Jordan (10/06)

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

Flag of Jordan is three equal horizontal bands of black at top, white, and green, with a red isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bearing a small white seven-pointed star.


Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Area: 89,342 sq. km. (34,495 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Amman (pop. 1.9 million). Other cities--Irbid (272,681), Az-Zarqa (472,830).

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Jordanian(s).
Population (2005 published): 5.47 million.
Religions (est.): Sunni Muslim 95%, Christian 4%, Other 1%.
Languages: Arabic (official), English.
Education (2001): Literacy--90%.
Health (2003): Infant mortality rate--19/1,000. Life expectancy--71 yrs.
Ethnic groups: Mostly Arab but small communities of Circassians, Armenians, and Kurds.
Work force (1. 3 million, of which 260 thousand are registered guest workers): public sector 17%, services 36%, manufacturing 20%, education 12%, health and social services 10%, primary industries 5%.
Unemployment rate: 14.3% of economically active Jordanians (average of first 9 months of 2006).

Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Independence: May 25, 1946.
Constitution: January 8, 1952.
Branches: Executive--King (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--bicameral National Assembly (appointed Senate, elected Chamber of Deputies). Judicial--civil, religious, special courts.
Political parties: Wide spectrum of parties legalized in 1992.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: Twelve governorates--Irbid, Jarash, Ajloun, al-'Aqaba, Madaba, al-Mafraq, al-Zarqa, Amman, al-Balqa, al-Karak, al-Tafilah, and Ma'an.

GDP (2005 nominal): $12.712 billion.
Annual growth rate (2005): 7.2%.
Per capita GDP (2005): $2,326
Natural resources: Phosphate, potash.
Agriculture: Products--fruits, vegetables, wheat, olive oil, barley, olives. Land--10% arable; 5% cultivated.
Industry (28.3% of GDP in first half 2006): Types--phosphate mining, manufacturing, electricity and water; cement and petroleum production, and construction.
Trade: Exports--(2005) $3.609 billion; (Jan-June 2006) $1.96 billion: phosphates, potash, textiles and garments, fertilizers, pharmaceutical products, agricultural products. Major markets--U.S., Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Israel. Imports--(2005) $10.46 billion; (Jan-June 2006) $5.63 billion: crude petroleum and derivatives, vehicles, machinery and equipment, cereals, fabrics and textiles. Major suppliers-- Saudi Arabia (mainly crude oil and derivatives), EU, China, U.S.

Note: From 1949 to 1967, Jordan administered the West Bank. Since the 1967 war, when Israel took control of this territory, the United States has considered the West Bank to be territory occupied by Israel. The United States believes that the final status of the West Bank can be determined only through negotiations among the concerned parties based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

Jordanians are Arabs, except for a few small communities of Circassians, Armenians, and Kurds who have adapted to Arab culture. The official language is Arabic, but English is used widely in commerce and government. About 70% of Jordan's population is urban; less than 6% of the rural population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. Most of the population lives where rainfall can support agriculture. Approximately 1.7 million registered Palestinian refugees and other displaced persons reside in Jordan, many as citizens.

The land that became Jordan is part of the richly historical Fertile Crescent region. Around 2000 B.C., Semitic Amorites settled around the Jordan River in the area called Canaan. Subsequent invaders and settlers included Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arab Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Mameluks, Ottoman Turks, and, finally, the British. At the end of World War I, the League of Nations awarded the territory now comprising Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem to the United Kingdom as the mandate for Palestine and Transjordan. In 1922, the British divided the mandate by establishing the semiautonomous Emirate of Transjordan, ruled by the Hashemite Prince Abdullah, while continuing the administration of Palestine under a British High Commissioner. The mandate over Transjordan ended on May 22, 1946; on May 25, the country became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. It ended its special defense treaty relationship with the United Kingdom in 1957.

Transjordan was one of the Arab states which moved to assist Palestinian nationalists opposed to the creation of Israel in May 1948, and took part in the warfare between the Arab states and the newly founded State of Israel. The armistice agreements of April 3, 1949 left Jordan in control of the West Bank and provided that the armistice demarcation lines were without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines.

In 1950, the country was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to include those portions of Palestine annexed by King Abdullah I. While recognizing Jordanian administration over the West Bank, the United States maintained the position that ultimate sovereignty was subject to future agreement.

Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states of Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Israel gained control of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The U.S. Government considers the West Bank to be territory occupied by Israel and believes that its final status should be determined through direct negotiations among the parties concerned on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population--700,000 in 1966--grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The heavily armed fedayeen constituted a growing threat to the sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state, and open fighting erupted in June 1970.

No fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf war of 1990-91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a peace treaty in 1994. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.

Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution promulgated on January 8, 1952. Executive authority is vested in the King and his Council of Ministers. The King signs and executes all laws. His veto power may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the National Assembly. He appoints and may dismiss all judges by decree, approves amendments to the constitution, declares war, and commands the armed forces. Cabinet decisions, court judgments, and the national currency are issued in his name. The King, who may dismiss other cabinet members at the prime minister's request, appoints the council of ministers, led by a prime minister. The cabinet is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies on matters of general policy and can be forced to resign by a two-thirds vote of "no confidence" by that body.

Legislative power rests in the bicameral National Assembly. The number of deputies in the current Chamber of Deputies is 110, with a number of seats reserved for various religions, ethnicities, and women. The Chamber, elected by universal suffrage to a 4-year term, is subject to dissolution by the King. The King appoints the 55-member Senate for a 4-year term.

The constitution provides for three categories of courts--civil, religious, and special. Administratively, Jordan is divided into 12 governorates, each headed by a governor appointed by the King. They are the sole authorities for all government departments and development projects in their respective areas.

Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--King Abdullah bin al-Hussein II
Prime Minister--Marouf Bakhit
Minister of Defense-- Marouf Bakhit
Foreign Minister--Abdelelah al-Khatib
Ambassador to the U.S.--Karim Kawar
Ambassador to the UN--Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad

Jordan maintains an embassy in the United States at 3504 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-966-2664).

King Hussein ruled Jordan from 1953 to 1999, surviving a number of challenges to his rule, drawing on the loyalty of his military, and serving as a symbol of unity and stability for both the East Bank and Palestinian communities in Jordan. In 1989 and 1993, Jordan held free and fair parliamentary elections. Controversial changes in the election law led Islamist parties to boycott the 1997 elections. King Hussein ended martial law in 1991 and legalized political parties in 1992.

King Abdullah II succeeded his father Hussein following the latter's death in February 1999. Abdullah moved quickly to reaffirm Jordan's peace treaty with Israel and its relations with the U.S. Abdullah, during his first year in power, refocused the government's agenda on economic reform.

Jordan's continuing structural economic difficulties, burgeoning population, and more open political environment led to the emergence of a variety of political parties. Moving toward greater independence, Jordan's Parliament has investigated corruption charges against several regime figures and has become the major forum in which differing political views, including those of political Islamists, are expressed. In June 2001, the King dissolved Parliament. Parliamentary elections were held in June 2003 and municipal elections were held in July 2003. The King appointed the current Prime Minister, Marouf Bakhit, in December, 2005. Bakhit and his cabinet have set as their goal the continued legislative implementation of a ten-year reform plan, known as the National Agenda, drafted by a royal commission in 2005. The King also charged the new cabinet with strengthening Jordan's security following the November, 2005 suicide hotel bombings in Amman that killed 60.

Jordan is a small country with limited natural resources. The country is currently exploring ways to expand its limited water supply and use its existing water resources more efficiently, including through regional cooperation. Jordan also depends on external sources for the majority of its energy requirements. During the 1990s, its crude petroleum needs were met through imports from neighboring Iraq. Since early 2003, oil has been provided by some Gulf Cooperation Council member countries. In September 2006, Jordan reached an agreement with Iraq to resume imports of crude oil; this should start some time in the fourth quarter of 2006. In addition, a natural gas pipeline from Egypt to Jordan through the southern port city of Aqaba is now operational. The pipeline has reached northern Jordan and construction to connect it to Syria and beyond is underway.

Under the reign of King Abdullah, Jordan has undertaken a program of economic reform, Recently, the government has taken the initiative to gradually eliminate fuel subsidies by April 2007, pass legislation targeting corruption, and begin tax reform. It has also worked to liberalize trade, gaining access to the WTO in 2000, signing an Association Agreement with the EU in 2001, and securing the first bilateral Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and an Arab country in 2001. Since 2000, exports of light manufactured products, principally textiles and garments manufactured in the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) that enter the United States tariff and quota free, have been driving economic growth. Jordan exported $6.9 million in goods to the U.S. in 1997, when two-way trade was $395 million; it exported $1.1 billion in 2005 and $574 million in the first six months of 2006, with two-way trade at almost $1.7 billion and $850 million respectively.

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States that went into effect in December 2001 will phase out duties on nearly all goods and services by 2010. The agreement also provides for more open markets in communications, construction, finance, health, transportation, and services, as well as strict application of international standards for the protection of intellectual property. In 1996, Jordan and the United States signed a civil aviation agreement that provides for "open skies" between the two countries, and a U.S.-Jordan treaty for the protection and encouragement of bilateral investment entered into force in 2003. More information on the FTA is available on

Such developments hold considerable promise for diversifying Jordan's economy away from its traditional reliance on exports of phosphates and potash, overseas remittances, and foreign aid. The government has emphasized the information technology (IT) and tourism sectors as other promising growth sectors. The low tax and low regulation Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) is considered a model of a government-provided framework for private sector-led economic growth.

Jordan is classified by the World Bank as a "lower middle income country." The per capita GDP, as reported by the IMF, was $2,317 for 2005, and 14.8% of the economically active population was unemployed at the end of 2005. Education and literacy rates and measures of social well-being are relatively high compared to other countries with similar incomes. Jordan's population growth rate has declined in recent years and is currently 2.3% as reported by the Jordanian government. One of the most important factors in the government's efforts to improve the well-being of its citizens is the macroeconomic stability that has been achieved since the 1990s. Rates of price inflation are expected to increase considerably this year and to exceed 6.5%; the currency has been stable with an exchange rate fixed to the U.S. dollar since 1995 at JD 0.708-0.710 to the dollar.

While pursuing economic reform and increased trade, Jordan's economy will continue to be vulnerable to external shocks and regional unrest. Without calm in the region, economic growth seems destined to stay below its potential.

Jordan has consistently followed a pro-Western foreign policy and traditionally has had close relations with the United States. These relations were damaged by support in Jordan for Iraq during the first Gulf war. Although the Government of Jordan stated its opposition to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, popular support for Iraq was driven by Jordan's Palestinian community, which favored Saddam as a champion against Western supporters of Israel.

Following the first Gulf war, Jordan largely restored its relations with Western countries through its participation in the Middle East peace process and enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq. Relations between Jordan and the Gulf countries improved substantially after King Hussein's death. Following the fall of the Iraqi regime, Jordan has played a pivotal role in supporting the restoration of stability and security to Iraq. The Government of Jordan has facilitated the training of over 20,000 Iraqi police cadets at a Jordanian facility near Amman.

Jordan signed a nonbelligerency agreement with Israel (the Washington Declaration) in Washington, DC, on July 25, 1994. Jordan and Israel signed a historic peace treaty on October 26, 1994, witnessed by President Clinton, accompanied by Secretary Christopher. The U.S. has participated with Jordan and Israel in trilateral development discussions in which key issues have been water-sharing and security; cooperation on Jordan Rift Valley development; infrastructure projects; and trade, finance, and banking issues. Jordan also participates in multilateral peace talks. Jordan belongs to the UN and several of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and World Health Organization (WHO). Jordan also is a member of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Nonaligned Movement, and Arab League.

Since the outbreak of the Intifada in September 2000, Jordan has worked to maintain lines of communication between the Israelis and the Palestinians to counsel moderation and to return the parties to negotiations of outstanding permanent status issues.

During summer 2006, Jordan provided considerable relief supplies to Lebanon and has supported U.S. efforts to generate international security assistance for Lebanese national forces.

Relations between the U.S. and Jordan have been close for over four decades. A primary objective of U.S. policy has been the achievement of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East.

U.S. policy seeks to reinforce Jordan's commitment to peace, stability, and moderation. The peace process and Jordan's opposition to terrorism parallel and indirectly assist wider U.S. interests. Accordingly, through economic and military assistance and through close political cooperation, the United States has helped Jordan maintain its stability and prosperity.

Since 1952, the United States has provided Jordan with economic assistance totaling more than $9 billion ($1.3 billion in loans and $7.7 billion in grants), including funds for development projects, health care, education, construction to increase water availability, support for microeconomic policy shifts toward a more completely free market system, and both grant and loan acquisition of U.S. agriculture commodities. These programs have been successful and have contributed to Jordanian stability while strengthening the bilateral relationship. U.S. military assistance--provision of material and training--is designed to meet Jordan's legitimate defense needs, including preservation of border integrity and regional stability.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador- David M. Hale
Deputy Chief of Mission--Daniel Rubinstein
Political Affairs--Christopher Henzel
Economic Affairs--Richard Eason
Consular Affairs—Rena Bitter
Management Affairs--Perry Adair
Public Affairs—Phillip Frayne
Commercial Counselor--Laurie Farris

The U.S. Embassy in Jordan is located in Abdoun, Amman (tel. 962-6-590-6000) and is closed on all U.S. federal holidays and some Jordanian holidays. Embassy office hours are Sunday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.