Feb 3, 2021 - World

Biden’s arrival pushes Jordan toward political reform

Biden with King Abdullah II in Jordan in 2016. Photo: Jordan Pix/Getty Images

Amman — After a complicated relationship with the Trump administration, Jordan now has the opportunity to strengthen relations with the U.S. — but it will not come for free.

Why it matters: King Abdullah II, anticipating more emphasis on human rights and democracy from Washington, has now publicly called for political reforms.

“We must revisit laws regulating political life, such as the election, political parties, and local administration laws, and continue political development efforts."
— King Abdullah II to the Petra news agency

Between the lines: Marwan Muasher, Jordan's former deputy prime minister and now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, said those comments were made with Biden in mind.

  • Speaking at a forum in Amman on Monday, Muasher said that while Biden is familiar with Arab issues and is a friend of Jordan, that doesn’t mean he agrees with its policies. “He is going to want to see political reform in Jordan," Muasher stressed.
  • The political reforms being considered in Jordan involve building a more representative parliament that will be less based on tribal considerations and more inclusive.

The big picture: Abdullah enjoys bipartisan support in Washington and has known Biden for decades, dating back to his time as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

  • He opposed Donald Trump's policies on Israel-Palestine, and he welcomes the Biden administration's plans to reinstate funding for Palestinian refugees and to hospitals in East Jerusalem.
  • Jordanians are also optimistic about the appointment of Bill Burns, an Arabic speaker and former ambassador to Amman, as director of the CIA.

The state of play: The king was the first Arab leader to speak with Biden after his election.

  • Blinken has also called Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi — but has not yet placed calls to Egypt, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, all of which had close relationships with Trump.
  • Jordan has the longest borders with Israel and Palestine of any country, and it's a strategic regional partner for the U.S. It's also one of the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, receiving a guaranteed minimum of $1.25 billion per year.
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