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Discussion examines nature of US assistance to Jordan

By Raed Omari - Feb 18,2014 - Last updated at Feb 18,2014

AMMAN — Jordan is an essential partner to the US with respect to stability in the region, the peace process and the West Bank, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

In remarks to the US Senate Appropriations Committee in April last year, Kerry said Jordan is going through “a difficult economic time as well as other challenges”.

“The fourth largest city in Jordan today is a tent city. It’s a city of refugees — fourth largest now. That has a profound impact on the rest of the country,” a new publication issued by US nonprofit organisation the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) quoted Kerry as testifying in Congress.

Kerry’s remarks were cited in POMED’s report “The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014: Democracy, Governance and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa”, which was discussed at a brainstorming session on Tuesday organised by the University of Jordan’s Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS).

POMED is a Washington-based nonprofit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to examining how genuine democracies can develop in the Middle East and how the United States can best support that process, according to its website.

Tuesday’s discussion covered issues related to reform and democratisation in Jordan and US foreign policy on the Middle East.

POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney, who co-authored the report with Cole Bockenfeld, explained that much of the US assistance to Jordan has been focused on internal political dynamics to avert the instability and chaos scenarios associated with Arab Spring uprisings.

However, with Jordan succeeding in preserving its internal stability, McInerney said US policy has been shifted to helping the Kingdom avert chaos brought on by external factors, chiefly the Syrian refugee influx.

The report describes the US-Jordan foreign assistance relationship as “unique among Arab countries”.

CSS Director Musa Shteiwi explained that what makes many people sceptical of America’s intentions is their inability to separate between Washington’s foreign policy and its foreign assistance, adding that the US assistance to Jordan comes during a critical time for the Kingdom politically, economically and even socially.

Oraib Rantawi, head of of Al Quds Centre for Political Studies, cast doubt over US seriousness in achieving democracy in Jordan and other Middle East countries, citing the lack of political will as one of the reasons behind the slowdown in the Kingdom’s democratisation process.

Shteiwi said the shift in priorities from political-related matters to economic ones and the Syrian crisis and its accompanying “havoc” are to blame for the slowdown in Jordan’s democratisation.

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