Jul 21, 2021 - World

King Abdullah of Jordan gets his D.C. victory lap

King Abdullah (L) meets with Biden, July 19.

King Abdullah meets with Biden, July 19. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty

The visit to Washington this week by King Abdullah II of Jordan, the first Arab leader to visit President Biden, was a victory lap after years of tense relations with Trump and Netanyahu.

Why it matters: The White House invitation and the meetings with all of Biden's top foreign policy and national security officials repositioned the king as a leading U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Statements before and after the meeting indicate that King Abdullah had three main objectives for his talks with Biden:

1. To get a commitment to renew the memorandum of understanding on the $1.2 billion in annual financial assistance to Jordan, which was signed by the Trump administration in 2017 and expires next year.

  • It's unclear from the readouts whether he got that commitment.

2. To push forward a deal to buy new F-16 fighter jets for the Jordanian air force.

  • The White House said the issue was discussed and that the jets would "allow for greater interoperability and effectiveness of the Jordanian Armed Forces." The U.S. will have to consult Israel on the deal before moving forward.

3. To get a clear statement by Biden supporting Jordanian custodianship of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

  • He got it. The White House readout mentioned "Jordan's special role as custodian" — a role heavily emphasized in the Jordanian readout.

Between the lines: During the Trump presidency, Abdullah feared Trump and Netanyahu were conspiring to renege on Jordanian custodianship and give it to Saudi Arabia. No evidence of such a conspiracy has emerged and advisers to both Trump and Netanyahu deny it was ever discussed.

What’s next: The second Arab leader to visit Biden at the White House will be Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi next week.

  • Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein will also meet Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Friday as part of the U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue.
  • The possible withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq is expected to be a major issue in the talks.

Go deeper: Biden’s arrival pushes Jordan toward political reform

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