This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. Derived from The Library of Congress.
COUNTRY PROFILE: JORDAN GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Political System: Since its inception, Jordan has been a constitutional monarchy; according to the constitution of 1952, the system of government is parliamentary with a hereditary monarchy. Structurally, the constitution divides the powers of the government into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In reality, most power is vested in the king as the head of state, chief executive, and commander in chief of the armed forces. Through his discretion, the king appoints and may dismiss the prime minister; the president and members of the House of Notables (Senate), the upper house of the National Assembly; judges; and most other senior government officials. Moreover, the king has the power to suspend or dissolve parliament, suspend the holding of elections, declare war, sign treaties, and approve or promulgate laws. In summary, the monarchy (as an institution) and the king (as a leader) constitute the most important political foundations of the state; as a result, the average Jordanian citizen has very little ability to affect or change the government. The constitution does stipulate a long list of rights and duties conferred upon the citizenry and the personal freedoms that they enjoy. However, these rights and freedoms have been curtailed for indefinite periods of time in the past as a result of various internal and external crises. The constitution explicitly states that Jordan and its people are an integral part of the “Arab nation” and that Islam is the official religion of the state and Arabic the official language.
The king exercises executive authority through the appointment of his cabinet, or Council of Ministers, headed by the prime minister. The constitution requires every new cabinet to present its statement of policies and programs to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the National Assembly; by a two-thirds vote of “no-confidence,” this body can force the cabinet to resign. By early 2006, the cabinet had expanded to 24 ministers, responsible for an array of duties ranging from defense, health, and justice to social welfare and agriculture.
The National Assembly (Majlis al-Umma) has a bicameral structure: a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies (Majlis al-Nuwaab; also referred to as the House of Representatives), and an upper house, the House of Notables (Majlis al-Ayan; also known as the Senate). The lower house consists of 110 members who are popularly elected to four-year terms; six seats are reserved for a women’s quota, an additional nine seats for Christians, and three more seats for the Circassian and Chechen minorities. The House of Notables is currently composed of 55 members appointed by the king to four-year terms. The constitution stipulates that the size of the upper house cannot be more than half the size of the lower house. Although vested with little actual power, in recent years the National Assembly has increasingly been active in publicly debating, amending, and approving legislation put forward by the king and government.
The judicial branch consists of a number of different courts with varying areas of jurisdiction. The system is made up of civil, criminal, commercial, security, and religious courts. Civil courts include, in ascending order of hierarchy, Magistrates’ Courts, Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal, the Court of Cassation, and the Supreme Court. These courts handle the bulk of criminal cases, and each has jurisdiction over varying levels and degrees of criminal cases and types of appeals. The Higher Judiciary Council, which is appointed by the king and operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for appointing, promoting, and dismissing judges. Although officially independent, the judicial branch, headed by the Supreme Court, is subject to informal pressure and interference by the government and other family and tribal elements.
Administrative Divisions: The kingdom is divided into 12 governorates (muhafazat; sing., muhafazah): Ajlun, Al Aqabah, Al Balqa, Al Karak, Al Mafraq, Amman, At Tafilah, Az Zarqa, Irbid, Jarash, Ma’an, and Madaba.
Provincial and Local Government: Each of the kingdom’s 12 governorates is headed by a governor appointed by the king. Central government control extends into local areas through these appointees, who are the sole authorities with regard to government ministries and projects in their respective areas. The governorates are broken down into smaller administrative divisions such as districts, subdistricts, municipalities, towns, and villages. In 2003 amendments to the Municipal Law were implemented, changing the electoral system for local governments. Under the revised law, half of all municipal and village councils that had previously been completely filled with directly elected members would now be appointed by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs as well as the head of the respective council.
In the interest of promoting decentralization, the government reportedly has formulated plans to redraw regional boundaries and to establish directly elected regional councils in addition to the existing municipal and other local councils. However, as of 2006 no such reorganization had occurred.
Judicial and Legal System: The Jordanian legal code has evolved from historical precedents based primarily on Islamic law (sharia), French law adopted under Ottoman rule, and British common law adopted more informally (through case law and statute) during the mandate period. Under the Court Establishment Law of 1951 and the constitution, the judiciary is officially an independent branch of government, although in practice the monarchy and executive branch exert heavy influence. Under the constitution and the law, Jordanian citizens are afforded due process; public defenders are available for defendants unable to obtain legal counsel, and defendants have the ability to challenge witnesses and the right to appeal.
The State Security Court, which consists of three judges (two military officers and one civilian), handles matters such as drug trafficking, sedition, and offenses against the monarchy. There have been concerns in the past over due process in the Security Court; some defendants claimed that confessions were coerced through torture, others were not given legal representation until just before the trial’s beginning, and many defendants were held in lengthy pretrial detention.
Religious courts, based predominantly on Islamic law (sharia) when dealing with the majority Muslim population, have jurisdiction over personal status issues (marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance). Christian courts have jurisdiction over the Christian minority on similar matters, excluding inheritance cases. A major distinction between the legal processes of the religious courts in relation to the other courts is that in the majority of cases tried under Islamic law, the testimony of two women is equal to that of one man.
Electoral System: The Jordanian people exercise their democratic rights primarily through elections for the Chamber of Deputies. Two royal decrees issued by King Abdullah in 2001 and 2003, respectively, ushered in changes to the electoral system for the Chamber of Deputies. Among other changes, the reforms expanded the membership in this lower house of parliament, increased the number of constituencies, allocated constituencies based on geographic considerations rather than demographics, and lowered the voting age. Despite some controversy regarding these changes from opposition elements, members are elected to four-year terms through a secret popular vote on the basis of proportional representation. Suffrage is universal and open to all Jordanians 18 years of age.
Under the Jordanian political system, the king has the authority to convene and dissolve the National Assembly and to suspend the holding of elections. Elections were held for the first time in 22 years in November 1989, and there was a gradual liberalization of the political system throughout the 1990s. However, when King Abdullah succeeded to the throne in 1999, he suspended the elections that had been scheduled for 2001. This election cycle, the last to have been conducted in the kingdom, eventually took place in June 2003. The next elections are scheduled for 2007.
By law, the approximately 200,000 Jordanian citizens serving in the military, police, or other security services are not allowed to vote. Additionally, the royal family itself traditionally does not vote or take part in elections.
Politics and Political Parties: Political parties were officially banned in the kingdom until 1992, although in earlier elections the political affiliations of the candidates were known implicitly to the public despite the lack of formal political party affiliation. In 1992 this situation changed, as both houses of parliament adopted the National Charter that King Hussein had endorsed a year earlier. Among other issues, the National Charter formally allowed the establishment of political parties, subject to certain stipulations such as respect for the constitution and the idea of political pluralism.
Throughout the 1990s, numerous Jordanian political parties were created, dissolved, or subsequently merged. By the most recent elections held in June 2003, there were 31 recognized parties in the kingdom, four of which took part in the elections. In actual fact, there are three competing political blocs in Jordanian politics: Islamists (led primarily by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood organization and the main opposition party); various leftist, nationalist, and Baathist parties; and dozens of independent candidates mostly comprising tribal, conservative, or former government and business representatives closely allied with the monarchy. The end results were a solid victory for the pro-government and pro-monarchy bloc. The independents won approximately 80 seats; the Islamic Action Front ultimately took 18 seats (the party’s lowest result in any election that it had contested since 1989); independent Islamists claimed five seats; and the Leftist Democratic Party, the sole representative of the leftist/nationalist bloc, gained two seats.
Mass Media: The constitution guarantees freedom of opinion and speech, in addition to freedom of the press and media, but all within the limits of the law. According to the U.S. Department of State, in practice there are significant restrictions in place curtailing the free operation of the media. Any criticism or defamation of the king or royal family is prohibited, as well as anything deemed to harm “the state’s reputation and dignity.” The government has used tactics such as the threat of fines, prosecution, and detention to intimidate journalists and encourage self-censorship. Moreover, informants and censors at printing presses oftentimes give the government advance warning if a particularly inflammatory article is slated for publication, thereby allowing the government to apply pressure on the publisher to change or remove the item. Additionally, the Press and Publications Law and the Press Association Law impose certain limitations on the accreditation of journalists and the operation of newspapers; more damaging perhaps is the government’s unwillingness to advertise in newspapers not at least partially owned by the state. Jordanian radio and television are even more restricted in their freedoms than the press. Internet access in the kingdom is generally open and unrestricted, although there were past reports of government investigations into the sources of overly critical Internet sites and the temporary blocking of certain Internet sites deemed inappropriate by the authorities.
Despite these myriad restrictions, Jordan remains more open and tolerant of its domestic media than most of its neighbors. The judiciary, not the government, is the sole institution able to revoke licenses from domestic media organizations, and the government’s ability to shut down press outlets is severely limited. Additionally, court proceedings are open to the media unless the court itself rules otherwise. The law ensures the freedom and independence of foreign media organizations operating in Jordan, and international satellite television and regional television broadcasts are not restricted.
Jordan had six AM, five FM, and one short-wave radio broadcast stations as of 1999, as well as a reported 20 television broadcast stations in 1995. A new radio and satellite station were scheduled to begin operations in June 2006 after two earlier delays. Jordanians had more than 1.6 million radio receivers in 1997 and 560,000 television receivers by 2000. Additionally, the country has six daily newspapers and 14 weeklies, as well as 270 other periodicals (with an average circulation of 148,000 in 1998).
Foreign Relations: Jordan’s foreign relations have been characterized by a balancing act between competing interests and pressures. As a result of its geographic location, historical role, and large Palestinian population, the kingdom is an important player in the Middle East Peace Process. Since the signing of a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, Jordan’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of encouragement and moderation as it attempts to mediate between the two sides. Public and governmental sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians has periodically strained Jordan’s relations with Israel, especially after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2001. More recently, tensions between the Jordanian government and the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority have surfaced; in May 2006, Jordan arrested several Hamas operatives allegedly planning violent operations inside the kingdom. King Abdullah has consistently emphasized a negotiated settlement to the conflict based on past United Nations (UN) resolutions and previous agreements between the parties and has pushed for renewed talks on permanent status issues that would lead to a two-state solution. With the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese border in mid-July 2006, Jordan initially condemned the Hezbollah attacks. However, Israel’s subsequent escalation of the conflict produced widespread outrage in the Arab world, including among Jordanians. In response, the Jordanian government called for an end to Israeli aggression against Lebanon and an immediate cease-fire.
The kingdom has traditionally followed a pro-Western foreign policy and cultivated especially close ties with the United States and the United Kingdom, although there have been glaring exceptions, such as Jordan’s support for Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. Jordan’s diplomatic isolation after 1991 was gradually reversed as a result of its support for the Middle East Peace Process and its assistance in enforcing UN sanctions against Iraq throughout the 1990s. Relations with the United States have become especially strong, as U.S. economic and military aid to the kingdom has increased. Nevertheless, the Jordanian government must tread carefully in the face of strong domestic support for the Palestinian cause and opposition to U.S. Middle East policy and the Iraq war.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Jordan became a key U.S. ally in the “war on terrorism” and tentatively (although unofficially) supported coalition operations inside Iraq in 2003. The Jordanian government recognized and gave support to the Coalition Provisional Authority and subsequent Iraqi governments and agreed to train Iraqi police cadets in its facilities. However, King Abdullah, who has voiced support for the Sunni Muslim minority in Iraq, was the first regional leader to voice concerns about the possibility of growing Shiite domination in the Middle East, given the overwhelmingly Shiite composition of the Iraqi government. The biggest strain on Iraqi-Jordanian relations, however, is the terrorist threat. Terrorist groups based in Iraq conducted a number of attacks inside Jordan in 2005. For its part, the Iraqi government has alleged that Jordanian citizens are crossing the border to take part in the Iraqi insurgency.
Relations between Jordan and other Arab states have improved markedly in recent years. After Jordan began distancing itself from Iraq after the first Gulf War, a rapprochement with the Gulf States became possible. Additionally, after the death of King Hussein in 1999, King Abdullah began a movement to normalize relations with Lebanon and Syria. Shortly after his succession, Abdullah was the first Jordanian monarch to visit Lebanon in more than 40 years. Jordan was one of the first countries to provide the Lebanese government with humanitarian aid and diplomatic support following Israeli-Hezbollah hostilities along the Israeli-Lebanese border in July 2006. Relations with Syria also have improved, as evidenced by the increased movement of people and goods between the two states and the increase in high-level intergovernmental interactions in the past five years. Nevertheless, in 2006 Jordan expressed concern about alleged Syrian support for Hamas operations in Jordan.
With regard to Iran, Jordan remains concerned about the long-term regional implications of an Iranian nuclear capability. The king reportedly has voiced support for a nuclear-free Middle East and has pushed for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.
Membership in International Organizations: Jordan is a member of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab Monetary Fund, Council of Arab Economic Unity, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Group of 77, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Chamber of Commerce, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, International Criminal Court, International Criminal Police Organization—Interpol, International Development Association, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Olympic Committee, International Organization for Migration, International Organization for Standardization, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, International Telecommunication Union, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Islamic Development Bank, League of Arab States, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (partner), Organization of the Islamic Conference, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Universal Postal Union, World Customs Organization, World Federation of Trade Unions, World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, World Meteorological Organization, World Tourism Organization, and World Trade Organization. Additionally, Jordan is a member of the United Nations (UN), and has played an especially active role in UN peacekeeping missions around the world in such places as the Congo, Georgia, Haiti, and Sierra Leone.
Major International Treaties: The most significant international treaty signed by Jordan is the bilateral Treaty of Peace with Israel of October 1994. Additionally, Jordan is also a party to many multilateral treaties, including international agreements on Nuclear Testing, the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, Biological and Toxin Weapons, Gas Warfare, Torture, Genocide, Human Rights, and Trafficking in Women and Children. Additionally, Jordan is a party to numerous international environmental agreements, such as those on Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change–Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, and Wetlands.
Armed Forces Overview: The Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) consists of the Royal Jordanian Land Forces (including the Special Operations Command), the Royal Jordanian Air Force, the Royal Jordanian Navy, and paramilitary forces (which normally fall under the control of the Ministry of Interior except during wartime or crises). By 2005 the armed forces totaled approximately 100,500 active personnel and an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 reserve personnel. The breakdown among the services was 85,000 in the army, 15,000 in the air force, and approximately 500 to 700 in the navy. The paramilitary forces totaled an estimated 10,000 personnel (consisting of the police force, border police, and desert patrol) under the Public Security Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, in addition to a reserve Civil Milita (“People’s Army”) with an estimated 35,000 personnel.
Foreign Military Relations: Since before independence, Jordan has had a tradition of maintaining a strong military relationship with the West, beginning with Britain and extending into the present with the United States. Throughout the Cold War era, U.S. military aid to Jordan was complicated as a result of their differing relations vis-à-vis Israel, so Jordan often had to seek assistance from other sources, including the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia. After the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel in 1994, military aid from the United States (currently Jordan’s main foreign backer) began flowing in earnest, with substantial quantitative and qualitative increases after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Jordan’s subsequent support for coalition operations inside Iraq after March 2003. Overall U.S. military assistance to Jordan was approximately US$207 million in 2005, down from a high of US$606 million in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
The kingdom has formal security agreements with the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey and has conducted joint military maneuvers with Egypt, the Gulf Cooperation Council, France, Oman, Qatar, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Additionally, Turkey allows Jordan the use of its airspace and facilities for training its pilots, and the United Kingdom provides Jordan additional military training as well.
For its part, the Jordanian Special Operations Command provides training to many of the region’s Special Forces, such as those from Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Iraq, Jordan has provided the new Iraqi government with various arms transfers and military equipment to support the fledgling Iraqi security forces in addition to training Iraqi police recruits inside Jordan.
External Threats: With the conclusion of a peace accord with Israel in 1994 and the rapprochement with Syria over the past five years, the external threats that Jordan currently faces are in some respects at their lowest ebb since before independence. Moreover, the 2003 removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime has eliminated an erratic and potentially hostile neighboring threat. Nevertheless, the current climate in the Middle East does not lend itself to stability and has the potential to affect Jordan’s security. The Iraqi government is still weak, and if the effort to build a viable state there fails, the ensuing security vacuum and anarchy could have a destabilizing spillover effect on Jordan. In 2006 Jordan reportedly was taking steps to strengthen security along its border with Iraq as a result of concerns about escalating violence and instability in Iraq.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a persistent threat to Jordan’s wellbeing. Any outbreak of hostilities, such as the July 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, places Jordan in the delicate position of advocating strongly for Palestinian rights and a peaceful solution, while at the same time remaining closely aligned with the United States and peaceable toward Israel. Jordan is wary of the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority following Jordan’s May 2006 arrest of several Hamas operatives allegedly planning operations in Jordan. Economic and humanitarian difficulties in the Palestinian territories could involve Jordan with the problems of refugees and angry public sentiment, a development that could be destabilizing inside the kingdom. Additionally, the Iranian nuclear program has raised concerns throughout the Middle East and in the international community. Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is a growing risk; Jordanian neighbors such as Egypt, Turkey, or even Saudi Arabia could in turn feel threatened by an Iranian nuclear capability and attempt to develop their own indigenous nuclear programs.
Defense Budget: The Jordanian government spent approximately US$950 million on defense in 2005, a slight increase over the preceding three years and totaling close to 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Jordan’s domestic defense industry is small and highly specialized, so arms imports and procurements from the West in general and the United States and Britain in particular are expected to continue.
Major Military Units: The Jordanian military is divided into the army, navy, and air force. The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) falls under the control of the army and is composed of two Special Forces brigades, one counterterrorist battalion, and one ranger battalion. Aside from SOCOM, the army (or ground forces) is organized into four geographic commands: Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Central. The Northern Command consists of one infantry brigade, one artillery brigade, one air defense brigade, and two mechanized brigades. The Southern Command consists of one armored brigade and one infantry brigade. The Eastern Command is made up of one air defense brigade, one artillery brigade, and two mechanized brigades. The Central Command is composed of one air defense brigade, one light infantry brigade, one mechanized brigade, and one artillery brigade. The reserve component of the ground forces is made up of one armored division that includes three armored brigades, one air defense brigade, and one artillery brigade. The navy is based at Al Aqabah and is equipped with approximately 20 patrol craft, three of which are specifically for inshore use. The air force is composed of two fighter squadrons, four fighter ground-attack and reconnaissance squadrons, three training squadrons, one transport squadron, two squadrons of attack helicopters, one transport helicopter squadron, and two air defense brigades. The air force is located at six air bases (ABs) throughout the country.
Major Military Equipment: According to figures provided by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, as of 2006 the army’s fighting force is equipped with approximately 1,120 main battle tanks, primarily high-quality Al-Hussein/Challenger I main battle tanks (390 tanks) and older Khalid/FV4030 main battle tanks (274 tanks). In addition, the army has medium- and low-quality main battle tanks, such as the M60 Phoenix (approximately 280), Tariq Centurion (90 in store), and the M–47/M–48 A5 (78 in store). The inventory also includes approximately 19 additional light tanks of the Scorpion model; more than 226 armored infantry fighting vehicles, mostly the Ratel–20 (an estimated 200) and BMP–2 (more than 26); approximately 1,350 armored personnel carriers, 1,200 of which are M–113A1/M–113A2 vehicles; an estimated 100 vehicles of the FV 103 Spartan model; and 50 additional BTR–94 vehicles. The army also is equipped with approximately 1,233 artillery pieces, ranging in size from 105-millimeter to 203-millimeter shells, as well as approximately 94 towed artillery pieces and 399 self-propelled artillery pieces; 740 mortars; precision-guided munitions (30 Javelin launchers, 310 M47 Dragon launchers, and 330 TOW missiles); and more than 4,800 rocket launchers. The air defense capabilities of the Jordanian army consist of more than 992 surface-to-air missiles, including 152 self-propelled (92 Gopher SA–13 and 60 Gecko SA–8 systems) and an additional 840 man-portable air defense systems of various models. The army’s air defenses also consist of 395 antiaircraft guns, and some artillery/mortar locating radar capability.
Although estimates vary, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the air force has approximately 100 combat-capable aircraft, 85 of which are fighters (16 F–16 Fighting Falcons, 54 F–5 Tigers, and 15 F–1 Mirages). The inventory includes 14 additional transport aircraft, mostly C–130 Hercules transport planes. Flight training functions are carried out by 13 CASA C–101 Aviojets and 15 Bulldog 103s. The air force has more than 40 attack helicopters (AH–1F Cobras) and 15 support helicopters (three S–70A Black Hawks and 12 AS–332M Super Pumas), in addition to approximately 56 older helicopters (the bulk of which are UH–1H Iroquois) that are used for utility purposes. Although there is some ambiguity as to the air defense capabilities of the Jordanian air force, it is known that the force possesses more than 1,120 surface-to-air missile systems (mostly I–Hawk MIM–23B, and some PAC–2).
The small Jordanian navy has seven patrol boats, three fast patrol craft for inshore use, and fewer than 10 coastal patrol craft less than 100 tons in size.
Military Service: The Jordanian military is an all-volunteer force; enlistment is possible from age 18. There is a reserve obligation until the age of 40. Personnel must serve 20 years to become eligible for retirement benefits.
Paramilitary Forces: Jordan’s paramilitary forces number approximately 10,000 personnel, divided into the police force, border police, and desert patrol. The kingdom’s paramilitary forces fall under the Public Security Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, except in times of war when they are subordinated to the Ministry of Defense. Additionally, a reserve Civil Militia (“People’s Army”) has an estimated 35,000 personnel (both men and women).
Foreign Military Forces: An estimated 1,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Jordan as of 2005, in addition to a smaller, undisclosed number of British military personnel in support of coalition operations across the border in Iraq.
Military Forces Abroad: Jordan is an active contributor to United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations around the globe. Jordanian military personnel are serving in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Haiti, Liberia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Sierra Leone. In addition, there are Jordanian observers in Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, and Sudan. A small Jordanian contingency force was deployed to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the campaign to remove the Taliban in late 2001. Despite having had an Armed Forces Law since 1964 banning the deployment of Jordanian forces overseas (subsequently amended in November 2001), by one estimate Jordan has contributed 22,000 troops in 16 countries on behalf of UN peacekeeping missions since 1989.
Police: The Jordan National Police (officially called the Public Security Force) is subordinate to the Public Security Directorate of the Ministry of Interior. Located in Amman, the national police headquarters has responsibility for police, security, and law enforcement activities for the entire country. The operations of the Public Security Force are divided into three major functions—administrative (routine crime prevention and the maintenance of public security); judicial (the conduct of criminal investigations and assistance to the public prosecutor’s office); and support operations (training, logistics, public affairs, communication, etc.). Additionally, there are three major structural divisions for the police force—metropolitan, rural (small towns), and desert units. The Special Police Force (SPF) is a separate and elite branch of the Public Security Directorate that focuses primarily on combating terrorism. In addition, the General Intelligence Department (GID) reports directly to the king and is responsible for domestic and international security, espionage, and counterterrorist operations.
Internal Threats: Internal stability is an ongoing concern for the Jordanian government and the monarchy, and the regime relies on an extensive and efficient intelligence and security network to maintain order. Historical tensions between indigenous East Bankers and Palestinian refugees are still a potential source of conflict inside the kingdom, especially given that Jordanians of Palestinian descent make up the majority of the population. However, King Abdullah has made strides in projecting a more unified and inclusive Jordanian national image, and several of his top advisers are of Palestinian heritage, as is the queen.
The more worrying and potentially destabilizing threat is the rise in radical Islamist activities, including recent protests and terrorist operations on Jordanian soil. Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Jordan has seen an increase in security trials aimed primarily at radical Islamists. The violent protests that erupted in the southern city of Ma’an in early 2002, ostensibly over economic issues and police maltreatment, were led by Islamist activists and took on a decidedly Islamist cast. In addition, radical Islamists perpetrated a number of serious terrorist acts inside Jordan in 2005. Anecdotal reporting from both the media and U.S. government sources has indicated that Jordanian nationals make up a segment of the foreign-born insurgency fighting in Iraq. Most prominent among these was Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who hailed from the town of Az Zarqa. He was killed inside Iraq in June 2006. There is a potential for these Islamist fighters to return to Jordan and become destabilizing influences inside the kingdom.
Terrorism: Terrorism is arguably the highest national security priority facing Jordan today. At least two separate security agencies, the General Intelligence Department and the Special Police Force, have been actively engaged in counterterrorist operations for decades. In past years, the threat was from nationalist Palestinian guerrilla movements, but today the threat emanates primarily from radical Islamist terror groups. In October 2002, a U.S. Agency for International Development official was shot to death in Amman. In 2005 groups affiliated with Abu Musab al Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda in Iraq movement claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in Jordan. In August terrorists fired katyusha rockets at two U.S. Navy ships docked at the port in Al Aqabah; a Jordanian soldier was killed and a taxi driver in the neighboring Israeli town of Eilat was injured. In November Iraqi suicide bombers detonated themselves inside three Amman hotels, killing approximately 60 people and injuring many more. These attacks aroused in the public both opposition to the perpetrators and fear of the risks of too close a relationship with the United States.
Human Rights: According to the U.S. Department of State, the Jordanian government’s human rights practices are still problematic, although respect in specific areas does exist. Whereas Jordanian citizens do exercise certain democratic rights and elect their representatives to parliament, they do not have any real ability to change their government; the king is the final and sole arbiter on the identity of the prime minister, the make-up of the cabinet and the upper house of parliament, and the general direction of government policy. Incidents of harassment directed at members of opposition parties have been reported in addition to certain restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, association, and movement. The most serious human rights problems stem from the operations of Jordan’s security services. There are still widespread allegations of police abuse and arbitrary arrests, mistreatment, and in some cases torture of detainees, as well as denial of due process and lack of independence in the judicial process. Violence and discrimination against women are still common in Jordanian society, as are “honor” crimes. In addition, there is a continuing lack of full societal acceptance of Palestinians, as well as continued abuse of foreign domestic workers inside the kingdom.
Index for Jordan:
Overview | Government
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