Jordan - Tips

Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
May 2007

Background Note: Jordan

Flag of Jordan is three equal horizontal bands of black at top, white, and
green, with a red isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bearing a small
white seven-pointed star.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Geography
Area: 89,342 sq. km. (34,495 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Amman (pop. 1.9 million). Other cities--Irbid (272,681),
Az-Zarqa (472,830).

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Jordanian(s).
Population (2006, per IMF): 5.63 million.
Religions (est.): Sunni Muslim 95%, Christian 4%, other 1%.
Languages: Arabic (official), English.
Education (2006, according to Jordan's Department of Statistics):
Literacy--90.9%.
Health (2003): Infant mortality rate--19/1,000. Life expectancy--71 yrs.
Ethnic groups: Mostly Arab but small communities of Circassians, Armenians,
and Kurds.
Work force (1.3 million, of which 260 thousand are registered guest workers):
public sector 17%, services 36%, manufacturing 20%, education 12%, health and
social services 10%, primary industries 5%.
Unemployment rate (2006): 13% of economically active Jordanians.

Government
Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Independence: May 25, 1946.
Constitution: January 8, 1952.
Branches: Executive--King (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of
government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--bicameral National
Assembly (appointed Senate, elected Chamber of Deputies). Judicial--civil,
religious, special courts.
Political parties: Wide spectrum of parties legalized in 1992.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: Twelve governorates--Irbid, Jarash, Ajloun,
al-'Aqaba, Madaba, al-Mafraq, al-Zarqa, Amman, al-Balqa, al-Karak,
al-Tafilah, and Ma'an.

Economy
Nominal GDP (2006): $14.3 billion.
Annual real growth rate (2006): 6.4%.
Per capita GDP (2006): $2,533.
Natural resources: Phosphate, potash.
Agriculture: Products--fruits, vegetables, wheat, olive oil, barley, olives.
Land--10% arable; 5% cultivated.
Industry (26.5% of GDP in 2006): Types--phosphate mining, manufacturing,
electricity and water; cement and petroleum production, and construction.
Trade: Exports (2006)--$5.17 billion: phosphates, potash, garments,
fertilizers, pharmaceutical products, agricultural products. Major
markets--U.S., Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Syria, Israel, Kuwait.
Imports (2006)--$11.46 billion: crude petroleum and derivatives, vehicles,
machinery and equipment, cereals, fabrics and textiles. Major suppliers--
Saudi Arabia (mainly crude oil and derivatives), EU, China, U.S., Egypt,
South Korea, Japan, Turkey.

Note: From 1949 to 1967, Jordan administered the West Bank. Since the 1967
war, when Israel took control of this territory, the United States has
considered the West Bank to be territory occupied by Israel. The United
States believes that the final status of the West Bank can be determined only
through negotiations among the concerned parties based on UN Security Council
Resolutions 242 and 338.

PEOPLE
Jordanians are Arabs, except for a few small communities of Circassians,
Armenians, and Kurds who have adapted to Arab culture. The official language
is Arabic, but English is used widely in commerce and government. About 70%
of Jordan's population is urban; less than 6% of the rural population is
nomadic or semi-nomadic. Most of the population lives where rainfall can
support agriculture. Approximately 1.7 million registered Palestinian
refugees and other displaced persons reside in Jordan, many as citizens.

HISTORY
The land that became Jordan is part of the richly historical Fertile Crescent
region. Around 2000 B.C., Semitic Amorites settled around the Jordan River in
the area called Canaan. Subsequent invaders and settlers included Hittites,
Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arab
Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Mameluks, Ottoman Turks, and, finally, the
British. At the end of World War I, the League of Nations awarded the
territory now comprising Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem
to the United Kingdom as the mandate for Palestine and Transjordan. In 1922,
the British divided the mandate by establishing the semiautonomous Emirate of
Transjordan, ruled by the Hashemite Prince Abdullah, while continuing the
administration of Palestine under a British High Commissioner. The mandate
over Transjordan ended on May 22, 1946; on May 25, the country became the
independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. It ended its special defense
treaty relationship with the United Kingdom in 1957.

Transjordan was one of the Arab states which moved to assist Palestinian
nationalists opposed to the creation of Israel in May 1948, and took part in
the warfare between the Arab states and the newly founded State of Israel.
The armistice agreements of April 3, 1949 left Jordan in control of the West
Bank and provided that the armistice demarcation lines were without prejudice
to future territorial settlements or boundary lines.

In 1950, the country was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to include
those portions of Palestine annexed by King Abdullah I. While recognizing
Jordanian administration over the West Bank, the United States maintained the
position that ultimate sovereignty was subject to future agreement.

Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it
participated in the June 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states of
Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Israel gained control of the West
Bank and all of Jerusalem. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West
Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its
1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim
holy places in Jerusalem. The U.S. Government considers the West Bank to be
territory occupied by Israel and believes that its final status should be
determined through direct negotiations among the parties concerned on the
basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians living
in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population--700,000 in 1966--grew by
another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an
upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements
(fedayeen) in Jordan. The heavily armed fedayeen constituted a growing threat
to the sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state, and open fighting
erupted in June 1970.

No fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the
October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight
Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf war
of 1990-91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and
Palestinian representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with
Israel sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities
with Israel and signed a peace treaty in 1994. Jordan has since sought to
remain at peace with all of its neighbors.

GOVERNMENT
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution promulgated on
January 8, 1952. Executive authority is vested in the King and his Council of
Ministers. The King signs and executes all laws. His veto power may be
overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the National Assembly. He
appoints and may dismiss all judges by decree, approves amendments to the
constitution, declares war, and commands the armed forces. Cabinet decisions,
court judgments, and the national currency are issued in his name. The King,
who may dismiss other cabinet members at the prime minister's request,
appoints the council of ministers, led by a prime minister. The cabinet is
responsible to the Chamber of Deputies on matters of general policy and can
be forced to resign by a two-thirds vote of "no confidence" by that body.

Legislative power rests in the bicameral National Assembly. The number of
deputies in the current Chamber of Deputies is 110, with a number of seats
reserved for various religions, ethnicities, and women. The Chamber, elected
by universal suffrage to a 4-year term, is subject to dissolution by the
King. The King appoints the 55-member Senate for a 4-year term. Parliamentary
elections are scheduled to be held in the fall of 2007.

The constitution provides for three categories of courts--civil, religious,
and special. Administratively, Jordan is divided into 12 governorates, each
headed by a governor appointed by the King. They are the sole authorities for
all government departments and development projects in their respective
areas.

Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--King Abdullah bin al-Hussein II
Prime Minister--Marouf Bakhit
Minister of Defense--Marouf Bakhit
Foreign Minister--Abdelelah al-Khatib
Ambassador to the U.S.--Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad
Ambassador to the UN--Charge d'affaires Bashir Zubi

Jordan maintains an embassy in the United States at 3504 International Drive
NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-966-2664).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
King Hussein ruled Jordan from 1953 to 1999, surviving a number of challenges
to his rule, drawing on the loyalty of his military, and serving as a symbol
of unity and stability for both the East Bank and Palestinian communities in
Jordan. In 1989 and 1993, Jordan held free and fair parliamentary elections.
Controversial changes in the election law led Islamist parties to boycott the
1997 elections. King Hussein ended martial law in 1991 and legalized
political parties in 1992.

King Abdullah II succeeded his father Hussein following the latter's death in
February 1999. Abdullah moved quickly to reaffirm Jordan's peace treaty with
Israel and its relations with the U.S. Abdullah, during his first year in
power, refocused the government's agenda on economic reform.

Jordan's continuing structural economic difficulties, burgeoning population,
and more open political environment led to the emergence of a variety of
political parties. Moving toward greater independence, Jordan's Parliament
has investigated corruption charges against several regime figures and has
become the major forum in which differing political views, including those of
political Islamists, are expressed. In June 2001, the King dissolved
Parliament. Parliamentary elections were held in June 2003, and municipal
elections were held in July 2003. The King appointed the current Prime
Minister, Marouf Bakhit, in December 2005. Bakhit and his cabinet have set as
their goal the continued legislative implementation of a ten-year reform
plan, known as the National Agenda, drafted by a royal commission in 2005.
The King also charged the new cabinet with strengthening Jordan's security
following the November 2005 suicide hotel bombings in Amman that killed 60.

ECONOMY
Jordan is a small country with limited natural resources. The country is
currently exploring ways to expand its limited water supply and use its
existing water resources more efficiently, including through regional
cooperation. Jordan also depends on external sources for the majority of its
energy requirements. During the 1990s, its crude petroleum needs were met
through imports from neighboring Iraq. Since early 2003, oil has been
provided by some Gulf Cooperation Council member countries. In addition, a
natural gas pipeline from Egypt to Jordan through the southern port city of
Aqaba is now operational. The pipeline has reached northern Jordan and
construction to connect it to Syria and beyond is underway.

Under King Abdullah, Jordan has undertaken a program of economic reform. The
government has taken the initiative to gradually eliminate fuel subsidies,
pass legislation targeting corruption, and begin tax reform. It has also
worked to liberalize trade, gaining access to the World Trade Organization
(WTO) in 2000, signing an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU)
in 2001, and securing the first bilateral Free Trade Agreement between the
U.S. and an Arab country in 2001. Since 2000, exports of light manufactured
products, principally textiles and garments manufactured in the Qualifying
Industrial Zones (QIZ) that enter the United States tariff and quota free,
have been driving economic growth. Jordan exported $6.9 million in goods to
the U.S. in 1997, when two-way trade was $395 million; according to the U.S.
International Trade Commission, it exported $1.42 billion in 2006, with
two-way trade at $2.07 billion.

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States that went into effect
in December 2001 will phase out duties on nearly all goods and services by
2010. The agreement also provides for more open markets in communications,
construction, finance, health, transportation, and services, as well as
strict application of international standards for the protection of
intellectual property. In 1996, Jordan and the United States signed a civil
aviation agreement that provides for "open skies" between the two countries,
and a U.S.-Jordan treaty for the protection and encouragement of bilateral
investment entered into force in 2003. More information on the FTA is
available on www.jordanusfta.com.

Such developments hold considerable promise for diversifying Jordan's economy
away from its traditional reliance on exports of phosphates and potash,
overseas remittances, and foreign aid. The government has emphasized the
information technology (IT) and tourism sectors as other promising growth
sectors. The low tax and low regulation Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) is
considered a model of a government-provided framework for private sector-led
economic growth.

Jordan is classified by the World Bank as a "lower middle income country."
The per capita GDP, as reported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was
$2,533 for 2006. According to Jordan's Department of Statistics, 13% of the
economically active Jordanian population residing in Jordan was unemployed in
2006. Education and literacy rates and measures of social well-being are
relatively high compared to other countries with similar incomes. Jordan's
population growth rate has declined in recent years and is currently 2.3% as
reported by the Jordanian government. One of the most important factors in
the government's efforts to improve the well-being of its citizens is the
macroeconomic stability that has been achieved since the 1990s. The rate of
inflation in 2006 was 6.3%; the currency has been stable with an exchange
rate fixed to the U.S. dollar since 1995 at JD 0.708-0.710 to the dollar. In
2006, Jordan significantly reduced its debt to GDP ratio to 73.2% of GDP.

While pursuing economic reform and increased trade, Jordan's economy will
continue to be vulnerable to external shocks and regional unrest. Without
calm in the region, economic growth seems destined to stay below its
potential.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Jordan has consistently followed a pro-Western foreign policy and
traditionally has had close relations with the United States. These relations
were damaged by support in Jordan for Iraq during the first Gulf war.
Although the Government of Jordan stated its opposition to the Iraqi
occupation of Kuwait, popular support for Iraq was driven by Jordan's
Palestinian community, which favored Saddam as a champion against Western
supporters of Israel.

Following the first Gulf war, Jordan largely restored its relations with
Western countries through its participation in the Middle East peace process
and enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq. Relations between Jordan and
the Gulf countries improved substantially after King Hussein's death.
Following the fall of the Iraqi regime, Jordan has played a pivotal role in
supporting the restoration of stability and security to Iraq. The Government
of Jordan has facilitated the training of over 50,000 Iraqi police cadets at
a Jordanian facility near Amman.

Jordan signed a nonbelligerency agreement with Israel (the Washington
Declaration) in Washington, DC, on July 25, 1994. Jordan and Israel signed a
historic peace treaty on October 26, 1994, witnessed by President Clinton,
accompanied by Secretary Christopher. The U.S. has participated with Jordan
and Israel in trilateral development discussions in which key issues have
been water-sharing and security; cooperation on Jordan Rift Valley
development; infrastructure projects; and trade, finance, and banking issues.
Jordan also participates in multilateral peace talks. Jordan belongs to the
UN and several of its specialized and related agencies, including the World
Trade Organization (WTO), the International Meteorological Organization
(IMO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), and World Health Organization (WHO). Jordan also is a member
of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization of the
Islamic Conference (OIC), Nonaligned Movement, and Arab League.

Since the outbreak of the Intifada in September 2000, Jordan has worked to
maintain lines of communication between the Israelis and the Palestinians to
counsel moderation and to return the parties to negotiations of outstanding
permanent status issues.

During summer 2006, Jordan provided considerable relief supplies to Lebanon
and has supported U.S. efforts to generate international security assistance
for Lebanese national forces.

U.S.-JORDANIAN RELATIONS
Relations between the U.S. and Jordan have been close for over four decades.
A primary objective of U.S. policy has been the achievement of a
comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East.

U.S. policy seeks to reinforce Jordan's commitment to peace, stability, and
moderation. The peace process and Jordan's opposition to terrorism parallel
and indirectly assist wider U.S. interests. Accordingly, through economic and
military assistance and through close political cooperation, the United
States has helped Jordan maintain its stability and prosperity.

Since 1952, the United States has provided Jordan with economic assistance
totaling more than $9 billion ($1.3 billion in loans and $7.7 billion in
grants), including funds for development projects, health care, education,
construction to increase water availability, support for microeconomic policy
shifts toward a more completely free market system, and both grant and loan
acquisition of U.S. agriculture commodities. These programs have been
successful and have contributed to Jordanian stability while strengthening
the bilateral relationship. U.S. military assistance--provision of material
and training--is designed to meet Jordan's legitimate defense needs,
including preservation of border integrity and regional stability. Jordan
signed a Threshold Agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
in October 2006, and was subsequently deemed by the MCC to be eligible for a
Compact Agreement in recognition of the country's progress on economic,
social, and political reform indicators.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--David M. Hale
Deputy Chief of Mission--Daniel Rubinstein
Political Affairs--David Greene
Economic Affairs--Natalie Brown
Consular Affairs--Rena Bitter
Management Affairs--Perry Adair
Public Affairs--Phillip Frayne&

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