January 7, 2017
This study examines the evolution of the Jordanian-Iranian relations since 1949. It focuses on the most important stages and how regional developments and internal security in both Jordan and Iran have considerably influenced relations between the two countries. During the monarch era from 1949-1979 Jordan-Iran relations were characterized by cooperation and understanding, but were severely damaged following the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Since the beginning, Jordan-Iran relations have been oscillating and influenced by the broad dimensions of security in the Middle East. Jordan has joined the Arab Axis of Moderation and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. It has also recognized the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the legal representatives of Palestinian people. The outcome of such developments is that Jordan has been considered an important ally of the US and the West in General. On the contrary, Iran has adopted the Axis of Resistance and recognized Hamas as the legal representative of Palestinians.
As a matter of fact, Iran-Jordan relations have been affected by regional conflicts, internal security, and self-interests of both Amman and Tehran. An analysis of relations between Jordan and Iran can be traced through the following stages:
Until 1925, during and after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Jordan Emirate, Jordan (East Jordan at that time) –Iran relations had been confined to trade exchange only. These relations continued until the end of the Qajarian dynasty in Iran and the succession of Shah Pahlavi to the throne (1925-1941) who handed it over to his son Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. During the reign of Pahlavi, the first Iranian consulate was opened in Jerusalem to contact with the regional countries and with East Jordan Emirate Prince at that time, Abdullah I.
In 1946 Jordan secured its independence and evolved into a Kingdome with Prince Abdullah I King of Jordan. Jordan and Iran started establishing diplomatic relations and opened consulates in each other’s capital. In 1949 king Abdullah I visited Iran and signed a friendship treaty with Tehran to enhance cooperation and develop new partnerships between the two countries. These relations grew stronger when they signed other agreements of cultural cooperation in 1960, trade exchange in 1963, financial agreements in 1973, and tourism cooperation agreement in 1975 that was never implemented because of the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
During the reign of the late king, Hussein Bin Talal Iran inaugurated its embassy in Jordan after Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s visit to Jordan in 1959. At that time, Jordan-Iran relations were highly colored by issues related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In 1965, Jordan and Iraq agreed to establish the Arab United Kingdom in response to the United Arab Republic, but the revolution of Abdul Karim Qassem and Abdul Salam Arif that toppled the royal family in Iraq led to the fall of this union and severe relations between Iraq and Jordan that ended up in political isolation. These developments made King Hussein to bolster relations with Iran in order to maintain internal security and independence of Jordan, which was apparent through the joint statement delivered by him during the aforementioned visit when he said, “Jordan and Iran stress on preserving their independence and sovereignty against any external threat or internal subversion,” which is an evident factor suggesting regional developments played a major role in the improvement of relations between the two countries at that time.
On July 23, 1960, Jordan-Iran Relations strained because of the Iranian recognition of the state of Israel. The Iranian Shah asserted that this is not a new move but a confirmation of a former recognition in 1950. But King Hussein took a prompt action and sent a letter to the Iranian Shah on July 26, 1960, urging him to back off this decision that was published by Almanar newspaper saying,
“King Hussein Bin Talal was shocked by the Iranian recognition of Israel that would sever the friendly ties between the two countries. Pahlavi’s persistence on his country’s position to strengthen relations with Israel although the Arab rejection, led to the withdrawal of the Arab ambassadors from Iran starting from the recall of the Saudi ambassador for consultation, and ending up with the statement of Jordan’s prime minister at that time Habis Almajali who expressed the Jordanian annoyance and strong disapproval of the Iranian rapprochement with Israel.” notwithstanding, Jordan-Iran relations were not highly influenced by these developments.
In 1965 King Feisal of Saudi Arabia originated a project called the “Islamic Coalition” to curb the revolution of Jamal Abdul Nasir at that time, which was welcomed by the Iranian Shah. Jordan also supported the idea because it feared of the political turmoil in neighboring countries and sought to stand against the revolutionary current of Jamal Abdul Nasir. Nevertheless, this project only outlived on paper because of the outbreak of 1967 war. The Iranian Shah stood by the side of Jordan that lost its lands on the West bank to Israel and declared his support to Jordan and its rights to take these lands back.
Jordan-Iran relations continued on the same track. On November 20, 1973, King Hussein visited Iran attended by Prime Minister Zaid Alrifa’i and Chief of Staff of the Jordanian Army Zaid Bin Shakir. The visit had a very positive impact on relations between the two countries through supplying Jordan with 24 American F5 Air fighters by Iran after taking the approval of the United States of America.
The press handled this news saying that the main goal of the visit is to enhance cooperation among Arab and Muslim countries to cope the political unrest caused by Ramadan War and take back the occupied lands and legal rights of Palestinians.
In 1974 Rabat conference concluded that the PLO is the only and legal representative of Palestine. Many talked about the rage of King Hussein and his refusal to sign an agreement concerning this issue, but the Jordanian press denied this news and hailed the role of King Hussein in making this conference a success as stated by Aldustour newspaper on October 30, 1974.
The conference also invited King Hussein to enhance relations with Iran and retrieve the influence he had during the time of his guardianship over Palestine before the resolution of Rabat conference; consequently, the Iranian Shah visited Jordan once more in 1975 following the resolutions of Rabat conference, with the F5 airplanes flying to welcome him.
Alra’i Newspaper January 7, 1975
This visit had a great impact on relations between the two countries. The Shah announced his whole support to Jordan through the peace process and restoration of the Palestinian lands by their owners.
Jordan-Iran relations prevailed at best until the popular uprising in 1978 in Iran to depose the Shah, which made King Hussein to visit Iran and announce his full support to him in November of the same year.
Some sources reported that King Hussein met Khomeini in December 1978 in Paris to reform the relationship between the popular revolution and the Iranian Shah. Jordan dismissed this information and announced that King Hussein did not meet with Khomeini during his visit to Paris, which in fact, was not confirmed or denied in documents or news and nobody can say that this meeting was held or not.
On February 12, 1979, the Iranian revolution led to the overthrow of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and the emergence of the “Islamic Republic” of Iran. In the beginning, Jordan did not respond to this change, but later, King Hussein sent a letter of congratulations to the new regime on the anniversary of the revolution, which was considered an official recognition of the “Islamic Regime” and the new “Islamic Republic.”
Gulf War I
Iraq started to become an integral part of relations between Jordan and Iran. Ties between the two countries were severely damaged after the outbreak of the Iraqi-Iranian war in 1980 that erupted for the following reasons,
– Border dispute between the two countries
– Ideological rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites
– Sphere of influence in the gulf after the British withdrawal from the region
– Minorities, especially Kurds
– Iraqi demands of sovereignty over its own lands, waters, rivers, and ending of the Iranian occupation of the two Tunb and Abu Mousa Islands close to Hormuz Strait.
Some of the reasons that strengthened the relationship between Jordan and Iraq were the same that severed them between Jordan and Iran. Iraq had accused Syria of planning for a coup in Baghdad and Damascus accused Jordan of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Moreover, Jordan repudiated the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in Camp David in1978, which maintained Jordan’s position with Iraq that had always rejected peace with Israel. Most importantly, Jordan sought to halt the exportation of the Iranian revolution to the region through this war to preserve its role in the Arab -Israeli conflict, particularly the Palestinian Question. Iran had supported the Resistant Factions such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas in Palestine, which purges the political role of Jordan in this case. In addition to that, the Syrian support to Iran raised the Jordanian fears of an Iranian domination of the region. Syria condemned the Iraqi invasion of Iran and described it as a orchestrated distraction of the Arab nation and a conflict of borders while the Arab-Israeli conflict is a conflict of existence. Jordan found itself in the middle of two big threats, Iran and Israel. This made it side by Iraq to preserve its security and maintain a strong position against Israel through the rejection of Camp David Peace Treaty in 1978 to get the Iraqi support.
Iran declared war against Iraq. It offended the Iraqi consulate in Tehran and attacked Iraq at Jum’speeches that worsened the situation between the two countries. This led to an eight-year war at which both sides suffered big losses in property and lives.
King Hussein of Jordan announced his full support to Iraq in all meetings, conferences, and visits to the several countries of the world. This severed diplomatic ties between Jordan and Iran on January 31, 1981. In 1982 King Hussein visited Iraq and met President Saddam Hussein. Jordan’s support for Iraq was significant and included providing Iraq with a volunteer force of fighters and mujahidin. Jordan initiated fifteen volunteer centers in Amman called Jordan-Yarmouk Forces that recruited 2500 volunteers led by Sheikh Atta Shahwan to fight for Iraq. Economically, Jordan granted Iraq to have full access to the strategic port of Aqaba for the transport of military supplies and opened its airspace for the Iraqi airplanes to transport military supplies. On the other side, Syria presented its ground and airspace to transport 1500 Iranian soldiers to defend Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982 and gave the Iranian airplanes the green light to launch attacks on the Iraqi airbases from its airports. Meanwhile, King Hussein continued his support to Iraq in all events and visits such as the speech he delivered before the German Chancellor during his visit to Jordan on October 5, 1983, when he said that war had been imposed on Iraq by the Iranian hostility.
King Hussein continued his support to Iraq. In another speech before the Pakistani president Mohammed Dia’alhaq on October 4, 1987, he called for an end to the Iraqi-Iranian war saying,
“Your Excellency, we wish to use our strong relations and the good neighborliness between you and the “Islamic Republic” of Iran to stop the bloodshed of this destructive war that has entered its eighth year.” He added, “As Your Excellency know, fighting has exhausted the two Muslim countries and many of our beloved ones paid their lives in this war. In fact, the Iraqi-Iranian war has weakened the Muslim world and distracted it from building and development, and restoration of its lost rights in Palestine.”
King Hussein continued, “It is fair to say that our brotherly state Iraq has responded positively at the early beginning of this awkward war to cease fire and make peace based on a fair and just compromise that preserves the historical rights of both countries. Iraq has also responded very well to the orders of Allah to stop the bloodshed and expressed its readiness to comply with the will of world leaders to end the war and make peace. But decision makers in Tehran have violated the orders of Allah and cut off all attempts at peace. This war threatens stability in the whole region and has opened the door for foreign countries to interfere in our affairs rather than solving our problems internally by good people of the nation in compliance with the will and orders of Allah.”
“Based on that, we wish Your Excellency the prominent statesman and the “Islamic Republic” of Pakistan that is highly placed in the Muslim World to take over this issue and dedicate all efforts with the “Islamic Republic” of Iran to comply with the international resolution 598 to stop this war and make peace between the two Muslim countries.”
In another speech before the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on July 11, 1988, king Hussein emphasized on ending the Iraqi-Iranian war and making peace by saying, “Your Excellency, I’d like to thank you for your efforts to end this war that has entered its eighth year. This war has caused many humanitarian catastrophes through the Iranian rejection of the Security Council resolution 598. It threatens the Arabian Gulf countries, international navigation, and other country’s interests. On the other side, Iraq has accepted the Security Council resolution and initiatives of the Non-alignment countries.” He added, “The Iraqi calls for peace after the latest military victories show its honest intentions toward ending the war and making peace. We highly support the efforts of ending the war promptly and maintaining peace and stability in the region. We are sure that your government will enhance its efforts to put pressure on Iran to respect and obey the international resolutions and cease fire immediately.”
On July 1, 1987, the Austrian president Kurt Waldheim visited Jordan in response to an invitation by King Hussein of Jordan. King Hussein presented the issue of the Iraqi-Iranian war to the Austrian president by saying, “Our region has been plagued with this destructive war for seven years. All international resolutions and efforts of the Islamic and Non-alignment countries to stop fighting did not work with Iran. In fact, Iran seeks to expand the course of the Gulf War that is threatening the whole region and the international security.”
In fact, late king Hussein sought to end this war because of the human and material losses it incurred in both countries and in the region. He took the burden of it in most of his visits and talks with Arab and World leaders.
On march 14, 1984 the conference of Arab Foreign Ministers was held in Baghdad to discuss the Iraqi-Iranian war and bring it to an end. The press handled the resolutions of the conference and reported,
“The conference called both sides for a complete cease-fire and the compliance with the international peace resolutions. It also called Iran to respect its relations with the Arab World and considered any offense against any Arab country offense against the whole Arab World as stated before in Fas conference in 1982.”
During the period from Aug20, 1985 to October 28, 1986, Iran and the United States signed a deal called “Irangate” or “Iran-Contra” scandal in which the US sold weapons to Iran through the Saudi Billionaire Adnan Khashiqji. The deal consisted of 3000 anti-shield Tow missiles, Ground-Air Anti-aircraft Hook missiles in order to free five US hostages held in Lebanon. This scandal led to media to strongly slam Iran and raised many questions about the fate of the Iraqi-Iranian war. Jordan denounced the Irangate and asserted that the United States had lost its credibility in the Middle East. King Hussein expressed his sorrow for the deal because the United States support to Iran in the war was the last thing he expected.
Post-war relations 1988
According to document no (S/RES/598/1987) of the Security Council, the resolution 598 was passed to end the Iraqi-Iranian war. On July 20, 1988, King Hussein congratulated President Saddam Hussein for the cease-fire and beginning of talks to end the war.
After the war the issue of Jordan-Iran relations became as follows: Jordan’s strong stand with Iraq against Iran led to sever ties between the two countries. Some Israeli reports pointed out to the Jordanian military support for Iraq but Iran couldn’t prove Jordan’s involvement against it in the war. Based on that, Iran did not adopt hostile policies against Jordan same as the threats it launched against the Gulf countries. The Iraqi and Jordanian officials had always hailed their positions and support for each other during the war but denied any military support from Jordan for Iraq. Moreover, some political analysts stated that the wisdom and insight of King Hussein were bigger than slipping into war and saved his country from loss and destruction. The late king recognized that Iran’s military power was bigger than that of Jordan, and had the Jordanian involvement in the war been proven, it would have paved the way for an Iranian intervention in Jordan. Indeed, the Jordanian public information and media support to Iraq led to the resumption of the Jordanian-Iranian relations in the near future.
Gulf War II 1990
In 1989 Khomeini passed away and Hashemi Rafsanjani took over the power in Iran. The Iranian foreign policy switched to lessening the international tensions and Iran attempted to normalize its relations with Arab neighbors through eliminating the idea of exporting the revolution. This new Iranian trend made Jordan move toward Iran in order to rebuild ties between the two countries. The Second Gulf War In 1990 had a positive influence on the resumption of relations between Jordan and Iran through Jordan’s representative in the United Nations “Marwan Alqasem” that made contact with his Iranian counterpart to find a common ground between the two countries in relation to Gulf War II.
Consequently, Jordan closed “Khalq Mujahidin” offices and withdrew all of their benefits in the country. The visit of the Jordanian Foreign Minister, “Tahir Almasri” to Iran on January 1, 1991, continued what “Alqasim” had started in the United Nations; to resume relations and take a unanimous position toward Gulf War II. The Jordanian Foreign Minister’s visit to Iran marked the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries that started with Iran’s praise of Jordan’s efforts to come up with a peaceful solution for the Iraqi-Kuwaiti conflict.
On December 9, 1991, King Hussein met the Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani on the sideline of the Sixth Islamic Conference in Dakar-Senegal. This meeting helped rebuild trust and enhance economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries.
In the same year, the ties severed again between the two countries. Jordan discovered an Organization called “Jaish Mohammad” and had arrested many of its members on charges of burning the French Cultural Center, shooting at the front of a British bank, and exploding two cars for an intelligence officer and a Christian man. Some of those members confessed that the organization had received support from Iran but Hassan Rouhani visited Jordan and denied any Iranian role in supporting this organization. He stressed on the Iranian support to Jordan and respect of its internal affairs. The prisoners were released based on an amnesty in 1992.
In 1992 tension escalated between the two countries due to the discovery of armories in Jordan, which was described by Jordan as an attempt to overthrow the regime, while the Palestinian Hamas described it as an attempt to transport weapons to the West bank, which in fact, was part of the Iranian support to Hamas.
In 1994 tension flared between Jordan and Iran when Jordan signed Wadi Arabah peace treaty with Israel and received sharp criticism from Iran. In response, Jordan expelled the Iranian Ambassador in Jordan at that time Ahmed Dastmaljan and 21 Iranian diplomats on charges of establishing a terrorist cell for Hamas and Hezbollah in Jordan. In 1996 Iran responded by accusing Jordan of housing members of Khalq Mujahideen and called Jordan to expel them in order to preserve relations between the two countries.
The 1994 events operated a major role in escalating tension between Jordan and Iran, especially Wadi Araba treaty. Jordan and Iran approached Israel from different perspectives to meet goals of self-interests. For Jordan, its foremost goal was to preserve its entity and internal security through the peace treaty with Israel. Jordan hosts a sizable Palestinian population and a quite a number of refugee camps. It sought to eliminate tension with Israel and gain annual foreign aids to supply the needs of those refugees from the West and the UN through making peace with Israel. Conversely, Iran demonized Israel and looked at it as an enemy that has to be wiped off the map. Nevertheless, Iran had never received refugees although its tangible resources that are incomparable to those of Jordan that can barely satisfy its citizens.
Admittedly, it is challenging for Jordan and Iran to circumvent the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in any diplomatic exchange, which remains a point of disagreement between the two countries.
In 1997, Jordan and Iran resumed their relations following the election of Mohammed Khatami president of Iran. Both sides exchanged mutual visits of senior diplomats in the two countries. In 2000 Queen Raniah Alabdallah visited Iran and met some stateswomen there such as Ma’soumah Ibtikar, Chairman of the Environmental Protection Organization and the President’s Advisor for Women Affairs Zahra Shojai.
The reign of King Abdullah II
On the sideline of the UN summit on September 6-8, 2000 in New York King Abdullah II met the Iranian president Mohammed Khatami for the first time and invited him to visit Jordan at any time of his convenience. Both sides agreed to develop bilateral ties between the two countries and improve relations on all levels.
Jordan-Iran relations deteriorated again following the arrest of four Palestinians coming from Iran by the Jordanian authorities for having massive amounts of money that were believed to be used in preparation for operations against Israel. Six months later, Jordan uncovered another sixteen-member cell and arrested eighty-three Jordanians who had received training in Iran; consequently, King Abdullah II raised his fears of the Iranian intentions to turn Jordan into a base for attacks against Israel, which would put Jordan in direct confrontation with this entity, saying that these attempts prove that Iran represents a threat to the region. The announcement of King Abdullah provoked the Iranian officials who responded strongly through the Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani when said that the statements of King Abdullah resulted from his lack of political experience.
In November 2001 King Abdullah had no alternative but to discuss this issue with president Khatami directly on phone. A month later, Khatami acknowledged that there was a decision in Iran to assist these groups but his government had no hand in such decisions. In response to the Jordanian pressure, Khatami was obliged to discuss the issue with the Higher Council for National Defense in Iran to lessen the Jordanian fears. On his part, King Abdullah II took the issue further from that and met the United States president at that time George W. Bush in Washington D.C. On the sideline of the meeting, the King of Jordan affirmed that hardliners in the Iranian regime seek to fuel the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the founding of two cells; the first is Hezbollah in Lebanon and the other in Jordan, which made the Iranian Jamhouri Islami newspaper to accuse Jordan of inciting the United States against Iran. Nevertheless, this disagreement and dispute between the two countries remained within controllable limit.
The American president described Iran as one of the Axis of evil in addition to Iraq and North Korea. He accused them of possessing weapons of mass destruction, which was supported by King Abdullah II. These developments provoked the Iranian government that called the Jordanian Ambassador in Tehran and notified him of the Iranian rejection of King Abdullah’s position toward Iran. Furthermore, the Iranian government condemned the King on its radio broadcast.
During the period from 2000 to 2002, the tension escalated between Jordan and Iran. Jordan’s Ambassador in Tehran accused Iran of creating crises in his country, which was the first Jordanian stinging criticism to Iran after King Abdullah had succeeded to the throne. During the same period, Jordan recalled its Ambassador in Iran Bassam Alomoush without stating the reasons.
In its edition 8593 published on June 8, 2002, the Middle East newspaper stated that Iran had hosted the meeting of the Palestinian factions headed by the Iranian Supreme Leader. Khatami denied his relation to the meeting because the Supreme Leader was in full control of the Iranian policies toward the Palestinian Question. The meeting concluded to launch attacks on Israel through the Jordanian and Lebanese territories and eliminate the Zionist entity, which was considered by Jordan direct threat to its internal security and stability. At the same time, Iran’s president Mohammed Khatami sought to preserve Jordan-Iran relations and keep disagreement within controllable limits between the two countries.
On September 2, 2003, King Abdullah II paid the first visit of a Jordanian King to Tehran since the revolution in 1979. The press, such as the Saudi Al-Watan Newspaper stated that this visit was a Jordanian mediation between Iran and the United States to resume relations and launch talks on the Iranian nuclear program.
In a related story, Jordan denied handing over five Khalq Mujahidin members to the Iranian authorities for resumption of talks between both sides. In the same year, the United States took the name of Khalq Mujahidin Organization out of the terrorist organizations’ list in exchange for handing over their weapons, which was welcomed by the organization for gaining the American protection.
The American-led Invasion of Iraq in 2003
Jordan and Iran looked at the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 from different perspectives to meet goals and self-interest. For Jordan, the invasion of Iraq meant another humanitarian crisis and receiving new waves of refugees because of its limited resources that can barely satisfy its own citizens. Jordan also suffered the expansion of Al-Qaida operations in its territories through the attacks on some hotels in Amman in 2005, which were adopted by Al-Qaida itself. On the contrary, Iran believed that the United States invasion of Iraq and taking Saddam Hussein down would be a big strategic victory to pave the way for its proxies- the Shiite Sect- in Iraq to take control of the country. In fact, the American invasion of Iraq was a real victory and new Iranian political map, but another crisis and major security problem for Jordan through the new waves of refugees that represented a big burden on a country with limited resources in the middle of an exploding region.
The Iranian influence in Iraq grew due to the silence and absence of reaction by neighboring countries. Most of the new leaders of Iraq had been expelled by Saddam Hussein and came back after his fall. This growing influence made King Abdullah II express his unease with the Iranian involvement in Iraq, a concern he highlighted when he coined the term “Shiite Crescent” to describe the Iranian rising power in the region.
In an article in Washington Post Newspaper in 2004, King Abdullah II accused Iran of establishing an “Islamic Republic” in Iraq to structure the Farsi Crescent including Syria and Lebanon.
On December 12, 2004, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Hani Almulqi warned of the Iranian influence in Iraq and policy of interference in the region to accomplish its ambitions of the so-called “Shiite Crescent.”
Earlier in 2005, Iran boycotted the conference of Iraq’s neighbors that was held in Jordan, claiming that Jordan had provided refuge for Baath members and was planning to restore the Hashemite reign in Iraq. In 2007 Jordan’s Prime Minister at that time Ma’rouf Albakhit accused Iran of being involved in the events in Gaza through assisting Hamas to take control of the strip, which escalated tension between the two countries.
After the failure of the Israeli assault on South Lebanon in 2006, two opponent coalitions emerged in the Middle East region; the first is the Axis of Resistance that comprised Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Resistance against the Axis of Moderation that included Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, which escalated tension and created confusion about how to confront the Iranian hostility and stop its expansion in the region.
The Iranian Influence in Jordan: Sounding the Alarm
Since the beginning, the Iranian influence has never grown in Jordan. Jordan-Iran relations were described as tepid at best. Amman has kept its distance to preserve its security and avoid jeopardizing its stability. Nevertheless, the American-led invasion of Iraq has enlarged the Iraqi Shiite community in Jordan. According to statistics, most Iraqi refugees in Jordan are Shiites that are always willing to live isolated and establish their own rule. The Shiite community in Jordan grew in number and has gone beyond limits through inviting Jordanian citizens to convert into Shiite. In 2005 thirty Jordanian families embraced the Shiite doctrine in Baq’a camp in addition to some other families in Irbid, Madaba, Sult, and Zarqa, which provoked Jordan to sound the alarm to stop the Shiite growth and influence in the country.
The problem with the Shiite community in Jordan is the large- scale capitals and investments they have in Jordan. According to the Jordanian law of investment, most of them gained the Jordanian citizenship, which raises fears of the influence of money in the country.
In addition to that, the defeat of Israel and liberation of South Lebanon in 2006 have greatly motivated conversion into the Shiite doctrine and boosted the popularity of Hezbollah leader, the Iranian proxy in Lebanon Hassan Nasrallah due to his support and stand by the Palestinian question. Moreover, the Jordanian government changed its policies toward the Iranian tourism and gave the permission to many Iranians to visit the tombs and graves considered holy by Shiites. To increase its influence, Iran financed building a mosque next to the tomb of the companion Ja’far Bin Abi Taleb, where the mourning by these tombs became familiar in Jordan. After all, we recall King Abdullah’s popular term “Shiite Crescent” that extends from Iran-Bahrain to Syria, which means that Iran would become not only a country with foreign relations with Jordan, but a neighboring country on the Northern and Eastern borders, and possibly the western borders of Jordan in case it goes far in control of the Palestinian resistance.
Wiki leaks and Nejad’s Call
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad revealed an Israeli plan to divide Jordan and establish a Palestinian country on its land, which was rejected and criticized by Jordan. In relation to the same story, relations between the two countries severed after the reveal of Wiki-leaks documents, which disclosed the statement of former Jordanian Prime Minister Zaid Alrifa’i when he said, “Talks with Iran are no use and we will never come up to an agreement with Iran. If Iran gains nuclear weapons, the only solution to stop it is through military intervention.” Jordan denied the Wiki-leaks documents saying that they only reveal analyses of American officials. On his part, King Abdullah II commented on the issue saying, “Jordan’s position toward Iran and its nuclear file is firm and not changing. Jordan rejects any military intervention against Iran that will lead to disastrous consequences in the region.” This position lessened tension between the two countries and was hailed by Nejad and described as Jordanian credibility toward rejecting war on Iran.
In order to boost ties between the two countries, the Iranian President Ahmadinejad dispatched a delegate headed by chairman of the presidency office at that time Rahim Masha’i to Jordan and handed King Abdullah II an invitation to visit Tehran, which was accepted by the king, but was later postponed due to the internal resentment and pressure on President Nejad because of this invitation.
In a survey by the strategic studies center in August 2010 about people’s view of the Iranian intervention in the region, results showed that 54% of people and 69% of decision makers in Jordan believe that Iran represents a threat to Jordan and its interests.
The Arab Spring
The Arab Spring erupted in most of the Arab World in 2011. The biggest concern for Jordan was the Iranian role the Arab capitals Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut, and Sana’a. Conversely, Iran sought to resume relations with Jordan after seven years break through the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif’s visit to Jordan on January 14, 2014. On the other side, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judah paid a visit to Tehran on March 7, 2015, and met President Hassan Rouhani. Both sides discussed ways of countering terrorism and extremism and enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries.
In the same year, Jordan welcomed the Iranian nuclear deal with the West in Vienna on July 14, 2015. But the trial of the Norwegian citizen Khaled Alrba’i at the State Security Court for charges of working for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and doubts of launching terrorist attacks in Jordan in July 2015 strained relations between the two countries.
On August 4, 2015, Saudi Arabia and Jordan announced their rejection of the Iranian approach that deepens disputes and conflicts in the region and will result in jeopardizing its stability, which raised tension between Jordan and Iran again.
On December 25, 2015, Fars News Agency reported the Jordanian Minister of Endowment Affairs visit to the Iranian city of Qum and his meeting with Ali Alqadi, one of the Iranian Hajj officials. The Jordanian Minister also discussed ways of enhancing cooperation and countering terrorism between the two countries. On his part, Alqadi called for cooperation on all levels and removal of all misunderstandings between both sides.
In January 2016 Jordan refused an Iranian request for giving half million visas for Iranian tourists to visit the Shiite holy places in Jordan. Amman justified the refusal by rejecting any interference in its internal affairs.
Jordan backed Saudi Arabia in its rivalry with Iran that was enflamed by the burning and looting of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Jordan summoned Iran’s Ambassador in Amman to officially inform Tehran of Jordan’s rejection of the Iranian practices.
In April 2016, Saudi Arabia and Jordan warned of the Iranian interference in the regional countries’ affairs and rejected all practices that endanger the security and the stability in these countries, accusing Iran of supporting terrorism and fueling conflicts in the region. In a related story, Jordan recalled its Ambassador from Tehran, which was described by Jordan as an evaluation step of the Iranian interference in the Arab Affairs.
This study vividly sheds light on the history of Jordan-Iran relations since their beginning in 1949. It analyzed the different stages and how the security concerns in the Middle East have considerably influenced these relations between the two countries. Historically, the pre-Iraqi-Iranian war and post-war periods had witnessed the best relations between the two countries.
The study ended by stating the reasons for the withdrawal of the Jordanian Ambassador from Iran at the early beginning of this year, which is the typical situation of relations between Jordan and Iran that varied between tension and friendship depending on the regional developments; Although, both countries kept this tension within controllable limits.
The study also discussed the different points of view about the regional developments, especially the Palestinian question and the Arab-Israeli conflict, in addition to the Iranian attempts of expanding its influence in the region. For more than three decades, Iran has tried to turn Jordan into a base to launch attacks on Israel, which was at first denied by the Iranian government, but later admitted that Tehran was red-handed in these actions but the government was unaware of such practices.
In light of the regional developments such as the Arab Spring, the Syrian crises, Hezbollah domination of Lebanon, the Iranian influence through its proxy Shiites in Iraq, the Iranian expansionist ambitions, and the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict the reader finds it hard for the two countries to compromise and come up to an agreement. On the other hand, Jordan enjoys strong relations with the Arabian Gulf countries and has backed Saudi Arabia in its long-running rivalry with Iran.
Indeed, Jordan-Iran relations will continue to evolve from friendship and cooperation into tension and break up in a context highly influenced by regional developments, and goals and self-interests of each country.
Finally, King Abdullah II has warned of the Iranian expansionist ambitions in the Arab World long time ago, which is now a reality in more than one Arab country; although, Jordan has aligned with Saudi Arabia in its rivalry with Iran and adopted the Saudi point of view for the Arab National Security. After the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Jordan severed ties with Tehran and denounced the Iranian interference in the Arab countries’ affairs, especially those of Saudi Arabia.