Jordan's Role in Promoting Peace and Stability in the Region under the Leadership of His Majesty the King

This paper provides an overview of the most significant titles and stations of Jordan's role in promoting stability and building peace in the region under King Abdullah II's leadership. In addition, it examines the main features of the Jordanian situation in economic, political, and social terms, as well as its regional and international political activity, in light of the current situation and within the context of Jordan's geostrategic position and the nature of threats it faces. Furthermore, the paper predicts the possible and likely future of the active Jordanian role in shaping the features of the region, and the continued Jordanian activity in all directions and possibilities as an active actor playing its role to pursue stability in the region in where the doors to peace and development will open.

  • Publisher – STRATEGIECS
  • Release Date – Nov 22, 2021

Executive Summary

This Politics Paper attempts to provide an overview of the Jordanian role's most prominent features in promoting stability and working to build peace in the region. The paper discusses the Jordanian situation socially, economically, and politically, along with the movement of Jordanian politics within the context of Jordan's geostrategic location and the threats it is facing, as well as transformations, most notably, the arrival of US President Joe Biden to the White House, and the signs of a number of indicators of a breakthrough in the region.

It seems that with some changes, the de-escalation of conflicts in the Syrian crisis, and the emergence of regional cooperation prospects, an effective Jordanian effort emerges to move towards re-stimulating Jordanian-Syrian relations, leading to tangible projects and prospects that can be probed in the Jordanian agenda, in cooperation with a number of regional and international parties. In addition, the paper explores the possible and likely future role of Jordan in shaping the features of this region, which should hopefully contribute to enhancing its security and stability and building stronger foundations for a just and flourishing future for peace.

Domestic and Regional Context

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan occupies a prime geographical location that both served as an advantage and posed internal and external challenges, as the situations in neighboring countries often affect Jordan, especially when repercussions of regional turmoil affect its security, politics, and economy. Therefore, the events of the so-called Arab Spring, which Jordan managed to pass safely, provided an opportunity for the country to reassess its own domestic situation based on the challenges facing the region.

As the Kingdom enters the second century of its founding this year, it can be said that stability has remained a prominent feature of the situation in Jordan, an advantage that helped Jordan practice a more effective foreign policy to pursue its goals, and gave it a good, effective and strong international image. In all of this, the personal qualities of the Jordanian political leadership, led by His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, were of particular significance, because His Majesty’s personality, as well as the respect and appreciation he enjoys around the world, contribute to Jordan's role, status, presence, and ability to influence events.


Despite stability, Jordan has faced many challenges throughout its long history, but has overcome them successfully. Among the notable challenges was the recent crisis which Jordan overcame through the wisdom of His Majesty the King, when he said: “I think, knowing Jordan, finger pointing does not help at all. We have enough challenges in the region. We need to move forward.”

In terms of foreign policy and its challenges, Jordan recognizes that the international system is based on political and military blocs and axes. Therefore, the Kingdom developed international relations to protect its national security, leveraging its position to play a greater role locally, regionally, and internationally. And Jordan understands that as a relatively small country with limited natural resources it must use other non-traditional elements of power, role, and status. Hence, Jordan's policy is based on its position and network of interests and relations, which itself is based on principles that have been reinforced throughout its long history. As a country, Jordan possesses a “soft power” that surpasses its “traditional hard power,” as well as its available resources.

The urgent need for economic, political and administrative reforms

Jordan has a very high rate of educated citizens, and the Jordanian youth constitute the largest segment of Jordanian society, as data from the Department of Statistics for 2018 show that 21% of Jordan's population are 15-24 years old. Jordan also stands out in terms of its innovative capabilities, particularly in Information and Communication Technology; in addition to an industrial sector with a global reach and market around the world; and an agricultural sector ideal for investment and development. Yet, Jordan still faces many challenges at home, most notably the difficult economic situation that puts pressure on the lives of a large portion of Jordanians; as well as the need to implement political and administrative reforms in a way that fulfills the aspiration to build a parliamentary democracy, where executive authority is vested in governments that are elected based on their political programs by majority vote, under a state of law.

As for the demographic and socio-economic landscape, there are difficulties pressing on Jordan. According to Department of Statistics data, the population of the Kingdom reached about 11 million by the end of September 2021. In addition to the natural growth, Jordan witnessed successive waves of migration, including forced migration and asylum seekers, which contributed to the increase of population . Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic came as a major challenge for Jordan's economy, which is already facing difficult conditions, including the decline in gross domestic product, then the pandemic exacerbated unemployment and poverty rates.

In fact, it is evident that unemployment is the most serious challenge Jordan is facing. Unemployment rates have risen to about 24% for the total population, and are even higher, and more worrying, among young adults, reaching about 50%. Furthermore, the state's external and internal public debt has been increasingly rising, according to data from the Department of Statistics, the World Bank, and the Jordan Economic Observatory in spring 2021. 

There are other aspects to this problem, since Jordan's economy was heavily dependent on neighboring countries, including Iraq and the Gulf, as well as exports to Syria. After the Corona pandemic, the recession in 2020, and the modest economic growth in 2021, it appears that the economic challenge will remain a primary title for major challenges in the Jordanian landscape for some time. 

Against these problems, His Majesty King Abdullah II and the various Jordanian institutions have stepped up their efforts to mobilize as many means as possible to support the economy; promote investment in order to boost Jordanian presence regionally and internationally; achieve results with a tangible impact in enabling Jordanian citizens to improve their living standards; and enhance internal stability in the country.

Refugees and pressure on resources

It may be important to discuss the refugees problem, particularly in light of the difficulties Jordan is facing, As the Kingdom has been receiving successive waves of refugees: Palestinians from historical Palestine (1948) and the West Bank and Gaza Strip (since 1967), from Kuwait (1990-1991), from Iraq since the 1990s, and from Syria since 2011.

As of early 2016, the kingdom had 2.9 million non-citizens, which includes people from various countries, such as Egyptians, who make up a large proportion of the workforce, and about 1.3 million Syrian refugees, not all of whom were registered with the UNHCR. The fact that Jordan has received the third highest number of Syrian refugees, after Turkey and Lebanon, intensifies international, and especially European, interest in Jordan due to its role in hosting refugees. As well as this problem, Jordan faces other challenges, such as water shortage, unemployment, poverty among Jordanians, pressure on services, the need to provide the necessities for a decent living for refugees. Jordan is also facing impacts on the country's limited resources, most notably the scarcity of water resources, as the waters of several dams have dried up, which has forced Jordan to buy more than 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel this year. Since Jordan is one of the poorest countries in terms of water resources, and since water security is one of the most important issues Jordan is trying to solve, the sensitivity of this issue becomes clearer. Moreover, these problems have grown worse due to the fact that the international community has not fulfilled its pledges to assist Jordan in dealing with the refugee crisis.

Jordan's political landscape and future

As for the domestic landscape in Jordan, the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System has completed its tasks, and the outcomes will be discussed before the two Houses of the Parliament of Jordan, the Senate and the House of Representatives, in order to approve the resulting laws (the election law and political parties law), as well as the constitutional amendments compatible with them. In summary, recommendations of the committee regarding the proposed election law included allocating a percentage of seats to national party lists, based on a closed list system that increases, within three elections, from 30% to 50% to a minimum of 65% of the number of seats in parliament, and with mechanisms that enhance the presence of the youth and women. The ultimate goal is, as His Majesty the King has repeatedly stated, to achieve parliamentary blocs, parties with programs, a partisan parliament, and to form governments accordingly, with specific programs whose success can be measured, so that voters can express their opinion about those who proposed them at the ballot box. These modernizations are likely to revival of partisan and political activity in Jordan.

There are realistic and promising prospects for this transformation. However, there are also counter-forces and many significant obstacles that most Jordanians hope to overcome. The hope is accompanied by a more ambitious draft law for parties and the possibility of developing their role without obstacles. Administrative reform also occupies a prominent position on the list of priorities, in order to restore the vitality of the government system, and get rid of the impurities that hindered its desired performance. This would achieve the aspirations of Jordan and its citizens of an advanced environment that embraces a more mature democracy, whose effects are reflected on Jordan’s image, role and the lives of its people.

The Palestinian cause is of absolute priority for Jordan

It is clear that Jordan, in its efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region, sets its priorities regarding its regional and international relations on the basis of Arab and Islamic constant principles that have been entrenched over decades. There is no doubt that Jordanian-Palestinian relations are of an undisputed priority, and that Jordan's efforts in such regard have a clear impact in bringing the region to a status of stability, which cannot be achieved without a fair solution to the Palestinian cause. Besides Jordan having a principled position in its support of the Palestinian brothers, who are closest to the Jordanian people in every respect, Jordan has always insisted that resolving the conflict should be based on and established on the decisions of international legitimacy, and that establishing a Palestinian state based on the Fourth of June 1967 boundaries, with East Jerusalem as its capital, is a fundamental principle without which any solution would be meaningless. In addition, the Hashemite custodianship over the holy sites in Jerusalem has a sentimental, historical, and political significance. This custodianship means additional responsibilities that do not accept any compromise to the Jordanian role and the Hashemite leadership.

Jordan's relationship with Israel during Netanyahu's tenure (2009-2021) witnessed a lot of estrangement, tension, and crises. At the time, His Majesty the King described the relations as being "at their worst" due to Israeli practices of attacking the Palestinians, Jewishizing, and constructing settlements, which became one of the constant brands of the approach adopted by the [Israeli] governments that Jordan strongly opposed. Although the new Israeli government is of an extreme right-wing nature as well, curbing its extremism has become a goal in itself, while awaiting transformations that do not seem to have any chances of taking place in the near future.

Jordan reads regional and international developments and is actively involved in their interactions

There is no doubt that President Joe Biden's administration adopted different approaches from that of former President Donald Trump. Indeed, Under the Biden administration, the US position on a number of central Middle East issues has witnessed significant changes, especially when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and in dealing with other Middle Eastern parties, including Iran’s nuclear program, the Yemeni crisis, as well as relations with central parties in the region, including Jordan, that has been different from relations with the previous administration.

It appears that what Foreign Policy called “Delegated Stabilization” toward the Middle East has begun to work. Through this “delegated stabilization”, local states are given tacit permission to attempt to resolve acute regional issues themselves with minimal US involvement. It appears that Jordan has been one of the most prominent “delegated” states due to its stability, as demonstrated by His Majesty King Abdullah II and President Biden's historic summit.


Since the US, UK, and EU remain Jordan's most important international partners, —after the Arab and Islamic states— it was clear that the Kingdom is eager for close ties with international actors on the international stage.

In fact, it is difficult to limit the scope of Jordanian political activity on regional and international arenas. However, with developments, it may be accurate to say that Jordan's leadership was looking out, with great interest, for any opportunities to find an exit from the deteriorating situation that the region experienced during the crises of the so-called “Arab Spring”, its consequences, and repercussions that are still effective until now. Thus, the decline in the intensity of the conflict in Syria, as well as in Iraq and other regions such as Libya, was encouraging to find solutions to crises that burdened the entire region. With the possibility of a breakthrough in Yemen, even after a long while, the waiting for Syria's return to the Arab League, and the relatively better American understanding of the region's predicaments, the ambition and efforts to reformulate the "situation of the region" in a more stable direction became closer to being realistic.

When all the foregoing is added to the expected breakthroughs between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the indications of a Turkish role that may be in line with a number of “adversaries” in the Arab region, and the growing tendency towards political solutions for a number of crisis issues, some Arab economic initiatives, in which Jordan had a pivotal role, came to lay promising building blocks for a cooperation that includes parties that may attract other Arab parties. In this context, the Egyptian-Jordanian-Iraqi tripartite partnership initiative is taking practical steps, which Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and other parties can join in the future. In spite of the obstacles and complexities of the Lebanese situation, the preparations for supplying Lebanon with Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity are moving forward. Perhaps all these signs may allow us to predict a major positive transformation in the Middle East's general landscape in terms of its security, stability, and progress. Here, Jordan has a central and important role in the development of these variables, as the facts testify thereon.

The results of His Majesty’s meeting with US President Joe Biden last July confirm that there are new spaces for Jordan's politics to move, which are currently active, and it is likely that their effects will continue in the future:

In addition to strengthening the partnership between Jordan and the United States and enhancing American support to Jordan in various economic fields, there is also an expansion of the horizons of strategic partnership, as well as coordination of efforts in front of regional and international developments, and the Palestinian cause.

- One of the direct results, after Joe Biden abandoned the approaches of his predecessor, Donald Trump, and the “deal of the century” is the revival of traditional American positions that support, albeit theoretically, the two-state solution, but without deep and full practical involvement. This is a position that Jordan seeks to develop into a more active American involvement and pressure on the Israeli government to work towards a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in addition to respecting Jordan's special role as the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

As for Syria, Jordan is working on new approaches to confront and resolve the Syrian crisis, with a “tacit” American approval. It may be important to note that the US position on the Syrian crisis, as well as that of the EU and the UK, can be summed up as refusing normalization with the "Syrian regime" and refusing to participate in reconstruction of Syria unless a real political process takes place However, what is new in the American position, as reported by several sources, is not threatening to impose new sanctions under the "Caesar Act" against the countries that wish to restore relations with Damascus. Furthermore, Jordan has also followed-up Russia's deep involvement in the Syrian crisis, combating terrorist forces, reaching agreements on de-escalation zones, and ensuring Syria's unity.

- This transformation seems to be primarily motivated by the need to support Jordan and Lebanon economically resources, since their close ties to Syria secure their access to important economic resources. A good example that proves this point is the fact that Lebanon will be supplied with Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas through Syria. In addition, this includes "positive messages" for both Russia and Iran, which may contribute to facilitating overcoming obstacles and opening doors for solutions in issues where Syria is an important arena of conflict, which has serious repercussions for the stability of the region as a whole.

The ambiguity of the subsequent trends does not cancel their characteristics

Based on the foregoing, Jordan will continue to strive for a stable Middle East in light of general trends. Nonetheless, the region is currently going through a phase of transition between the turmoil, crises, and "instability" it has experienced, and a phase in which crisis severity decreases, and a drive to find solutions takes its place, along with economic challenges and problems.

By successfully elevating Jordan's status, role, and status as a regional force, the Jordanian role can be enhanced if the changes are geared to ending crises and strife in the region in general. There is a good chance that the breakthroughs may continue on a variety of arenas across the region, not without obstacles, but Jordan's role will become more distinguished. Nevertheless, any regression toward aggravation would be costly for the Jordanian role, which basically bases its orientations on breakthroughs and works for them. This is especially true of the Palestinian, Syrian, and Iraqi arenas. There are also other positive economic indicators about opening the way for Jordanian exports to the Palestinian territories, through the establishment of a Jordanian-Palestinian free trade zone, but the horizon for a political solution to the Palestinian cause remains blocked and ambiguous.

Domestically, upon entering the phase of approving laws for modernizing the Jordanian political system and implementing its steps, improvements are expected in the political environment in general. However, this is tightly linked with overcoming the socio-economic problems, including, first and foremost: Unemployment and poverty, and the severe consequences of Covid-19.

The focus of the Jordanian political movement will most likely be on the national structure in the coming stages, which is in line with what His Majesty the King is aiming for. Political reform and overcoming the economic crisis are the two most prominent titles, and Jordan's success in achieving them will enhance its enhance role, regionally and internationally, especially that Jordan has achieved successes in a safe and stable environment. This was also demonstrated by the Global Law and Order index 2021, according to the International Gallup foundation for security studies and research, which is specialized in monitoring the level of feelings of safety, confidence in security services, and the rule of law. On this index, Jordan ranked second in the Arab world and 16th nationally, surpassing countries such as Sweden, Germany, and the United States. Moreover, according to the Economist's Global Food Security Index 2021, Jordan ranked seventh in the Arab world and 49th worldwide. Based on these indicators and others, Jordan is undoubtedly making progress in overcoming its internal problems, and to acquire an effective foothold in the region.

Judging by the above, there is a realistic place for optimism, especially in light of the royal and Jordanian institutions’ efforts to seize opportunities and overcome challenges. Of course, obstacles and hindrances persist, and they have their place as well. In general, however, the international and regional climates are much better than they were a year ago, and they will seek to recover from the crises of the last year. Therefore, there is no doubt that Jordan, in all its directions and possibilities, will continue to be a prominent player in the quest for a stable region where doors to peace and development are open.




Policy Analysis Team