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Jordan's Interests: Security and Stability

Jordan's Influence in Iraq: Positive but Modest

Compatibility with U.S. Interests--Present and Future

Conclusions and Policy Recommendations


About the Report

Of Related Interest

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audio Listen to Scott Lasensky discuss why Iraq's neighboring countries have a stake in Iraq's conflict.

NPR - October 29, 2006

USIP Program

USIP has been working with Iraqis since early 2004 to reduce interethnic and interreligious violence, speed up stabilization and democratization, and reduce the need for a U.S. presence in Iraq.

December 2006 | Special Report No. 178

Jordan and Iraq: Between Cooperation and Crisis

Scott Lasensky

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This report is a part of the Iraq and Its Neighbors series.


  • Jordan wants a strong, stable, moderate, and unified Iraq. Having wrestled with the dilemmas of an assertive Iraq for many years, Jordan—like Iraq's other neighbors—now faces a myriad of challenges presented by a weak Iraq. The kingdom, for years a linchpin in the U.S. strategy to promote peace and stability in the region, is now less secure in the wake of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. Jordanian leaders worry that Iraq is becoming a haven for terrorist groups, a fear dramatically heightened by the November 2005 suicide bombings in Amman. Jordan also has an interest in the development of an Iraq that does not inspire radical Islamist politics in Jordan. Moreover, the kingdom is anxious about growing Iranian involvement in Iraqi politics, and—more broadly—increasing Iranian and Shiite influence in the region.
  • Despite periodic crises of confidence and lingering Iraqi resentment over Jordan's close ties with Saddam Hussein, the two countries have managed to forge deep ties; in fact, Jordan has taken the lead among Arab states. In the face of repeated attacks and threats, Jordan has maintained a strong diplomatic presence in Baghdad. The kingdom has also played a positive, if modest, role in stabilization and reconstruction efforts.
  • The economic impact of the Iraq crisis in Jordan has been mixed. Jordan has benefited greatly from serving as a "gateway" to Iraq for governments, aid workers, contractors, and businesspeople; its real estate and banking sectors are booming, and it stands to reap more benefits from increased trade and transport should the situation in Iraq improve. However, with the fall of Saddam Hussein, Jordan lost the sizable oil subsidies and customary shipments it received from Iraq. One of Jordan's principal economic interests in the new Iraq is securing future energy assistance.
  • Unlike many of Iraq's other neighbors, Jordan can claim only modest influence over developments in Iraq. The kingdom does have notable intelligence capabilities vis-à-vis Iraq, and it reportedly helped the United States track down and kill Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Although some Jordanians highlight cross-border tribal and family connections with Iraqi Sunni Arabs, they pale in comparison to those of Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Jordan's most significant means of influence is its hosting of a large and ever-changing Iraqi expatriate community, composed mostly, but not solely, of Sunni Arabs.
  • President Bush meets with Jordan's King Abdullah
    President Bush's meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah on November 29, 2006, has brought new attention to the role of Iraq's neighbors. (Photo Courtesy AP/Wide World)
  • Jordan's relationship with the United States remains strong. Viewing Jordan as a reliable and friendly government is nothing new in Washington, but what is new is the determination of King Abdullah to make a strategic relationship with the United States a centerpiece of Jordan's foreign policy. Although the kingdom's behind-the-scenes support for the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq widened the credibility gap with the public, King Abdullah is willing to pay the cost for his close alliance with the United States in order to pursue what he sees as Jordan's larger interests.
  • For Jordan, "the Palestinian Question" looms larger than Iraq. Given their support for U.S. policy in Iraq and their contributions to the global campaign against terrorism, along with the country's central role in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, Jordan's leaders have been disappointed with what they see as U.S. inaction on the Middle East peace process. Moreover, given the turmoil in both Iraq and the Palestinian territories, Jordan must contend with the twin prospects of "state" failure to its east and west.

About the Report

Iraq's neighbors are playing a major role—both positive and negative—in the stabilization and reconstruction of "the new Iraq." As part of the Institute's "Iraq and Its Neighbors" initiative, a group of leading specialists on the geopolitics of the region is assessing the interests and influence of the countries surrounding Iraq and the impact on U.S. bilateral relations with these countries . The Institute is also sponsoring dialogue between Iraqi national security and foreign policy officials and their counterparts from the neighboring countries. Scott Lasensky's report on Jordan is the fourth in a series of special reports by the U.S. Institute of Peace on "Iraq and Its Neighbors." Jon Alterman's report on Kuwait and the Gulf States and Steve Simon's study on Syria will be published in the coming months. Peter Pavilionis is the editor of the series. For more information about the "Iraq and Its Neighbors" project, go to http://www.usip.org/iraq/neighbors/index.html.

Scott Lasensky is a senior research associate at the Institute's Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention and an adjunct professor of government at Georgetown University. He directs the Institute's "Iraq and Its Neighbors" project. The research for this report includes interviews with Jordanian, Iraqi, and U.S. officials over the past two years. The author wishes to thank Sam Parker and Kerem Levitas for their research support, as well as the reviewers for their comments.

Of Related Interest

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