Jordan: A Year in Review and a Look Forward

Amman Citadel (Photo Daniel Qura Unsplash)
(File photo: Jordan News)

Domestic Front 
2023 A Different Modernization
Jordan began 2023 with a politically apathetic public, a cynical youth demographic, low awareness of political parties, low trust in elections, and the absolute lowest trust in parliament. We are now ending the year with a very engaged public, changed consumer behavior through political boycotts, and a widely observed general strike on December 11th. 27 of the 29 registered parties are active online and offline in solidarity with Gaza. Using this opportunity to build their brand, build their platforms, and build their organizations. As the next parliamentary elections approach in autumn of 2024 we may be looking at higher voter turnout, and more engaged parties. However Palestine and foreign policy may be a voter priority, when it wasn't in previous years. 

The end of the year has spotlighted Jordan’s relationship with both Israel and the United States, such as the gas deal through Chevron and the expansive defense agreement with the United States. This could become a rallying point for “protest parties” who in recent years have struggled with relevance amongst the youth of Jordan. However, the goal of the modernization was to create representative parties that would connect citizens to the government. But, the end of 2023 brings us empowered protest parties not with detailed programs, but with a list of demands. 

Outlook for 2024What are the fault lines for 2024? Usually political parties showcase domestic fault lines by proposing diverse platforms addressing challenges. One goal of the ‘reset’ of the political party sector was to develop political identities in the citizenry. But when parties have been formed in the heated cauldron of the protests rather than through organization building, campaigning, and outreach, they have more in common than not, such as solidarity with Gaza, cutting relations with Israel, protesting the Biden administration policy, and highlighting global double standards. In addition to Palestine, parties agree a main problem is unemployment. Otherwise though, we still have not seen platforms

And what if platforms never develop? In the next election we could see protest parties rather than representative parties - that is, parties with demands for the government rather than plans for governing.

 There are three possibilities for the political protest movement, currently driven by the IAF:

  1. The IAF continues to use the Gaza protests to build support, build partnerships, and create alliances which means an increasing likelihood that they are the primary party sweeping the Parliamentary elections.
  2. Increasing protest movements and mobilization of citizen anger result in increased concern, delayed elections, and adjusted election processes.
  3. As the protest movement unites and heats up its rhetoric, splits begin to appear as soon as 1) rhetoric moves beyond Gaza into domestic issues 2) Personalities such as Labor Party’s Rula Al Hroub seek more power and recognition and eventually split off, preferring to be a noisy independent rather than a lesser leader in a larger movement 3) Leftists like the street-active Communists reject IAF social policies. Divisive issues would be women in society, honor crimes, child marriage, certain morality issues (e.g. Netflix). 

اضافة اعلان

The Muslim Brotherhood has successfully capitalized on the tragic war on Gaza. The group has increased influence by successfully bridging the gap between itself and youth and national movements This was no small feat, considering the number of unsuccessful past efforts at such unity. Increased MB influence will arguably increase official concern and management whether in youth politics, parliament or voting. Jordan is caught between its designed modernization plan and a sudden politically engaged populace outside of that plan. 

Will Jordan be able to channel this intense public engagement and move it from outside the modernization “narrative” and back into it in 2024? The answer largely lies with the political parties who need to capitalize on youth engagement and build on it - turning the protest movements into vision movements. 

Jordanians, especially young Jordanians, have little faith in representative institutions such as the Election Commission, political parties, and especially Parliament. Rather, they see the most effective way to influence government decision making as protest, civil disobedience, and online mobilization. Basically, Jordanians find representation outside the system. They find it in the street.  

To move from citizen mobilization to institutional organization is a long journey, but the Muslim Brotherhood (meaning the IAF) can leverage its decades of experience while the recently formed parties might fail to capitalize on this mobilization, as seen with the creation of both the National Forum for Supporting the Resistance and the Youth Forum for Supporting Resistance. The latter group has shifted focus from Palestine to more domestic issues - demanding the release of MB members (held in Jordan) who were arrested in 2009 for planning to carry out an attack on Israeli targets in the West Bank and staging protests in front of Jordanian institutions that have trade agreements with Israel.

External Shocks
Supply Chain: Remember when one ship blocked the Suez Canal and caused a shipping crisis? Optimism continued knowing the ship could be unstuck. However, the current drought which gives the lowest water in the Panama Canal for over a century is not so easily solved. Add the current crisis of shipping through the Red Sea and we are looking at 2024 starting with a supply chain crisis - detrimental for an import-dependent state like Jordan. Additionally, due to rising costs of shipping, the Jordanian government has banned the exports of all vegetable oil, rice and sugar. 

Tourism: Ironically, Jordan had a record breaking year for tourism revenues, before October 7. In fact, Jordan has already exceeded its annual tourism targets. Already, 2024 tourism is affected since pre-booked group tours have been canceled (more details on this can be found here). While tourism will return for Egypt and states further away from the conflict, Jordan will remain tied to the drop in tourism to Israel. As tours and tourists previously hit both countries in a single trip. This affects the hotels, restaurants, cafes, hostels, and other businesses that cater to tourists. Jordan may look to promote tourism among the sizable expat and foreigner community living in Amman. It may also move away from the Petra-centric promotions and highlight other destinations (Dead Sea, Jerash, Pella, Um Qais, Wadi Mujib, Araq Al Amr, Um Al Rassas, Madaba, many more). Attacks in Israel or ‘lone wolf’ attacks in the region would seriously worsen the situation. 

Local business and international franchises: International franchises have taken a hit from the recent boycott movement - in particular Starbucks and McDonalds (Starbucks also had an ongoing labor dispute in the US which contributed to its $11 billion loss).  Many Jordanian markets have added “locally made” labels to products - signaling consumer behavior change. The two most influential voices in the boycott which provide guidance on boycott targets are Itharrak Forum for Boycott and Jordan BDS. It is hard to assess the impact of the boycott on Jordan’s economy since the government only released numbers pertaining to the fifteen thousand Jordanian employees affected and has not provided any additional information on local market revenue nor revenue loss for international chains. Regional violence and these boycott movements will likely also raise investor anxiety. 

Foreign Affairs
Israel has taken a sharp turn from being a security state to a ‘settler state’ (my previous work on it linked here). This change has happened gradually and affected key institutions. Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition are unlikely to survive a next round of election, especially with both domestic and international pressure mounting for the October 7th attack and the handling of the war on Gaza. However, the Israeli settler movement has already grown in power not only in the Knesset but in judicial and military positions.

This new Israeli reality is most likely going to put much more pressure on an already strained relationship between Tel Aviv and Amman.

The latter has already recognized the settler movement and its rise as an emerging threat and thus has focused all of its diplomatic and political power to re-center the conversation around a future Palestinian state, taking a hard line against displacement and sounding the alarm regarding the rapid illegal settlement building in the West Bank.

Relations with Jordan were sour before and now all but broken. As Israel looks to threaten regional war with a northern front with Hezbollah and continued targeting of Iranian interests in Damascus, there may be little to salvage in 2024. The Wadi Araba agreement becomes the key point remaining.

Outlook for 2024:International pressure, especially from the US, is mounting on the Israeli government—to exercise ‘restraint’ in Gaza and provide a post-war plan. The likelihood of either happening remains slim. Israel's objectives are clear: 1) eliminate Hamas leadership and military capacity, 2) secure hostages’ release, and 3) neutralize Hamas as a threat to Israel. However, Israel hasn't achieved any of these objectives—perhaps they didn't genuinely aim to. As of this report, Qassam leadership remains at large (with Israel not even offering a substantial reward of $400K), no hostages have been rescued (three killed by friendly fire), and Hamas still launches missiles and engages in urban warfare against Israeli troops. Israel's actions on the ground signify a strategy to render Gaza uninhabitable—effectively fulfilling their third goal. By making it uninhabitable, they not only weaken Hamas's hold on the population but might also achieve a less overt fourth objective - displacement. Gaza requires 10-15 years to return to its pre-war state, implying even if a ceasefire occurs now, violent flare-ups and incidents will persist.

Another worry for Amman is the armament of settlers that skyrocketed with Bin Gvir issuing firearms license left and right – with an expansionist plan and a deeply disturbing disregard to Palestinian lives, dignity and land it is almost guaranteed that the violence and attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank will continue to rise – regardless of which government is in power.

United States: The US presidential election takes place in 2024 with one candidate (Trump) under indictment, the sitting President under possible impeachment investigation. This current Congress is the least productive in modern history with fewer than two dozen bills passed, (one of which was permitting a coin minted in honor of the Marine Corps). Appointments and financing is held up by partisan fights and the two main parties have internal divisions over Gaza. It is unclear which foreign policy initiatives will prevail in this atmosphere. 

Outlook for 20242024 is poised to be dominated by campaigning, with the Ukraine conflict persisting alongside other regional tensions like the Venezuela-Guyana border dispute. While relief efforts for Gaza might briefly grab headlines at the year's outset, the focus may soon wane. Despite intense public protests, media coverage, and documented suffering, the impact on Biden administration figures such as Sullivan or Blinken is doubtful. For Jordan, critical concerns regarding the US involve: 1) sustained financial aid, 2) acknowledgment of Jordan's mediation role in the region, and 3) a resolute US stance against displacing Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, both in the short and long term.

Despite leaks and media reports revealing opposition within the State Department and other federal bodies regarding Biden's policy on Israel's destruction in Gaza, dissenting cables and protest letters from Embassies have yielded little change. This could reflect a highly centralized policy approach and a stubborn White House determined to solidify unwavering support for Israel, disregarding internal shifts, and Netanyahu's post-Gaza aspirations for the region. A centralized foreign policy that overlooks local perspectives lessens the influence of Embassies on the ground. For Jordan, this reinforces the belief that dialogue should occur with DC, not with diplomats posted in Amman. It's not just about swaying the State Department but also about influencing the next decision-maker in the White House who holds the reins of this centralized policy making. The succeeding US president will either bring about justice and peace or potentially plunge the region, specifically Jordan, into further instability. 

Arab states:Before October 7, Saudi Arabia was the country to watch - outpacing Jordan in terms of social and economic reforms, while also expanding and preying on regional tourism, events, and film production markets. This was cutting into Jordan’s share in these markets.  Now, in addition to economic concerns, Jordan waits if Saudi Arabia’s own political and geopolitical goals will align with its own. 

The ‘succession crisis’ in Palestine is a non-issue with door-to-door raids in Ramallah and the deadliest year in the West Bank even before October 7. However, the next leader of the Palestinian Authority will still be a main partner for Jordan.

Relations with Syria will revolve around the instability in the south and the trafficking through Jordan’s northern border - becoming more sophisticated and violent. To a lesser degree, cross-border trade will develop but little progress on water sharing of the Yarmouk river.

Relations with Iraq should focus on increased trade and the Egypt-Jordan-Iraq corridor project. However, the relationship has instead become management of Iranian proxies on the border.

Europe: Europe does not speak with one voice on MENA matters, especially not Gaza. Germany has been the most virulent in its support for Israel, even as the humanitarian catastrophe is undeniable. States like the UK, Italy, and Lithuania also maintain defense of Israel’s actions. On the other side, states like Norway and Ireland have consistently called for international law to be upheld and civilians to be protected. Within the EU, Ursula von der Leyen’s ‘queenly’ actions in trying to shift EU support towards Israel have been deterred by Charles Michel and Josep Borrel, causing internal rifts. The European People’s Party, the largest party in the European Parliament representing center-right parties throughout Europe, only statedin October that, “the EU must put in place effective measures to manage the security implications for Europe.”. For 2024, with Jordan dependent on Germany (the second largest donor to Jordan) and the EU (the third largest donor to Jordan) there is a diplomatic tightrope to avoid offense yet bring clarity for the need for stability, dignity, and human rights concerning Palestine.

National and Regional Security
Cyber Threat Landscape in Jordan and the Region
 In Jordan, security services documented several cyber incidents targeting national institutions and companies. These attacks come from different groups with different goals. Some want money through ransomware, while others aim to gather info for future cyber attacks, like targeting supply chains. Some attacks exploit old software problems, showing a lack of awareness about risks from using outdated or unlicensed software. (Reminder: It's important to regularly update your software to stay safe).

These incidents usually start with attackers using tricky electronic communication methods. Specifically, they've hit the supply chains of businesses working with the Jordanian government this way. They also take advantage of local events to spread harmful software, mostly targeting mobile devices.

Data breaches happen because of bad software like spyware, trojans, ransomware, and phishing tools. Hackers use this stolen info to break into people's devices and company systems. This often happens when people don't follow security rules. For instance, the recent ransomware attack on Abdali hospital locked patient files for almost four weeks. Protect yourself and read more on this (Rhysida) ransomware here

The most significant threat to local institutions and businesses came from organized crime groups, such as APT35 (known as "Charming Kittens" ) and Polonium; both groups are Iranian affiliated and widely weaponized by Hezbollah, leveraging their technical expertise. These groups infiltrated companies through supply chain attacks. Initially driven by financial motives, their goals might change in 2024 due to evolving regional events.

Spyware's prevalence surged, cementing its status as a widespread national cyber threat. Other notable cyber attacks included targeting remote communication service protocols, conducting DDoS attacks, and exploiting critical vulnerabilities in file-sharing network service protocols.

Recognized national cyber risks are tied to vulnerabilities within government networks, such as using unlicensed or outdated software, exposing internal services online, insecure protocol settings, employing open protocols without data encryption, and the susceptibility of DNS servers to attacks.

Even with changes in diplomatic relations, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will remain a primary target for advanced threat groups aiming for political, strategic, or economic advantages, particularly directed at government bodies. Ongoing rivalries and conflicts in the Middle East contribute to the continued prevalence of cyber threats, evident through activities ranging from probing government entities for information to installing malicious software for future cyber operations.

Cybercrimes Law: One of Jordan’s responses to the above was to pass a controversial cybercrime law that many civil society and rights groups denounced as draconian, due to sections pertaining to social media use and content with stiff punishments. However, as Jordan struggles with serious cyber attacks that affect its infrastructure and state institutions, the real problem lies in cyber literacy as many of the attacks are successful due to people’s lack of basic online safety (e.g. ransomware). 2024 should be dedicated to Jordan’s digital literacy and security, especially with escalating tensions in the region that make Jordan a target for attacks both online and offline. 

Border and Regional SecurityAt the Jordan-Syria border, the increase in drug trafficking and escalating clashes, alongside the influx of new weaponry, poses a significant security challenge. This isn't merely a temporary spike; it represents a notable deviation from the usual situation that will last through 2024.

  • Immediate Threat - Iranian Proxies:
    The pressing concern for Jordan lies in the Iranian proxies, whether within Syria (Hezbollah and associates) or the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq (Hashd Al-Sha’abi). Intelligence gathering becomes paramount in addressing this imminent and lingering security menace.

  • Medium-Term Regional Challenge:
    Over the past year, Iranian proxies have amassed increasing power. Whether it's Hezbollah, factions in Southern Syria, or the militias in Iraq, Jordan views them with unease. The crucial step is recognizing these groups not as vague entities but as well-established structures with defined organizations, consistent revenue streams, and clear strategies.

Take Hezbollah, for instance—a recognized powerhouse. It serves as the primary distributor of Iranian oil to Africa, is a major regional and international agriculture exporter, and the principal arms dealer in the region.

 Hashd Al Sha’abi is adopting the economic model of the IRGC. The pivotal question is how long it will take for these groups to achieve financial independence, operating autonomously from the Iraqi government. This is the point at which they could pose a genuine risk to Jordan.

 Halting the revenue streams is now imperative to prevent these groups from evolving into a tangible and perilous threat to the Jordanian border. Instability favors Iranian proxies but is detrimental to Iraq, as long as the power balance tilts towards the Iraqi government.

 Early and recurrent warnings, including drone strikes and targeting of American interests, underscore Jordan's vulnerability due to its close partnership with the US. It's not a matter of if but when. To counter the Iranian proxy threat effectively, we must cease treating them as emerging actors and recognize them as established criminal organizations morphing into parallel powers in crucial and sensitive regions.

Domestic consequences and drivers of these threats
At some point - likely in 2024 - Jordan must examine the local drug and arms trafficking rings that operate and collaborate with these groups, whether domestic groups smuggling weapons or assisting captagon trafficking. Looking at how domestic groups assist these threats prevents a possible rise in crime. 

Likewise, illegal gun ownership in Jordan is widespread. In a 2018 survey by Small Arms Survey its showed how the majority of Jordanian firearms are not registered. Already 92% of all violent crime in the Kingdom is committed with illegal arms - with estimates as high as 10 million such arms. 

Domestic shifts and trends

  • Water: Jordan remains one of the most water scarce states on Earth. As climate events occurred throughout 2023 (earthquakes, floods, temperature shifts), the same can be expected in 2024 - with some climate scientists believing changes are occurring faster than predicted. In response to Israel’s destruction of Gaza, Jordan chose not to sign the energy-for-water agreement. Likewise, its current water agreement with Israel ends May 2024. Regional politics will determine if these options remain viable. Syria remains an unreliable partner on water issues. Few options remain for Jordan whose citizens face shortages and rationing while water is lost through poor infrastructure, industry, water theft and agriculture. Water access only recently appeared in polling as a citizen priority, but in coming years could emerge as a political priority as well. 
  • Women: On the issue of women, Jordan is becoming more conservative, however it is the younger generation pushing this trend. Specifically on the issues of women in public life, Jordanians under 35 are conservative (e.g. believing women cannot be as capable leaders as men) and those over 55 are progressive and inclusive. Jordan also saw an increase in the first half of 2023 in domestic violence cases with a total of 15 homicides, 11 of which were females. The rise of violence against women highlights the need to review Jordanian laws that are lenient towards the perpetrators - especially when crimes are committed by family members. 
  • Voting: Previous research shows those with an intention to vote tend to be educated with Tawjihi or less, and the more education a citizen has, the less likely they were to vote (with some exceptions such as Kerak). For 2024 to succeed, Jordan will need more than the 29.9% turnout from the last election. But to get to 40% either the elections are held on time to leverage to current outpouring of citizen engagement, or else serious outreach is conducted with University graduates on why voting is in their interest. Political parties will be key in this. Recent disciplinary measures taken by Universities against students, counteracting protests over Gaza, may be a step back from the system envisioned under the political modernization efforts. 
  • Parliament: From the 29 registered parties (and the 3 about to be registered) they are all left or center-left, at least where economics are concerned. (They are almost all social conservatives). Under the modernizations, parties have reserved seats in Parliament starting with over a third, and ending with 60% in 12 years. What this means is that when issues of the looming austerity arise, parties will be the first to speak out against it. Only the pro-system parties like Mithaq and Erada will be left as defenders of austerity. The same case with Palestine as we can expect the new Parliament to be even more outspoken on the issue. The issue for debate will be close ties with the US. How the new Parliament will debate this is uncertain since defense and foreign affairs are really absent from the Parliamentary portfolio.  

Trust in media 2023 The global media was essentially a participant in the war on Gaza. Controversies arose from the coverage, what coverage left out, the linguistic gymnastics to describe the slaughter, and the never ending images. This is the first such conflict where social media allowed so many victims to document their own destruction, where Israeli soldiers posted videos of themselves dancing in front of blindfolded prisoners, destroying schools, dedicating demolition to their daughters or fiancées, and where those involved could provide such a volume of first-person content. 

Competing with that was global mainstream media, especially from the US and UK. Jordan played a role both as contributor (Queen Rania’s interviews or op-ed; Safadi’s numerous determined interviews and speeches; His Majesty’s op-ed and numerous speeches; Dauod Kuttab’s work) but also as media consumers.

In more local media, the destruction of Gaza has also ushered in a new language - in Arabic language media. Iranian proxies are now referred to as “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” ( Al Jazeera) and Houthi as “Yemeni military”. Russian media - especially Russia Today Arabic has seen a rise in content share (lazy journalism copy and paste).  Russia today uses wording adjacent to Jordanian Attitudes - making it a desirable source for content sharing. This is in contrast to US and West-leaning reporting whether through mainstream media or more “obscure” channels. 

2024 will likely see an increase in consumption of local media, and Russian media, and a decrease in Western media as CNN, BBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are increasingly viewed as biased. The sources citizens use for information informs and shapes their views, meaning that 2024 may see additional shifts in Jordanian perception on foreign affairs.

(In early 2024 I will be doing a case study of content from Western-leaning Arabic language channels, Russia Today, and local media such as Al Ghad and Roya)

Polling in 2023Poll: 99 percent of Jordanians dissatisfied with US stance on Gaza. Center for Strategic Studies.

New Public Opinion Poll: Jordanians Favor De-escalation in the Region, But Sentiment Against Israel Remains. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

IRI Jordan Poll Shows Uncertainty over Rights, Satisfaction with Services, Desire  for Government Accountability. IRI/CSS

Foreign Relations Survey (Wave IV)– Summer 2023. Konrad Adenaur Stiftung

Two& half years after its formation: Jordanians’ opinion of the government of  Dr. Bishr Al-Khasawneh. Center for Strategic Studies

“Middle East Public Opinion Survey: Jordan 2023”  Contemporary Middle East Political Studies in Japan

2023 in Global Media Coverage
Israeli police stopped Jordan envoy from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque. Al Jazeera

Tuesday marked the second time that Jordan has summoned the Israeli ambassador to Amman since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right and religiously conservative government took power. Earlier this month, Israel’s minister of national security, the ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited the Jerusalem holy site despite threats from Hamas and a cascade of condemnations from across the Arab world.

Jordan has been the official custodian of Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem since 1924, and was publicly acclaimed as the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

FEBRUARY 2023 Jordan’s foreign minister visits Syria in first trip since war. Al Jazeera

Jordan has sent large shipments of aid to Turkey and Syria, with the kingdom sending a medical hospital to Turkey and organising several flights and aid convoys through the country’s northern border crossing with Syria.

Amman initially supported opposition groups that sought to topple al-Assad, but later backed a Russian-led military campaign that regained southern Syria from rebel control.

Efforts to improve ties with Damascus floundered since al-Assad talked to King Abdullah II in 2021 for the first time since the conflict.

Jordan also criticised the Syrian government for failing to curb a multibillion-dollar drug smuggling operation to the Gulf through its borders, which Amman blamed on Iranian-backed armed groups who hold sway in southern Syria.

Jordan hosts Israel-Palestine talks as violence escalates. Al Jazeera

Earlier this month, Jordan’s King Abdullah met US President Joe Biden and held talks with his Middle East envoy Brett McGurk in which Washington — a staunch ally of Israel, Egypt and Jordan — warned of the threats to regional security and lobbied for a resumption of stalled talks on Palestinian statehood. McGurk is set to take part in Sunday’s meeting, according to officials.

King Abdullah also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jordan’s capital, Amman, in January.

MARCH 2023 Jordan parliament votes to recommend expelling Israeli ambassador. Al Jazeera

The Jordanian parliament said that it was united in rejecting Smotrich’s comments, calling his actions a reflection of “Israeli arrogance”.

In his response to the parliamentarians, Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Tawfiq Krishan said that the fall-out from the incident had united Jordanians.

“The map of Jordan is drawn only by Jordanians,” Krishan said.

Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, having fought against each other in 1948 and 1967.

Many Jordanians are Palestinian in origin, the descendants of Palestinians forced from their homes by Israel.

APRIL 2023 Jordan says MP held by Israel over alleged arms, gold smuggling. Al Jazeera

Prominent Jordanian legislator Khalil Atiya, who is known for his vocal opposition to Israel and has led campaigns to repeal the country’s peace treaty with Israel, said the government would be held responsible if it failed to act quickly.

“There should be no room left for the enemy to harm the dignity of Jordanians by detaining and jailing a member of the parliament,” Atiya said.

Israel enjoys close security ties with Jordan, the Arab neighbour it shares its longest stretch of border with, but political relations have soured in recent years over Israel’s stance on the right of Palestinians to a state.

Many of the kingdom’s citizens are of Palestinian origin.

Weapons smuggling is an increasing threat to stability in West Bank - analysis. The Jerusalem Post. Seth Franzman

Although Israel has walls and fences with security systems, “unseen hands armed the West Bank, and you have modern automatic rifles and automatic weapons in the hands of the Palestinians,” he said. He might have been referring to weapons smuggling to the Palestinians. 

The overall context therefore of the weapons smuggling is that the number of weapons being smuggled continues to be clear from photos and videos on social media that show Palestinians with M-4, M-16 and other types of rifles. Many of the rifles appear to be recent acquisitions, clean and with modern sights, rails and other accessories.

‘Jordan’s Ben Gvir’: Israel said to accuse Amman’s FM of inflaming tensions. The Times of Israel. 

An unnamed senior Israeli official told the Walla news site that Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi’s recent conduct and statements have exacerbated the crisis, adding that he has “acted like Jordan’s [Itamar] Ben Gvir” — a reference to the far-right Israeli national security minister, whose conduct and policies have been widely viewed as contributing to growing friction with the US and other countries.

Jordan has repeatedly lambasted Jerusalem in more than 10 statements over an incident last week in which cops entered Al-Aqsa to confront Palestinian rioters and were filmed beating some of them. At one point, Jordan refused to receive messages from Israel through the US or the United Arab Emirates, saying it would only accept direct messages and only if Israel commits to not enter the mosque again.

MAY 2023 Jordan behind attack that killed drug trafficker in Syria: SOHR. Al Jazeera.

Last week, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned that his country would not stand idle if drug trafficking continues from Syria.

Safadi told CNN: “If we do not see effective measures to curb that threat, we will do what it takes to counter that threat, including taking military action inside Syria to eliminate this extremely dangerous threat.”

In February 2022, Jordan’s army said it had killed 30 smugglers since the start of the year and foiled attempts to smuggle 16 million captagon pills into the kingdom from Syria – surpassing the entire volume seized throughout 2021.

Jordan has previously launched raids targeting drug smugglers in Syria, as far back as 2014.

JUNE 2023 In wedding of Jordan’s crown prince, a ceremony packed with VIPs and deep symbolism. PBS Newshour. Isabel DeBre, Associated Press

Jordan’s 11 million citizens have watched the young crown prince rise in prominence in recent years, as he increasingly joined his father, Abdullah, in public appearances. Hussein has graduated from Georgetown University, joined the military and gained some global recognition speaking at the U.N. General Assembly. His wedding, experts say, marks his next crucial rite of passage. “It’s not just a marriage, it’s the presentation of the future king of Jordan,” said political analyst Amer Sabaileh. “The issue of the crown prince has been closed.”

The wedding may create a brief feel-good moment for Jordanians during tough economic times, including persistent youth unemployment and an ailing economy.

Uniter or Divider? Identity Politics and Football in Jordan. POMEPS. Curtis R. Ryan, Appalachian State University

And yet, for all this intensity of ethnic division, there are moments when football in Jordan is not about divisiveness at all, but rather about unity. Those moments do not happen when Faisaly and Wehdat play, but they do happen when the national teams take the field to represent Jordan—all of Jordan—and not just West Bank or East Bank Jordanian identity. Faisaly–Wehdat matches are indeed politically polarizing for some Jordanians but, for many more, the country comes back together in its collective love for both the men’s and women’s national teams—the Nashama and the Nashmiyyat. The men’s national team, perhaps ironically, often relies heavily on players from the kingdom’s two historically dominant clubs: Faisaly and Wehdat.

Both the Nashama and Nashmiyyat also represent a true cross-section of Jordanian society. Their players include both West and East Bank communities in their make-up as well as both Muslims and Christians, Arabs and Circassians, and players from every region and community in the country. In the last ten years or so, both teams have been experiencing something of a resurgence. In June 2013, for example, the women’s national team—the Nashmiyyat—played so well that they qualified for the Asia Football Cup for the first time.

JULY 2023 Guns, Drugs, and Smugglers: A Recent Heightened Challenge at Israel’s Borders with Jordan and Egypt. CTC Sentinel. Matthew Levitt, Lauren Von Thaden

The Jordanian border spans the geographic areas of responsibility of three IDF commands (north, central, and south), requiring robust coordination within the Israeli military to address security concerns. While the Jordanian military is fairly well-deployed along its side of the border, the Israeli military is more sparsely deployed along large portions of the border since the terrorism threat is comparatively lower there than in other parts of the country. This results from the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty and the area’s sparse population. On the Israeli side, increased counter-smuggling efforts have yielded success, including surveillance cameras monitoring the Israel-Jordan border, undercover police operations, daily border patrols, and a joint operations center run by the IDF, Shin Bet, and Magen, the Israeli Police’s anti-smuggling unit.

Cases along the Jordan-Israel border mostly involve weapons smuggling attempts conducted by West Bank Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs from Bedouin communities in the Negev desert and their counterparts on the Jordanian side of the border, many of whom come from the same Bedouin tribes. Criminal smuggling organizations recruit members of these tribes across borderlines who then pass goods to fellow tribesmen on the other side of the border, saving smugglers from having to cross the border themselves. Based on the data gleaned from incidents when arrests are made on the Israeli side of the border, the smuggling operatives along the Jordanian border tend to work in small groups of one to three people.

‘I am a prisoner’: women fight Middle Eastern laws that keep them trapped at home. The Guardian. Sarah Little

“People will try to tell you this doesn’t exist in Jordan,” says Lina. “They’ll say: Look at all the women out in public, living normal lives. But you can’t see all the women inside.

“If I get married, leave Jordan, then divorce, I’ll be out of Jordan, and my family won’t know. Then I can be free,” she says.

Jordan has the highest female literacy rate in the Mena region at nearly 98%; 56% of university students in Jordan are women. Yet it also has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates of any country in the world.

“So many girls watch their brothers go out while imprisoned at home,” says a 26-year-old woman in Amman, who asked to remain anonymous for her safety. “We feel broken. It feels like I am losing my future. I know that my life isn’t normal. I stand still, and the whole world keeps moving.”

Pilgrims and profits: Jordan looks to holy baptism site to boost religious tourism. MEI. Rana Sweis. 

The tourism sector in Jordan contributes approximately 20% of GDP. In 2019, over 5 million people visited Jordan; during the first quarter of 2023, more than 1.4 million tourists were recorded. According to the Ministry of Tourism, around 85% of visitors to Jordan come for its history and culture, with religious sites like Mt. Nebo and the baptism site ranking just below popular destinations such as Petra, Jerash, and Wadi Rum. Even so, the country faces tough competition in attracting tourists compared to its neighbors, including Israel. More recently, Saudi Arabia is making a major push to develop its tourism sector with the aim of reaching 100 million visitors per year and making tourism its second-largest revenue source by 2030. 

Tight funding forces WFP to reduce food assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan,including in camps. World Food Programme.

Starting in August, Syrian refugees in the camps will receive a reduced cash allowance of US$21 (JOD 15) per person per month, down from the previous amount of US$32 (JOD 23). Syrian refugees living in both camps have limited income sources with only 30 percent of adults working – mainly in temporary or seasonal jobs – while 57 percent of camp residents say cash assistance is their only source of income.  

“We are deeply concerned about the potential deterioration of families’ food security but as funding dries up, our hands are tied,” said WFP Representative and Country Director in Jordan Alberto Correia Mendes. “These reductions are likely to lead to increased negative coping strategies.” 

Jordan’s debt to China soars as troubled power plant sparks concerns about Beijing’sinfluence. NPR Newshour. Isabel DeBre, Associated Press

With its meager natural resources in a region awash with oil and gas, Jordan seemed to have drawn a losing ticket. Then in the 2000s, it struck shale oil trapped in the black rock that underlies the country. With the fourth-largest concentration of shale oil in the world, Jordan had high hopes for a big pay-off.

In 2012, the Jordanian Attarat Power Company proposed to the government to extract shale oil from the desert and build a plant using it to provide 15% of the country’s electricity supply. The proposal fit the government’s intensifying desire for energy self-sufficiency amid the turmoil of the 2011 Arab uprisings, company officials say.

Rights groups, opposition slam proposed cyber crime law in Jordan. Al Jazeera

The measure is the latest in a series of crackdowns on online free speech in Jordan, including social media blackouts during times of civil unrest.

Most recently, in December, it blocked the TikTok app after users shared live videos of worker protests. A 2022 report by Human Rights Watch found that authorities increasingly target protesters and journalists in a “systematic campaign to quell peaceful opposition and silence critical voices”.

AUGUST 2023    Munition smuggling attempts in Jordan Valley were backed by Iran. Ynet.

Border Police and IDF's Jordan Valley brigade took part in disrupting the network close to Ashdot Ya'akov, a kibbutz located south of the Sea of Galilee. The various ravines and pathways inside the Jordan valley have become a smuggling hotspot in recent years, used by criminal and terror organizations who believed this area was relatively unmonitored. 

Since the beginning of the investigations, over 1,000 weapons have been confiscated by Israeli security forces.

Jordan's free speech boundaries tested with satire BBC

Human rights activists say that in Jordan and the broader Middle East, there has been a recent trend for increased state censorship. There have been many prosecutions of social media influencers and bans on TikTok.

A coalition of civic rights groups led by US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Jordan's parliament to scrap its new cybercrimes law, saying it could jeopardise free speech and lead to greater online censorship. They criticise how some offences are described in vague terms which could leave them open for the interpretation of prosecutors.

SEPTEMBER 2023 Jordan shoots down drug-laden drone from Syria in ninth incident this year. Al Jazeera

Last month, the Jordanian army shot down three drones carrying narcotics from Syria that had crossed over the porous, 375km (233-mile) border the countries share.

War-torn Syria has become a hub for the multibillion-dollar drugs trade, and Jordan is a main transit route to the oil-rich Gulf states for a Syrian-made amphetamine known as Captagon, Western anti-narcotics officials say.

Shooting down drones isn’t enough to stop Jordan’s crystal meth problem. Al Jazeera. Hanna Davis

Cases of crystal meth abuse are rising throughout Jordan – according to doctors and scientists, the drug is even more addictive and dangerous than the now widely-available and also highly-addictive amphetamine, captagon…The drug has spread like wildfire throughout Iraq – a dangerous warning for Jordan, which like its neighbour, also suffers from rampant unemployment that creates an ideal climate for drug abuse to thrive.

OCTOBER 2023 Queen Rania of Jordan condemns west’s ‘silence’ over Israeli bombing of Gaza. The Guardian. AFP in Amman.

Rania, born to Palestinian parents in Kuwait, blasted western nations for opposing a blanket ceasefire and said their silence gave the impression they were “complicit” in Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

“The people all around the Middle East, including in Jordan, we are just shocked and disappointed by the world’s reaction to this catastrophe that is unfolding. In the last couple of weeks, we have seen a glaring double standard in the world,” she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Egypt and Jordan are trying to calm the conflict. The New York Times.

Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, shares security and strategic interests with Israel, but relations between the Jordanian royal court and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government have been tense in recent years over repeated incursions of a contested holy site in Jerusalem, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Jordan has custodianship of the religious compound in the West Bank, which is occupied by the Israeli military, and Jews are prohibited from praying at the site. But Jewish settlers and the Israeli military have attacked Muslim worshipers at the site.

Jordan Still Has a Vital Role to Play in the Gaza Crisis. Washington Institute. Ben Fishman.

Any Israeli-Palestinian conflagration necessarily has ripple effects in Jordan. The summit was called off in the wake of the deadly October 17 hospital blast in Gaza, which Jordanians—like other Arab populations—quickly attributed to Israel, spurring a large protest outside the Israeli embassy in Amman. And last week, huge protests broke out in various major cities after Friday prayers. In that case, the well-prepared police channeled the demonstrations away from sensitive areas such as the U.S. and Israeli embassies, while the security services prevented protesters from approaching the border. In advance, the Ministry of Interior prohibited protests in the Jordan Valley and used tear gas to break up rallies that violated the ban.

U.S. allies in the Middle East try to stake out a middle ground. L.A. Times. Tracy Wilkonson.

Still, regional leaders cannot be seen to be turning their back on the broader fight for Palestinian independence, because for many ordinary Arabs, the cause remains sacrosanct.

In his meeting with Blinken, King Abdullah II of Jordan, one of the United States’ closest allies in the region, also raised the specter of Israel carrying out “collective punishment” on the people of Gaza.

How Biden’s trip to Israel and U.S. response to war is resonating in Middle East. PBS Newshour. Interview with Marwan Muasher.

“We have witnessed protests in Jordan that are unprecedented. Not since the Arab Spring, not even during the Arab Spring we witnessed such demonstrations. Jordan and Egypt are extremely worried that this is going to result in a mass transfer of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt, and, potentially, if the conflict escalates, from the West Bank to Jordan.”

Summit with Arab leaders in Jordan called off as President Biden heads to Israel. PBS Newshour. Colleen Long, Associated Press

“This war and this aggression are pushing the region to the brink,” Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, told al-Mamlaka TV, a state-run network. He said Jordan would only host the summit when all participants agreed on its purpose, which would be to “stop the war, respect the humanity of the Palestinians, and deliver the aid they deserve.”

Muslims Across Middle East Rally in Support of Palestinians. Wall Street Journal. Sune Engel Rasmussen and Suha Ma’ayeh.

In Jordan, a staunch regional ally of the U.S., authorities used tear gas on protesters headed toward the border with the West Bank, and blocked cars traveling on the highway in that direction, after issuing a ban on rallies on the border. 

In downtown Amman, the Jordanian capital, thousands of protesters gathered under heavy security presence after Friday prayer in a peaceful demonstration. The rally, attended by Jordanians and Palestinians, was called by the Muslim Brotherhood, which in a message Thursday called on the country’s government to arm Jordanians.  

“We will sacrifice our souls and blood for Al Aqsa,” chanted protesters waving Palestinian flags, referring to the mosque in Jerusalem. “Open, open the borders,” they called, “We are going to Jerusalem in millions.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II: Palestinian refugees entering Jordan or Egypt is ‘red line’. The Times of Israel. Gianluca Pacchiani

Jordanian King Abdullah II says that neither his country nor Egypt will accept Palestinian refugees, declaring it a “red line.”

At a press conference held after meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, Abdullah says that “some of the usual suspects are trying to create facts on the ground,” according to Sky News Arabia.

“There will be no refugees in Jordan and no refugees in Egypt.”

NOVEMBER 2023 “The worst is coming”: Jordan braces for spillover effects of Israel-Hamas war. MEI. John Calabrese. 

The conflict has also complicated Jordan’s relationship with the United States. King Abdullah, Washington’s longstanding, stalwart regional partner, canceled his meeting with President Joe Biden in Amman in the aftermath of the deadly blast at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. The U.S. veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict was surely greeted with displeasure in Amman. And the U.S. pledge of a $100 million package in humanitarian aid for the Palestinians reportedly was viewed by Jordanian (and Egyptian) officials as a token gesture. Because the U.S. is the single largest contributor of bilateral assistance to Jordan — aid that the country has come to greatly depend upon — Amman will likely tread carefully lest its differences with Washington over the conflict risk severely damaging the relationship. However, the longer the war and the greater the loss of civilian life in Gaza, the more difficult it will be for the Jordanian monarchy to balance the tasks of managing its relations with Washington on the one hand and the domestic political fallout from the conflict on the other.

Jordan recalls ambassador to Israel to protest Gaza ‘catastrophe’. Al Jazeera

Jordan, which neighbours Israel to the east, has held a fragile peace agreement with Tel Aviv since 1994, which returned some 380 kilometres (236 miles) of Jordan’s occupied land from Israeli control and resolved longstanding water disputes. 

The last time Jordan recalled its envoy to Israel was in 2019 to protest against the months-long detention of two of its citizens without charges.

Jordan and the Israeli War on Gaza: Shifts in Political Discourse. Carnegie Diwan. Abdullah Jbour.

During the recent protests in Amman, Jordanians called out the names of Hamas’ military leaders, including Mohammed Deif, the commander-in-chief of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the movement’s official spokesman, Abu Ubaida, and Yahya al-Sinwar, the head of the Hamas movement in Gaza. On the other hand, the names of famous Hamas political leaders, such as Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Political Bureau and Khaled Meshal, head of Hamas foreign or international office, were absent from the protests. This is indicative of wider transformations in Jordanian popular opinion. The Jordanian masses supporting the Palestinian cause now prefer military confrontation over political negotiations, especially given the weakness of the Palestinian Authority, and many former Fatah supporters in Jordan have now joined the ranks of Hamas—which is no longer seen just a movement, but an entire ideology. 

Jordan Airdrops Medical Aid to Its Field Hospital in Gaza. The New York Times. Hiba Yazbek.

Israel and Jordan maintain a crucial regional alliance, and the kingdom is the custodian of the Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, a key holy site that is often a source of disputes and conflict with Palestinians.

At the same time, large crowds have been protesting across the kingdom, where many are of Palestinian origin, for the past month demanding a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. Some have demonstrated daily in front of the Israeli Embassy in Amman.

Jordan’s foreign minister criticizes Israel’s war on Hamas, calls for immediate cease-fire. PBS Newshour. Jon Gambrell, Associated Press

After the war, Safadi said Arab countries also would not “come and clean the mess after Israel.”

“Let me be very clear. I know speaking on behalf of Jordan but having discussed this issue with many, with almost all our brethren, there’ll be no Arab troops going to Gaza. None. We’re not going to be seen as the enemy,” he said. “How could anybody talk about the future of Gaza when we do not know what kind of Gaza will be left once this aggression ends?”

Safadi insisted the only way forward would be a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians, even though the peace process has been moribund for years.

Jordan’s foreign minister seeks help from European diplomats in call for war in Gaza toend. PBS Newshour. Renata Brito, Associated Press

Jordan, a key Western ally, signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1994. The countries maintain covert security relations and some business ties, but relations have cooled over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Safadi noted that while Arab nations have demanded the end of what he called Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza, most European nations have not gone that far, instead calling for a “humanitarian pause.”

“We need to bridge the gap,” Safadi said, adding that the war “is producing nothing.”

Jordan signals that it won’t sign a water deal with Israel in protest of the war. The New York Times

Water was an important element of the peace treaty that Israel and Jordan signed in 1994, and Jordan already buys some water from Israel, which has become a pioneer in desalination techniques. But many Jordanians are wary of relying on Israel for water. When Project Prosperity was announced in 2021, the news was met with protests in Amman.

A deal with Israel had been one part of naturally arid Jordan’s plan to address its need for water, which has grown increasingly desperate because of the pressures of climate change and population growth, in addition to its own damaged and inefficient infrastructure. Rainfall has decreased significantly in recent decades, and warmer temperatures quicken evaporation. The aquifers that supply most of Jordan’s water are being drained far more quickly than they can be replenished naturally.

At the same time, Jordan’s population has more than doubled over the last 20 years, reaching 11 million people, according to the World Bank. That includes more than two million Palestinian refugees, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship, as well as many more refugees who recently arrived from Syria.

America’s economic might gives it little sway in the Middle East. The Economist

Behind America’s shift was the hope that prosperity would stabilise allies, such as Jordan’s monarchy and Egypt’s dictatorships, and improve its own reputation, which had been battered by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet little economic growth has materialised. The Middle East is home to some of the world’s most troubled economies. Lebanon has fallen over the edge: the government defaulted on its debts in 2020, and lacks the political stability required to negotiate with creditors. Inflation is now raging at more than 100%...

Others are doing little better. Unemployment in Jordan is higher than at any point in the past 25 years, except for during the covid-19 pandemic, and the state relies on support from America and the IMF to escape default. Similarly, Egypt has been flirting with default since a foreign-currency crunch last year. Three separate IMF bail-outs in the past decade have stalled owing to the country’s refusal to dismantle loss-making firms run by the armed forces.

Jordan Conducts Second Airdrop of Medical Aid to Gaza Hospital. Wall Street Journal. Suha Maayeh. 

The Jordanian military said Sunday that it had airdropped urgently needed medical supplies to the Jordanian Hospital in Gaza. The parachuted supplies were the second such delivery to the hospital since the war in Gaza erupted.

Katrina Sammour was first published on Full Spectrum Jordan, a weekly newsletter on SubStack. 

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