During the First World War, the Arabs revolted, supported by Britain. Arab forces led by Feisal ibn Husayn of the Hashemite dynasty, son of King Hussein of Hedsjas, conquered Aqaba in 1917 and Amman in 1918.
By the end of the war, most of today’s Jordan and Iraq were under Arab control. Arab nationalists in 1920 claimed independence for Syria (including Transjordan, Lebanon and Palestine) and Iraq, but this was rejected by France and the United Kingdom. After the war, the great powers divided the Levant into mandate areas. At the San Remo Conference in 1920, Britain was granted a mandate in Palestine, including the area east of the Jordan River, as well as present-day Iraq, while France gained control of Syria. Thus the political ties between Transjordan (today’s Jordan) and Syria were weakened. Feisal was forced out Damascus, where he had set up a government, and Britain was in favor of Transjordan independence – with Feisal’s brother Abdullah as king.
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In 1921, Abdullah moved into Transjordan with an army from Hedsjas, and set up a government in Amman. The British recognized him as emir of Transjordan, against Abdullah recognizing the British mandate. The British mandate was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, and in effect gave Britain free hands in the administration of the territory, but it was made clear that a Jewish national home could not be established there or Jewish immigration allowed.
On May 25, 1923, the United Kingdom formally recognized Transjordan as an independent state under British oversight, and with Abdullah as emir. Military and economic affairs, as well as foreign policy, were still controlled by the British envoy, and in 1926–27 a Trans-Jordanian army (Arab Legion) was established with British support, led by British officers. In 1928, internal self-government was expanded; then Transjordan was given the right to send consuls to other Arab states. In 1925, Abdullah Ma’an and Aqaba incorporated into the kingdom, thus securing access to the sea. During World War II, Jordan played an important role in the region, and the Arab legion helped to defeat a pro-German uprising in Iraq. To see more information other than history, please visit AbbreviationFinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Jordan.
The Independent Jordan
On May 25, 1946, full independence was achieved, when Abdullah 1 was proclaimed king, in what from 1949 was called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The United Kingdom maintained certain rights, including military facilities, to provide financial assistance to the new state.
King Abdullah had an ambition to create a Greater Syria, which also included Palestine and Jordan, and which would absorb Iraq. The plan was met with opposition from both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which did not want any strengthening of the Hashemite royal house, as well as the Zionists and France.
A political main concern for the new state, then as later, was the development of the remaining part of the British mandate Palestine. When Israel was founded in 1948, Jordan joined the Arab attack on the new state and occupied the so-called West Bank (Jordan River) and East Jerusalem. This territory was annexed and incorporated into Jordan in 1950 – with the support of the United Kingdom but for protests in the Arab world. Many Palestinians saw this as a betrayal, and a Palestinian nationalist was assassinated in 1951 King Abdullah in Jerusalem. His son Talal became new king but was mentally ill and abdicated the following year. Then his son Prince Hussein was proclaimed king, 16 years old. He ascended the throne when he turned 18, in 1953. King Hussein sat on the throne until his death in 1999, and was succeeded by his son Abdullah 2.
King Hussein continued throughout his years in power the balancing act that has characterized Jordanian politics, both internally and externally: internally between the large Palestinian people (from the West Bank) who are Jordanian citizens, and eventually constitute a majority of the population, and the original transjordanians. (from the East Bank); externally between maintaining good relations with the West and at the same time identifying with the Arab world and taking part in the struggle for an independent Palestine – against an Israel supported by the West.
After the 1956 war (the Suez crisis), the king dismissed his British advisers, and a new agreement in 1957 meant that the last British troops were withdrawn from Jordan. The king’s position was militarily threatened from the mid-1960s onwards by the Palestinian Liberation Movement (PLO), which then had its headquarters in Jordan. The West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Jordan conquered in 1948, were conquered by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. Thus, Jordan also lost the rich agricultural areas of the Jericho Valley and many tourist attractions in the Holy Land. While Jordan participated in the Six Day War, the country abstained from participation in the October War in 1973.
As a result of Israel’s creation in 1948, over half a million Palestinians have fled to Jordan. During the second Gulf War, 1990–91, approximately 300,000 Palestinians fled from Kuwait to Jordan. As of 2016, approximately 2.1 million Palestinian refugees were registered in Jordan, and about half – perhaps more – of the country’s population is of Palestinian origin.
The Palestinian people have put pressure on the Jordanian authorities to support the liberation struggle. The PLO used not least Jordanian territory in its guerrilla attacks against Israel. Especially after 1967, the Palestinian groups strengthened their military and political position in Jordan. They became like a state in the state, and the PLO had great support in the Palestinian refugee camps. From the autumn of 1968, a growing tension led to armed clashes, and in 1970-71 to full war, between Palestinian liberation forces and the Jordanian army. This led to several thousand killed. In September 1970, Palestinian guerrillas were behind an attack on the king and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) led four hijacked aircraft with hostages to a remote airstrip in Jordan and blasted them. The guerrillas were supported by Syrian forces and Palestinian divisions in the Egyptian army and took control of the land in the north. Following diplomatic pressure, PLO leader Yasir Arafat and King Hussein signed an agreement that ended the war. It allowed Palestinian guerrillas to live in the countryside, but not in the cities. Occasional fighting continued, and the guerrillas were driven north. In April 1971, the king considered his position strong enough to require the PLO to withdraw completely from Amman, targeting attacks on several Palestinian bases. As a result of this offensive, the Palestinian guerrilla was in fact forced out of Jordan, and the PLO had to re-establish its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon .The war cost Jordan support from several Arab states, and Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tal was assassinated in 1971 by the Palestinian group Black September.
In 1974, Jordan recognized the PLO as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, but the relationship between King Hussein and the Palestinian liberation movement remained strained. Much of the contradiction was due to the king’s policy in the West Bank, which he annexed in 1950, but later made it clear that he should still belong to an independent Palestinian state. The PLO’s distrust was reinforced by the fact that Jordan himself was responsible for the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, and that Israel sought to make Jordan (with the West Bank) the Palestinian state. Israeli leaders have long argued that there was only one Jewish state, but many Arabs – and that any Palestinian state formation should take place in Jordan, with its already large Palestinian population. After the Oslo process, In the 1990s, Israel accepted the idea of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, but the country still envisions the possibility that such a state could merge into a federation with Jordan, and with Amman, not Jerusalem, as the Palestinian capital.
In 1972, King Hussein presented plans for a federation, the United Arab Kingdom, consisting of a Jordanian region (East Bank) and a Palestinian (West Bank), with the Jordanian king as head of state and Amman as capital. The plan was rejected by both Israel and the Palestinians, as well as by Egypt, which severed diplomatic ties with Jordan, thus becoming increasingly isolated. In the early 1980s, Hussein sought to agree with the PLO. In 1985, Hussein and Arafat agreed on the framework for a joint Jordanian-Palestinian peace plan. The PLO’s reluctance to accept UN resolutions led to the failure of the peace plan, and in 1986 King Hussein broke off relations with the PLO and closed its office in Amman.
Jordan then took responsibility for developments in the West Bank in an effort to weaken the PLO’s position. The West Bank’s representation in the Jordanian National Assembly was increased as part of strengthening the king’s position. When the Palestinian uprising, intifada, broke out in the West Bank in 1987, it was aimed at Israeli occupation, but also at King Hussein’s policy – and in support of the PLO. Hussein supported the rebellion for tactical reasons, but his approach was rejected by the Palestinians, who mistrusted the king’s intentions. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank and left all responsibility for the territory to the PLO. When the Palestinian National Council proclaimed the independent state of Palestine in November 1988, it was immediately recognized by Jordan.
Jordan is the only country that has granted Palestinian refugees civil rights, and in principle they enjoy the same rights as other Jordanians. There are well over two million Palestinian refugees registered in Jordan, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship. In practice, Jordanians from the East Bank (Transjordanians) have dominated much of political life and public administration, while the King’s House has relied on traditional leaders, rooted in the old Jordanian power structure, which is the Kingdom’s social base. Jordanians from the West Bank (Palestinians), on the other hand, are underrepresented in formal political life, largely because of the electoral laws. Parliament has traditionally been dominated by conservative transjordanians; so is the defense and security apparatus. Palestinian Jordanians play a dominant role in economic life. Of symbolic significance was that Jordan with King Abullah 2’s takeover of the throne had a queen, Rania, of Palestinian descent, born in Kuwait. In 1991, Jordan got its first prime minister with a Palestinian background.
More recently, Jordan has supported the radical Palestinian group Hamas, which was headquartered in the country in the 1990s, until its leadership was arrested by Jordanian authorities in 1999, and then expelled. The situation was further weakened in 2006 after members of Hamas were arrested in Jordan, suspected of several more terrorist attacks. Later, Jordan has sought to bring Hamas and PLO together.
After US President Donald Trump announced in 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Jordan’s King Abdullah 2 reiterated the demand for a total settlement with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
The king’s political influence is great, and on several occasions he has intervened and set aside the National Assembly. The special security conditions have on some occasions been used to set aside normal political structures. In 1972, it was a failed military coup attempt. King Hussein dissolved the National Assembly in 1974, but in 1978 appointed a “National Consultative Council”, which worked until 1984, when the old parliament was convened for its first session since 1967. This was replaced in 1989 by a new parliament, the first elected since 1967. The 1989 election came after social unrest and riots in several cities, as a result of significant increases in food and public service prices.
In 1991, the King convened a national conference with over 2000 delegates from a variety of organizations and groups. These adopted a national charter that formalized new democratic rights. In 1991, the state of emergency from 1967 was repealed, and in 1992 a new law was passed which legalized political parties. Elections based on free party formation were held in 1993; then regularly.
To consolidate his position of power, King Abdullah slowed down from 1999 the pace of the democratization process and relied more on the traditional, tribal society structure. Later, he has advocated to a greater extent the promotion of democratic development with political parties and independent organizations as part of the modernization of Jordanian society. However, he has maintained a strong constitutional position, with parliament having relatively little influence. The King has, on several occasions, actively intervened, inter alia, by appointing and appointing the Prime Minister, dismissing governments and printing new elections. The electoral system has been changed several times, most often in such a way that it favors independent candidates – often with loyalty to the king – over party lists. This has several times led the opposition to boycott elections.
While the 2013 boycott of parts of the opposition boycotted several parties for election to the House of Representatives in 2016, after the Election Act was amended. The party has consistently had little support. A large part of those elected are independent representatives, often with anchoring in districts and tribes, and who traditionally support the king and his politics. Nine parties were elected in 2016; none with large groups. Islamist parties received fewer seats after the 2016 election than in 1989. Then the Electoral Act was amended to stem the influence of these parties.
After the Jordanian part of the Muslim Brotherhood gained significant support in the 1989 elections, the authorities implemented measures to weaken the party. It boycotted the elections in 2010 and 2013. The fraternity is formally banned because it does not have official approval, but in 2016 made lists for the parliamentary elections through an election campaign, the Islamic Action Front. Along with supporters, this resulted in a total of 15 representatives.
Opponents have been arrested at times, most often with accusations of terrorism. In the early 2000s, this was linked to the rise of militant Islam. in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States and the subsequent war on terror, with the intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.
With its proximity to Iraq and Syria, Jordan has long been characterized by developments in these countries, as well as in the region as a whole, with the entire Middle East conflict and the Palestine issue. In addition to the situation in Palestine, the development in Iraq, especially after the Gulf War in 1990-91 and even more the US invasion in 2003, was particularly important. The latter laid a foundation for the rise of the Islamic State (IS), which has had an impact on the war in Syria. The destabilization of Syria and the closure of IS have also posed security challenges in Jordan.
The war in Iraq in 1990–1991, Jordan faced a difficult dilemma when the Western-oriented kingdom ended up taking a stand for the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein. This led to a more difficult relationship with the United States as well as with the Gulf states. After the 2003 invasion, Jordan became one of the main areas for infiltration of year-round soldiers and weapons into Iraq, and the fight against the US occupation. During the Syrian war, Jordan has also become an important base area for insurgents, but also for the multinational coalition that is engaged in the fight against IS. Jordan has backed the demand that President Bashar al-Assad must step down, and has entered into the multinational military action against the regime, supporting parts of the opposition.
The wars in Iraq and Syria have led to the emergence of militant Islamist groups in Jordan as well, and developments in Syria in particular have raised concerns about the security situation and stability. Militant Muslim groups, jihadists, have gained a foothold in the country, and the authorities have arrested, and also convicted, several people who have been behind or who have planned terrorist acts. In 2004, eight men were sentenced to death for killing a US official envoy in 2002. Among those convicted, in absentia, was Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a close ally of Osama bin Laden, who through his group Jamaat al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad was accused of leading al-Qaedalocal networks in Iraq. In 2004, the group assumed responsibility for bomb attacks against three hotels in Amman, including the Radisson SAS hotel, in which 60 people were killed. An unsuccessful attack on US naval vessels in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba in 2005 fueled fears that Jordan would become an al-Qaeda operating area to a greater extent than before.
Jordan also became the scene of the Arab Spring in 2011, but to a limited extent, and without the extensive demonstrations or clashes that were the case in several other countries. The unrest that erupted in January 2011 contained both political and economic criticism – including of corruption, partly aimed at the royal family. Demands were also made that the prime minister must be elected and increased power transferred to the parliamentary system. Traditionally, the king and court have been given decisive influence and power in Jordan. The king responded by dismissing an unpopular prime minister, Samir Rifai, and his government, and setting up a national dialogue committee. Financial discontent was part of the rationale behind the demonstrations, with criticism that economic liberalization led to greater income disparities and deteriorating living conditions. Jordan has one of the highest military spending in the world;
As the war in Syria progressed, Jordan intensified its military cooperation with the United States. The US military aid to Jordan was stepped up and the US deployed forces in the country. Several countries, including Norway, sent forces to Jordan to assist Syrian rebel groups. From 2014, Jordan has participated in the multinational military operation against IS, Operation Inherent Resolve, for a period including fighter jets.
Jordan is one of the countries where the Islamic State is believed to have recruited the most soldiers, and the group has both supporters and activists in Jordan. IS considers King Abdullah and his regime an enemy of Islam. There have been several cases of fighting between IS soldiers and Jordanian forces.
In autumn 2017, more than 660,000 refugees were registered from Syria in Jordan; in total, the number of Syrian citizens in the country was around 1.5 million. At the same time, there were more than 58,000 registered refugees from Iraq, and over two million Palestinian refugees. Jordan is thus one of the countries in the world that has received the most refugees, both in number and in relation to its own population. Despite international aid to the refugees, this situation put further pressure on a difficult Jordanian economy.