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US aid to Jordan at stake due to budget cuts

By Omar Obeidat - Feb 17,2013 - Last updated at Feb 17,2013

AMMAN – Automatic spending cuts set to go into effect in the US early next month may affect Washington’s military and humanitarian assistance to Jordan. 

As across-the-board cuts in US government spending, set to begin on March 1, would reduce the budget for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) by $2.6 billion, State Secretary John Kerry has said that an over $300 million cut in foreign military financing could lead to reductions in military assistance to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. 

The reductions, Kerry told the Congress late last week, would undermine the US’ commitment to the security of the three countries “at such a volatile time”. 

Annual regular US assistance to Jordan includes $300 million in military aid and $360 million in financial and economic support. 

The cuts, known as sequestration, would reduce the State Department’s operations by roughly $850 million and foreign assistance by approximately $1.7 billion, he wrote in a letter to Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of Senate Committee on Appropriations.

“Cuts of this magnitude would severely impair our ability to ensure America’s leadership in global affairs, build relationships with host governments and promote peaceful democracies. They would limit our ability to advance peace, security and stability around the world…,” said Kerry, who took over as state secretary from Hillary Clinton some two weeks ago. 

Kerry mentioned in the letter, dated February 11 and posted on the Senate’s website, that sequestration would force the department to cut more than $200 million from humanitarian assistance accounts. 

Detailing the impact of the sequestration on the State Department and USAID, he noted it would hamper the US’ ability to respond to humanitarian disasters at a time when the world faces growing needs in Syria and its neighbouring countries. 

Since the start of the Syrian revolution nearly 23 months ago, over 350,000 Syrians have fled to the Kingdom.

According to official figures, until the end of November of 2012, the cost of hosting 230,000 Syrian refugees on Jordan’s economy was estimated at around JD590 million, around $842 million. 

Commenting on the issue, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Jafar Hassan told The Jordan Times Sunday that cutting military assistance to Jordan and other countries is one of the scenarios US lawmakers are discussing to address the budget deficit. 

However, Hassan, who has recently concluded a visit to Washington, said US officials have stressed their continuous support for the Kingdom. 

The cuts, expected to total about $85 billion this year across the entire US budget, will take place March 1 unless lawmakers and President Barack Obama reach an agreement to shelf them.

According to Reuters, Democrats in the Senate on Thursday rallied around a $110 billion tax increase and spending cut plan that would postpone the sequestration cuts. The proposal is expected to be shot down by Republicans, but some of its components could be included in future budget negotiations.

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