Article 9, Clause 2 of the peace treaty says that “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of
Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give
high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.” In 2013, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
reaffirmed in a bilateral agreement with Jordan that the King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will continue to
serve as the “ Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem,” a title that successive Jordanian monarchs have used since
22 See, for example, Felicia Schwartz and Suha Ma'ayeh, “T rump Peace Effort Puts Jordan in a Bind,” The Wall Street
, July 6, 2019.
23 “Jordan's King Abdullah Publicly Slams Deal of T he Century,” Al Bawaba News, January 28, 2020.
24 “Jordan Says T wo-State Solution Only Path to Mideast P eace,” Reuters, January 28, 2020.
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Possible Israeli Annexation of the West Bank
Multiple Jordanian leaders have expressed strong opposition to a possible Israeli cabinet and
Knesset vote on annexing West Bank territory—in coordination with the United States—after
July 1, 2020.25 Since its peace treaty with Israel in 1994, Jordan has emphasized that any final
Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement should include a Palestinian state based on 1949-1967 Israel-
Jordan armistice line, with East Jerusalem as its capital.26 According to one account, Jordanian
leaders are concerned that should Israel proceed with annexation, it would end the possibility of a
viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and lend credence to the claim by
influential elements on the right of the Israeli political spectrum that “Jordan is Palestine.”27
It is unclear to what extent Jordanian-Israeli tensions are permeating Jordan’s traditional y strong
relationship with the United States. In a late May 2020 conversation between U.S. Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister
expressed strong opposition to Israeli annexation of the West Bank, claiming that it would
endanger prospects for peace.28 While King Abdullah II has refrained from directly criticizing
Trump Administration policy changes in its approach toward Israel and the Palestinians,29 as wel
as the President’s January 2020 peace plan,30 the king has signaled that should Israel go ahead
with annexation, Jordan is prepared to escalate its confrontation with Israel. In a May 2020
interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, King Abdullah II remarked:
What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more
chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would
lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan…. I don't want to make
threats and create a loggerheads atmosphere, but we are considering all options. We agree
with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of the
strongest should not apply in the Middle East.31
Possible Jordanian Reactions to Annexation
As Jordanian officials have used strong rhetoric to signal opposition to annexation, many
observers have speculated as to what concrete steps the kingdom may take should Israel begin
any annexation process. Jordan has already taken one step to signal possible displeasure with
Israel. In November 2019, Jordan did not renew a provision in its 1994 peace treaty with Israel

25 U.S. officials have said that any U.S. approval for Israeli annexation of West Bank areas would co me after a U.S.-
Israel committee (established under the T rump Administration peace plan) can pinpoint areas earmarked for eventual
Israeli sovereignty. See, CRS Report R44245, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, by Jim Zanotti.
26 In 1988, the late King Hussein of Jordan renounced Jordan’s claim to the West Bank, saying, “ 'We respect the wish
of the P.L.O., [Palestine Liberation Organization] the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, to secede
from us in an independent Palestinian state.” John Kifner, “ Hussein Surrenders Claims on West Bank to the P.L.O.;
U.S. Peace Plan in Jeopardy; Internal T ensions,” New York Times, August 1, 1988.
27 Ofer Zalzberg, “T he Regional Stakes of Soured Israeli-Jordanian Relations,” International Crisis Group, March 23,
28 See, “Jordan Warns Washington, London of ‘Unprecedented T hreat’ of Annexation,” Times of Israel, May 29, 2020.
29 T aylor Luck, “In T rump Peace Conference, a Perilous Balancing Act for Jordan,” Christian Science Monitor, June
17, 2019.
30 Abdullah Sawalha, “Jordan’s Balancing Act: Overcoming the Challenges Posed by T rump’s ‘Deal of the Century,’”
Fikra Forum , February 12, 2020.
31 Interview Conducted by Susanne Koelbl and Maximilian Popp, “T he Danger of People Starving to Death Is Greater
than the Danger from the Virus,” Spiegel International, May 15, 2020.
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that al owed Israel access to the Jordanian territories of Baqoura and Al Ghumar (see below),
which are agricultural areas in northern and southern Jordan, respectively.
Since its 1994 peace treaty with Israel, Jordan has oriented its foreign policy toward promoting
Middle East peace, combatting extremism, and developing close ties to the United States. The
1994 treaty enables water sharing between the two countries, as wel as Jordanian overflight of
Israeli territory.32 Beyond the treaty, Jordan now imports natural gas from Israel (see below).
Any departure from these aspects of cooperation would be a major reorientation for the kingdom.
Before taking any steps, Jordanian leaders would be likely to calculate the degree of public
opposition to any Israeli action, how much support the kingdom enjoys from key international
partners such as Saudi Arabia and the European Union, and most importantly, how any reaction
would be perceived in Israel and the United States. Partly because of the complexity and
uncertainty involved in whether and how Israel might annex West Bank territory, and how other
key international actors might react, many analysts argue that Jordan is likely to take calculated,
gradual steps in revisiting ties with Israel rather than any drastic action.33 The following offer a
range of possible options Jordan may be considering.34
Recall Jordan’s Ambassador to Israel. Although Article 5 of the 1994 peace
treaty cal s on both parties to establish full diplomatic relations, Jordan has
frequently recal ed its ambassador from Tel Aviv either to protest Israeli military
action in Gaza or because of a bilateral dispute over Jerusalem and other issues.
Most recently, Jordan left the ambassador position in Israel vacant from 2009 to
2012 and recal ed its ambassador from Israel in 2014 and 2017. Given this
history, the recal would be a likely option and would not be a significant
departure from precedent.
Reduce Jordanian-Israeli Security Cooperation. Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas’s May 2020 declaration abrogating al agreements
and understandings with the American and Israeli governments, including
security cooperation, could be a precursor to Jordan reducing its own security
cooperation with Israel should annexation occur. According to Bruce Riedel of
the Brookings Institution, “For decades, the two countries’ intel igence agencies
have been close partners in counterterrorism…. Drastical y cutting down on the
covert connection wil have impact. But of course by definition, cutting the
clandestine relationship is not public, which leaves Abdullah stil in need of a
dramatic response.”35
Cancel Natural Gas Deal with Israel. In September 2016, Jordan's state-run
National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) signed a 15-year, $10 bil ion natural
gas import deal with a consortium of U.S. (Noble Energy Inc.) and Israeli (Delek
Dril ing-LP and others) companies. The contract would reportedly meet an
estimated 40% of Jordan’s electricity needs and save the Jordanian government
hundreds of mil ions of dollars annual y in energy costs. However, anti-
normalization forces (Jordanians opposed to cooperation with Israel) within
Jordan have used the gas deal as a ral ying cry, cal ing on the government to
cancel the deal. The Lower House of parliament approved a draft bil to ban gas

32 See footnote 18.
33 William Christou, “Will West Bank Annexation Harm US-Jordan Security Cooperation?” Al Monitor, June 2, 2020.
34 “Jordan to Mull Canceling Peace Deal if Israel Annexes – Report,” Times of Israel, June 7, 2020.
35 Bruce Riedel, “With Israel’s Annexation Plans Looming, an Hour of Decision for Jordan’s Hashemites,” Brookings,
June 1, 2020.
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imports from Israel in January 2020, but Jordan's Constitutional Court ruled in
May 2020 that only the king can declare war, ratify, or amend treaties and
international agreements. If the king were to cancel the deal in response to
annexation, Jordan would need to find alternative sources of imported natural
gas, perhaps at higher costs. NEPCO also may be liable for cancel ation fees that
could run into the hundreds of mil ions of dol ars.
Partially or Fully Suspend the 1994 Treaty. Perhaps the most serious step
would involve Jordan suspending its treaty with Israel. Jordan might argue that a
suspension is justified because Israeli annexation of the Jordan Val ey would
violate the delineation of borders between Israel and Jordan.36 However, Israel
could counter that the peace treaty only outlines the international border between
Jordan and Israel, and does not address boundary questions where Jordan’s
territory meets the West Bank. Article 3 Clause 2 of the treaty states, “The
boundary, as set out in Annex I (a), is the permanent, secure and recognized
international boundary between Israel and Jordan, without prejudice to the status
of any territories that came under Israeli military government control in 1967.”37
Regardless of the legal justifications for doing so, any Jordanian revocation or
suspension of the peace treaty, while potential y popular domestical y,38 would
risk jeopardizing key Jordanian national interests, such as Israeli recognition of
King Abdullah II’s role as guardian of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
Perhaps most importantly, Jordan’s peace with Israel has been one of the
foundations of strong U.S.-Jordanian ties. According to one Israeli news report,
an unnamed senior Jordanian official said that the king wants to maintain his
status as custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and his good relations with
President Trump.39
One major unknown factor in the discussion of heightened Israeli-Jordanian tensions over
annexation is the possible Jordanian public reaction and what it bodes for the stability of the
kingdom. Given Jordan’s precarious financial situation (exacerbated by the COVID-19
pandemic), recent instances of public protests, and longtime public support for Palestinian
national aspirations, it is conceivable that the issue of annexation could ignite popular anger
against Israel, the United States, and the king himself. Recent large-scale protests in Jordan have
been focused on economic grievances, rather than on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nevertheless, some Israeli commentators have stressed that Israel has a vested interest in Jordan’s
stability and have cautioned against taking provocative steps that could trigger unrest next door.40

36 Osama al Sharif, “What are Jordan’s Options if Israel Annexed the West Bank?” Al Monitor, May 25, 2020.
37 T reaty of Peace Between T he State of Israel and T he Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, October 26, 1994.
38 “King Abdullah Issues Warning over West Bank Annexation,” Economist Intelligence Unit, May 28, 2020.
39 Daniel Siryoti, “'Next Few Weeks will Determine Whether Future Decades will see Peace or Bloodshed,'” Israel
, May 27, 2020.
40 Oded Eran, “Concerns for Jordan's Stability,” INSS, Insight No. 1169, May 21, 2019.
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Jordan Ends Israeli Access to Two Territories
In late 2018, the king announced (via Twitter)
that his government would not renew a
Figure 2. Jordanian Officials Pray at Area
provision in its 1994 peace treaty with Israel
Recently Reclaimed from Israel
that al owed Israel access to the Jordanian
territories of Baqoura and Al Ghumar, which
are agricultural areas in northern and southern
Jordan, respectively.41 According to one
Jordanian commentator, “Domestical y, the
King’s decision is a much-needed shot in the
arm for the government at a time when it is
facing public pressure over its unpopular
economic policies.”42 After several failed
Israeli attempts to negotiate with Jordan over
the renewal of access to the territories, Jordan

ended its lease to Israel on November 10,
Source: Royal Hashemite Court.
2019. A day later, King Abdullah, the Crown
Prince, and several high level military officials made an official visit to Baqoura to publicly
demonstrate Jordanian sovereignty over the area.43
Jordanian-Syrian relations have been strained since 2011. King Abdullah was the first Arab leader
to openly cal for Syrian President Bashar Al Asad’s resignation in November 2011, and Jordan
supported moderate Syrian rebel groups operating in southwestern Syria until Asad largely
defeated these groups in 2018.44 Since the Asad regime reclaimed control of southern Syria (with
the help of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah), Jordan has sought to return to normal bilateral ties.
Along the kingdom’s northern border with Syria, many Jordanian residents share familial ties
with Syrian families. While Jordan and Syria opened the Nasib/Jaber border crossing to facilitate
greater bilateral trade, economic relations have not returned to pre-2011 levels, arguably because
of trade barriers, sanctions, and security impediments.45
Syria remains a primary problem for Jordan’s security. The kingdom shares security concerns
with Israel over the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces operating near Jordan’s borders.
According to one account, “Former Free Syrian Army rebels who have returned to their
hometowns in southern Syria after an amnesty agreement with the regime say Hezbollah is
effectively ‘governing’ several towns and vil ages. Hezbollah and Shiite militias patrol areas

41 T hese two Jordanian-leased agricultural territories to Israel are known in Hebrew as Naharayim and T zofar, where
Israeli farmers have tilled the land since 1949. In 1997, three years after the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, on the island
of Naharayim, a Jordanian soldier killed seven Israeli schoolgirls who were visiting Naharayim on a field trip. T he late
King Hussein of Jordan visited Israel after the shooting, and Naharayim was renamed the “Isle of Peace” (it is a man -
made island in the vicinity of the Jordan River) to commemorate those killed. See, “At Bloodied Isle of Peace, Some
Israelis Still Hope to Bridge Divide with Jordan,” Tim es of Israel, March 13, 2019.
42 “King’s T ermination of Peace T reaty Annexes unites Jordanians,” Jordan Times, October 23, 2018.
43 Petra (Jordan News Agency), website of the official news agency of the Jordanian Government, November 12, 2019.
44 Steven Simon and James Fromson, “Jordan's Pragmatism in Syria, How It Became a Reliable Partner to
Washington,” Foreign Affairs, June 22, 2016.
45 Nabih Bulos, “Sanctions on Syria Also Felt By U.S. Allies,” Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2019.
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Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

dressed as uniformed Syrian regime forces in order to avoid being hit by Israeli airstrikes, they
say, or, more frequently, deploy former rebel fighters to patrol areas and provide intel igence
directly to the Iran-backed paramilitary group.”46
The kingdom also continues to host hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, many of whom are
reluctant to return to their homes for fear of Syrian regime retribution against them. 47 Since 2011,
the influx of Syrian refugees has placed tremendous strain on Jordan’s government and local
economies, especial y in the northern governorates of Mafraq, Irbid, Ar Ramtha, and Zarqa. As of
June 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there
are 657,287 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan.
The United States has used Jordanian territory to monitor and implement U.S. assistance
programs to opposition-held areas in Syria. While the Trump Administration ended U.S. funding
for stabilization assistance to Syria in 2018, some programs have continued using non-U.S.
funding, and the Southern Syria Assistance Platform (SSAP) based in Amman continues to
monitor foreign assistance to opposition-held areas in Syria.48
U.S. Relations
U.S. officials frequently express their support for Jordan, citing its role in countering the Islamic
State, supporting U.S. policy toward Syria, and having a moderating influence in the Arab world,
both in its regional outlook and internal politics.49 At a time when traditional U.S. partnerships
with key regional actors like Saudi Arabia and Turkey are fraught, U.S.-Jordanian relations
remain solid. President Trump has acknowledged Jordan’s role as a key U.S. partner in
countering the Islamic State, as many U.S. policymakers advocate for continued robust U.S.
assistance to the kingdom. Annual aid to Jordan has nearly quadrupled in historical terms over the
last 15 years. Jordan also hosts U.S. troops. According to President Trump’s June 2020 War
Powers Resolution Report to Congress, “At the request of the Government of Jordan,
approximately 3,145 United States military personnel are deployed to Jordan to support Defeat-
ISIS operations, enhance Jordan’s security, and promote regional stability.”50

46 T aylor Luck, “What Russian Deal? Israel and Jordan Cast Wary Eye T oward Syria,” Christian Science Monitor,
August 12, 2019.
47 Associated Press, “T rapped in Jordan, Syrian Refugees See No Way Home,” September 11, 2019.
48 Department of Defense, Operation Inherent Resolve, Lead Inspector General Report T o T he United States Congress,
July 1, 2019‒October 25, 2019.
49 U.S. Embassy in Jordan, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi at a
Press Availability, January 9, 2019.
50 T he White House, Office of the Press Secretary, T ext of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of
Representatives and the President Pro T empore of the Senate, June 9, 2020.
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Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

The Case of Ahlam al Tamimi
Ahlam al Tamimi is a Jordanian national who participated in the 2001 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem pizza
restaurant that kil ed 15 people, including two Americans. In Israel, she had been sentenced to life in prison but
was released and returned to Jordan in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas. The
U.S. Justice Department filed criminal charges against Al Tamimi in 2013, and those charges were unsealed in early
2017. Al Tamimi is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorist List.51 The United States and
Jordan have an extradition treaty, which, according to the U.S. State Department, entered into force on July 29,
1995. 52 The United States requested Al Tamimi’s extradition in 2017, but Jordan’s Court of Cassation ruled that
the extradition treaty was invalid. In November 2019, the State Department, said that “The United States regards
the extradition treaty as valid.”
On April 30, 2020, seven House lawmakers sent a letter to the Jordanian Ambassador in Washington DC stating
that “We believe it is of the highest importance to US/Jordan relations that an outcome is found that honors
Jordanian law while ensuring this unrepentant terrorist and murderer of innocent Americans is brought to US
justice.”53 Section 7055 of P.L. 116-94, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, prohibits certain
foreign assistance funds for the central government of a country that has “notified the Department of State of its
refusal to extradite to the United States any individual indicted for a criminal offense for which the maximum
penalty is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or for kil ing a law enforcement officer, as specified in
a United States extradition request.” Section 7055 does contain a clause al owing the Secretary of State to waive
the provision if it is important to the national security interests of the United States.
In June 2020, the Associated Press published U.S. Ambassador to Jordan Henry Wooster’s written responses to
questions for the record on Tamimi’s case after his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee. In one response to a question posed by Senator Ted Cruz, Wooster wrote that “The United States
has multiple options and different types of leverage to secure Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi’s extradition …. We
wil continue to engage Jordanian officials at al levels not only on this issue, but also on the extradition treaty
more broadly. US generosity to Jordan in Foreign Military Financing as wel as economic support and other
assistance is careful y calibrated to protect and advance the range of US interests in Jordan and in the region…. If
confirmed, I would explore al options to bring Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al Tamimi to justice, secure her extradition,
and address the broader issues associated with the extradition treaty.”54
U.S. Foreign Assistance to Jordan
The United States has provided economic and military aid to Jordan since 1951 and 1957,
respectively. Total bilateral U.S. aid (overseen by the Departments of State and Defense) to
Jordan through FY2018 amounted to approximately $22 bil ion. Jordan also has received over
one bil ion dollars in additional military aid since FY2014 channeled through the Defense
Department’s various security assistance accounts. Currently, Jordan is the third-largest recipient
of annual U.S. foreign aid global y, after Afghanistan and Israel.

52 T he kingdom’s courts have ruled that Al T amimi cannot be extradited until such a treaty is endorsed by the Jordanian
54 Associated Press and David Horovitz, “US Mulls Withholding Aid to Jordan to Force Extradition of Palestinian
T errorist ,” Tim es of Israel, June 16, 2020.
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Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

Table 1. Bilateral Aid to Jordan
current U.S. dol ars in mil ions

Source: Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Congressional Budget Justifications
(FY2017-FY2021), P.L. 116-94, and CRS calculations and rounding.
Notes: The Administration amended the FY2021 request to realign funding with the MOU. Funding levels for
FY2020 enacted include $125 mil ion in ESF from prior acts. Under P.L. 116-6 (FY2019 omnibus), Congress
provided an additional $50 mil ion in prior-year Relief and Recovery Fund (RRF) aid for Jordan. Funding levels
combine both regular appropriations and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).
U.S.-Jordanian Agreement on Foreign Assistance
On February 14, 2018, the United States and Jordan signed a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) on U.S. foreign assistance to Jordan. The MOU, the third such agreement between the
United and Jordan, commits the United States to providing $1.275 bil ion per year in bilateral
foreign assistance over a five-year period for a total of $6.375 bil ion (FY2018-FY2022). This
latest MOU represents a 27% increase in the U.S. commitment to Jordan above the previous
iteration and is the first five-year MOU with the kingdom. The previous two MOU agreements
had each been in effect for three years.
Economic Assistance
The United States provides economic aid to Jordan for (1) budgetary support (cash transfer), (2)
USAID programs in Jordan, and (3) loan guarantees. The cash transfer portion of U.S. economic
assistance to Jordan is the largest amount of budget support given to any U.S. foreign aid
recipient worldwide.55 U.S. cash assistance is provided to help the kingdom with foreign debt
payments, Syrian refugee support, and fuel import costs (Jordan is almost entirely reliant on
imports for its domestic energy needs). According to USAID, ESF cash transfer funds are
deposited in a single tranche into a U.S.-domiciled interest-bearing account and are not
commingled with other funds.56

55 Other budget support aid recipients include: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau.
56 USAID Congressional Notification, May 15, 2020.
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Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

Figure 3. Cash Transfers to Jordan
Obligated Funds (dol ars in mil ions) FY2014-FY2020

Source: CRS analysis of USAID Notifications to Congress.
USAID programs in Jordan focus on a variety of sectors including democracy assistance, water
conservation, decentralization, and education (particularly building and renovating public
schools). In the democracy sector, U.S. assistance has supported capacity-building programs for
the parliament's support offices, the Jordanian Judicial Council, the Jordan Integrity and Anti-
Corruption Commission, and the Ministry of Justice. The International Republican Institute and
the National Democratic Institute also have received U.S. grants to train, among other groups, the
Jordanian Independent Election Commission (IEC),57 Jordanian political parties, and members of
parliament. In the area of decentralization, Chemonics International is USAID’s primary U.S.
partner in implementing the Cities Implementing Transparent, Innovative, and Effective Solutions
(CITIES) project, which aims to improve how Jordanian municipalities deliver core services.58
USAID also uses ESF to fund infrastructure development in Jordanian municipalities in order to
help create jobs for Syrian refugees and Jordanians. In the water sector, the bulk of U.S.
economic assistance is devoted to optimizing the management of scarce water resources. As
mentioned above, Jordan is one of the most water-deprived countries in the world.59 USAID
subsidizes several waste treatment and water distribution projects in the Jordanian cities of
Amman, Mafraq, Aqaba, and Irbid.60
U.S. Sovereign Loan Guarantees (or LGs) al ow recipient governments (in this case Jordan) to
issue debt securities that are fully guaranteed by the United States government in capital
markets,61 effectively subsidizing the cost for governments of accessing financing. Since 2013,

57 USAID also has provided grant assistance to the IEC to improve the transparency of elections administration.
58 Chemonics International, Strengthening Municipal Governance in Jordan, at
59 “Five Countries with the Greatest Water Scarcity Issues,” Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health,
University of Arizona, March 31, 2016.
60 USAID, “USAID Improves Water Security in Jordan,” Office of Press Relations, August 8, 2018.
61 “A Helping Hand,” International Financial Law Review, April 2014.
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Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

Congress has authorized62 LGs for Jordan and appropriated $413 mil ion in ESF (the “subsidy
cost”) to support three separate tranches, enabling Jordan to borrow a total of $3.75 bil ion at
concessional lending rates.63
Humanitarian Assistance for
Figure 4. U.S., Jordan Sign Aid Agreement
Syrian Refugees in Jordan
($340 mil ion assistance agreement signed May 2020)
The U.S. State Department estimates that,
since large-scale U.S. aid to Syrian refugees
began in FY2012, it has al ocated more than
$1.5 bil ion in humanitarian assistance from
global accounts for programs in Jordan to
meet the needs of Syrian refugees and,
indirectly, to ease the burden on Jordan.64
U.S. humanitarian assistance is provided both
as cash assistance to refugees and through
programs to meet their basic needs, such as

child health care, education, water, and
Source: U.S. Embassy Amman
sanitation. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Jordan, the United States has provided
$8.4 mil ion in aid, most of which is targeted toward Syrian refugees living in Jordan.65
Military Assistance
U.S.-Jordanian military cooperation is a key component in bilateral relations. U.S. military
assistance is primarily directed toward enabling the Jordanian military to procure and maintain
U.S.-origin conventional weapons systems.66 According to the State Department, Jordan receives
one of the largest al ocations of International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding
worldwide, and IMET graduates in Jordan include “King Abdullah II, the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, the Vice Chairman, the Air Force commander, the Special Forces commander, and
numerous other commanders.”67

62 Congress initially authorized additional economic assistance to Jordan in Section 7041 of P.L. 112-74, the
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012. P.L. 113-6, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013
specified that such assistance should take the form of a loan guarantee. Section 1706(j) of the same act also
appropriat ed $30 million (from FY2011) for the initial cost of sovereign loan guarantees. Congress reauthorized loan
guarantees for Jordan in Section 7034 in each of the last six consolidated appropriations acts (FY2015 -FY2020).
63 For the latest Loan Guarantee Agreement between the United States and Jordan, see T reaties and other International
Acts Series 15-624, Loan Guarantee Agreement between the United States of America and Jordan, Signed at Amman
May 31, 2015.
64 Statement of Henry Wooster, Nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, May 13, 2020.
65 State Department: Update: T he United States Continues to Lead the Global Response to COVID-19, available online
at -sheets/may-29-2020-update-united-states-continues-lead-
66 According to Jane's Defence Procurement Budgets, Jordan’s 2020 defense budget is $2.05 billion. See Jane’s
Defence Budgets
, Jordan, May 15, 2020.
67 U.S. Department of State, U.S. Security Cooperation with Jordan, Fact Sheet , Bureau of Political-Military Affairs,
October 26, 2018.
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Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and DOD Security Assistance
FMF overseen by the State Department is designed to support the Jordanian armed forces’
multiyear (usual y five-year) procurement plans, while DOD-administered security assistance
supports ad hoc defense systems to respond to immediate threats and other contingencies. FMF
may be used to purchase new equipment (e.g., precision-guided munitions, night vision) or to
sustain previous acquisitions (e.g., Blackhawk helicopters, AT-802 fixed-wing aircraft). FMF
grants have enabled the Royal Jordanian Air Force to procure munitions for its F-16 fighter
aircraft and a fleet of 28 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.68
As a result of the Syrian civil war and U.S. Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State,
the United States has increased military aid to Jordan and channeled these increases through
DOD-managed accounts. Although Jordan stil receives the bulk of U.S. military aid through the
FMF account, Congress has authorized defense appropriations to strengthen Jordan’s border
security. U.S. assistance has helped finance the creation of the Jordan Border Security System, an
integrated network of guard towers, surveil ance cameras, and radar to guard the kingdom’s
borders with Syria and Iraq.69 Since FY2015, total DOD security cooperation funding for Jordan
has amounted to nearly 1 bil ion dollars.70
Excess Defense Articles
In 1996, the United States granted Jordan Major Non-NATO Al y (MNNA) status, a designation
that, among other things, makes Jordan eligible to receive excess U.S. defense articles, training,
and loans of equipment for cooperative research and development.71 In the last five years, excess
U.S. defense articles provided to Jordan include three AH-1 Cobra Helicopters, 45 Mine-
Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), and M577A3 Tracked Command Post Carriers.72
Table 2. U.S. Foreign Aid Obligations to Jordan: 1946-2018
current dol ars in mil ions
Total Economic Assistance
Total Military Assistance
Source: USAID Overseas Loans and Grants, July 1, 1945-September 30, 2018.

Author Information

Jeremy M. Sharp

Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

68 U.S. Department of State, U.S. Security Cooperation with Jordan, Fact Sheet, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs,
March 23, 2018.
69 Jeremy Binnie, “Jordan Planning Border Security Upgrade,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 17, 2019.
70 DOD congressional notifications to Congress.
71 See Designation of Jordan As Major Non-NAT O Ally, Determination of President of the United States, No. 97 -4,
November 12, 1996, 61 F.R. 59809.
72 Defense Security Cooperation Agency, EDA DataBase T ool, Accessed November 2019.
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Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

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