Jordan, US reaffirm 'enduring strength' of partnership

A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace on July 19, 2021, shows His Majesty King Abdullah II, Her Majesty Queen Rania, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, US President Joe Biden, and Jill Biden posing for a picture in Washington, DC. (Photo: Yousef Allan/Jordanian Royal Palace/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden hosted a private meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah at the White House to “reaffirm the enduring strength of the partnership between the United States and Jordan,” according to a White House statement.اضافة اعلان

King Abdullah began his three-week visit to the United States on July 1, 2021, at the annual Sun Valley economic forum in Idaho, where he met with key political, business, and media leaders from across the globe to discuss political and economic affairs. On July 16, His Majesty met with US Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie who referred to Jordan as one of the United States’ most reliable partners and stated that, “Jordan is an important pillar in preserving peace and advancing security throughout the region.” In the coming days, King Abdullah is set to conclude his trip with meetings with US Vice President Kamala Harris at the vice president’s residence and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department.

During His Majesty’s White House meeting, the two leaders discussed challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with President Biden proudly announcing the delivery of 500,000 US COVID-19 vaccines to Jordan. The leaders also touched on a number of topics pivotal to advancing shared security goals of peace and stability in the Middle East, including the urgency of the Syria’s situation, the modernization of Jordan’s defense forces, and Israel and Palestine.

His Majesty King Abdullah II was the first head of state from the Middle East to visit the White House since President Biden took office early this year — a symbolic gesture of Biden’s commitment to strengthening the long-standing relationship between Jordan and the United States that has suffered tremendously in recent years. “Both seem to agree that it was on the wrong track during the Trump years, when the Trump White House largely ignored and marginalized Jordan,” Curtis Ryan, professor of political science at Appalachian State University, told Jordan News.

Despite this recent turmoil, King Abdullah has signaled a readiness to revive Jordan’s long-standing partnership with the United States. “There’s a precedent that’s being set here in terms of how much Abdullah prioritizes the United States in Jordan’s broader foreign policy strategy,” said Sean Yom, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and professor of political science at Temple University.

Although the Biden administration has pivoted away from the Middle East as a top foreign policy priority, President Biden has demonstrated a great interest in strengthening bilateral cooperation with Jordan. “The king and the president both put a high value on the US-Jordanian relationship,” said Ryan. “Both see this moment as a reset in bilateral relations and both want to deepen relations diplomatically, militarily, and economically.”

President Biden and King Abdullah’s friendship dates back two decades, before King Abdullah came to power. In remarks made before the start of their meeting, President Biden welcomed King Abdullah as a “good, loyal, and decent friend” and thanked His Majesty for his leadership in the Middle East, saluting Jordan for its crucial role in supporting regional stability.

Each leader brought to the table their own point of emphasis for the future of their partnership. “This is a particularly vital time for Jordan,” said Yom, citing a wide array of challenges facing Jordan today, including the humanitarian overhead of the Syrian refugee crisis, uncertainty over Israel and Palestine, the overall post-pandemic fall out on the Jordanian economy, and concerns about popular protests and discontent within the kingdom. “All of this creates an opportunity for Jordan’s ability to extract key guarantees of further aid and protection and support from Washington,” Yom added.

In an interview with the Jordan News, Natasha Hall, a senior fellow with the Middle East Program at the Washington DC Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), called the His Majesty’s White House visit “symbolic” and told Jordan News that President Biden’s actions indicate a strong desire to convey to Jordan the United States’ commitment to supporting Jordan and cultivating a strong cooperation partnership in the years to come.

The strength of this security partnership is especially important within the context of the recent drawdown of US presence in Afghanistan, which has handed Jordan a central role in the US foreign policy strategy. “In a very tumultuous region, Jordan is geostrategically placed in such a way that it is advantageous for the United States to pursue continued cooperation,” said Hall.

Israel and Palestine were central in His Majesty and President Biden’s security discussions, with President Biden communicating strong support for a two-state solution and expressing respect for Jordan’s place as a custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. Earlier this month, the two leaders came to an agreement to increase Jordanian exports to the West Bank and improve Jordan’s access to fresh water. In their meeting, President Biden expressed his support for advancing relations between Jordan and the new Israeli government.

“American support and friendship have always been the hallmark of Jordan’s foreign policy since the 1950s,” Yom said. Since the beginning of his reign as King in 1999, King Abdullah has demonstrated a commitment to cultivating strong relations with the United States and has been the first Arab head of state to visit the US president for 3 of the last 4 administrations, with the only exception being that King Abdullah was President George W. Bush’s second visit after Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

The long-term significance of King Abdullah’s trip as a confidence-building exercise for the two leaders to ascertain what the mutual areas of overlapping interests are between the countries and how to best strategically move forward with their cooperative partnership should become clear in the weeks to come.

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