The U.S. announced that it will increase aid to Jordan by more than $1 billion over the next five years, despite the fact that President Donald Trump had previously pledged to cut aid to countries that oppose U.S. policy in the Middle East.
During a visit to Jordan on Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed an aid package that included a 27 percent increase in aid compared to previous packages. During an event with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi, Tillerson stressed that the U.S. relationship with Jordan had never been stronger. The remarks come around a month after Jordan’s King Abdullah II vocally criticized Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a perceived disloyalty Trump had promised to punish.
Experts said the decision to give more aid to an important U.S. ally like Jordan is a triumph of Tillerson’s pragmatism over Trump’s instincts.
“President Trump generally isn’t one to reward his critics. But Jordan is vital to our counterterrorism efforts in the region. Thankfully, President Trump has recognized that now is not the time to play petty politics,” Chris Meserole, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told Newsweek.
Officials and experts have said the move to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would put an end to any chance of a negotiated settlement with Palestine. East Jerusalem has long been envisioned as the capital of a future Palestinian state if a peace deal is reached. U.S. allies like Jordan and Turkey were among the most vociferous critics of Trump’s decision.
Jordan is one of just two Arab countries that maintain full diplomatic relations with Israel, and King Abdullah II is generally pro-Western. Jordan’s military has played a key role in the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition, and its intelligence services have produced some of the best intelligence on al-Qaeda, experts say. As such, Jordan’s leadership is a stabilizing force in a region where leaders are frequently wedged between an increasingly combative Iran and the ambitions of Sunni extremists.
For the Trump administration, these factors make Jordan “too important to fail or sanction,” Benjamin Radd, a Middle East expert at UCLA, told Newsweek.
“This is a striking example of diplomacy and realpolitik by the Trump administration. We’re not used to seeing this from them, and it’s a win for Tillerson and those in the State Department who favor engagement over isolationism,” Radd added.
Some experts say that the move is further proof that Trump’s tough rhetoric is meaningless and disconnected from actual U.S. policy.
“This move demonstrates both internal tensions within the administration and, in regards to foreign policy professionals, the recognition of Jordan’s strategic importance,” Harrison Akins, a Middle East analyst at the Howard Baker Center, told Newsweek.
“Trump himself frequently contradicts his administration’s foreign policy positions,” Akins added.
On Wednesday, Tillerson paid homage to Jordan’s role in promoting regional stability, especially by opening its doors to refugees from the crisis in nearby Syria.