"Jordan first": Jordan's inter-Arab relations and foreign policy under King Abdullah II.
Yet throughout these turbulent events, Jordan has continued to play a key role in the prospects for both war and peace in the region. The May 2003 summit in Jordan's capital, Amman, between President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas underscored the centrality of the Jordanian role in particular in attempts to revive the moribund peace process.
in June 2003, the World Economic Forum held a special summit at Jordan's Dead Sea resort, underscoring the Jordanian regime's determination to court the world's most wealthy and powerful economic actors, while also demonstrating the central role that these economic "powers-that-be" seem to attach to Jordan within Middle East politics. Later that same month, the "Quartet" of officials from the U.S., United Nations, European Union, and Russia again chose to meet in Jordan in an attempt to implement their "Roadmap for Peace." For better or worse, the major powers of the early 21st Century seemed to regard Jordan as geo-politically far more important than its size or resources might otherwise suggest. This paper provides an analysis of Jordanian foreign policy under King Abdullah 11, particularly within inter-Arab and Middle East politics, as the regime has attempted to maneuver between domestic and regional challenges.
Since ascending the throne in 1999, King Abdullah has strengthened Jordan's international ties to major extra-regional powers such as the United States and the European Union, and has further linked the kingdom's fortunes to major international economic institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. Closer to home, Jordan has maintained its peace treaty with Israel, despite the collapse of the Oslo peace process and the start of the second Palestinian Intifada. In inter-Arab relations, Jordan under King Abdullah has managed to complete the long and difficult process (since the depths of the 1991 Gulf war) of reestablishing relations with each of the Arab Gulf monarchies. The kingdom has developed a close relationship with Washington's other major Arab ally, Egypt, as King Abdullah and Egyptian President Husni Mubarak positioned their respective regimes to be major mediators within Middle East politics.
In the sections that follow, this paper examines Jordan's inter-Arab relations under King Abdullah 11, with an emphasis on the two most problematic and contentious relationships: with Syria and with Iraq. The paper then examines Jordan's newly stabilized inter-Arab and regional relations against the context of renewed crises in the region, as the kingdom has been wedged between violence to the west, between Israelis and Palestinians, and to the east, between the United States and Iraq. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the domestic implications of Jordan's regional position and its foreign policy choices.
JORDANIAN FOREIGN POLICY UNDER KING ABDULLAH II
King Hussein had seemed to many in the outside world to be the virtual embodiment of Jordan and its foreign relations. (2) For the most part, King Abdullah's policy views mirror those of his father. He too is moderate and cautious and is determined to maintain close alliances with Jordan's tradition Western allies. Abdullah is even more committed to economic liberalization than his father was, although a major question remains regarding his stance on domestic political liberalization. Interestingly, while Abdullah cannot yet have his late father's experience and clout on the world stage, neither does he suffer from the animosities aroused by King Hussein. Abdullah, unlike the long-serving Hussein, did not come of political age in the most intense days of the global Cold War or even of the regional ideological conflicts of the 1950's and 1960's. (3) This is not to say that Abdullah's personal political socialization was unaffected by regional conflict. To the contrary, Abdullah appears to have been deeply affected by Jordan's difficult experience in the 1990-91 Gulf war, for example. But unlike his father, Abdullah is not influenced by the heady days of the Arab Cold War, nor is he personally affected by the scars of the 1970-71 Jordanian civil war or by the long rivalry between King Hussein and various Arab leaders. (4) As one of Jordan's former foreign ministers put it:
The major issue that isn't noticed in our relations with other Arab countries was, well, King Hussein was an ambitious man. He inherited the philosophy of the Arab revolt, the ancestry of the Prophet Muhammad, and his grandfather's vision he shared of uniting the Arabs with Jordanian leadership and with the Hashemite family. King Abdullah does not claim to be king of all the Arabs. Just the king of Jordan. So these people--Syria, Palestinians, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia are not as edgy as they were with King Hussein. They are not threatened by Abdullah. There was always that anger that Abdullah I, and then King Hussein, was jumping ahead of himself. Especially with the Saudis. They feared what the ambitions might be. (5)
Almost immediately after becoming king, Abdullah made clear his interest and indeed aptitude for foreign policy, by embarking on a series of trips to key capitals to shore up international support for his regime and for Jordan. Underscoring his central concern with Jordan's economic development, Abdullah had within the first six months of his reign visited the leaders of each of the Group of Seven (G-7) states--the world's seven most industrialized and most wealthy countries. Perhaps more surprisingly, however, the young king also toured the Arab Gulf states and even made a point of visiting Libya and Syria--states that had often had tenuous relations with Jordan under King Hussein.
Despite Jordan's importance to war and peace in the region, from Palestine to the Persian Gulf, the literature on the kingdom's foreign policy remains sparse. A few works, however, have delved deeply into the economic underpinnings of Jordanian policy, into the social construction of Jordanian identity itself, and into the contested nature of that identity--and hence of policy--in the Jordanian public sphere. (6) Jordan's foreign policy is certainly also influenced strongly by its geographic position and its relative weakness vis-a-vis its neighbors. The Kingdom is clearly economically, politically, and militarily weaker than any of its neighbors and this has given rise to a politics of vulnerability, manifested in a cautious and conservative approach to foreign policy making. (7) As Bassel Salloukh has argued, Jordanian foreign policy under King Hussein was based in large part on concerns for regime legitimacy, consolidation, and survival. (8)
These overriding concerns with regime survival have not vanished with the succession in the monarchy to King Abdullah II. Indeed, paramount among all considerations, I argue, is the political economy of Hashemite regime security in understanding Jordan's changing foreign relations under King Abdullah. Jordan's economy is deeply indebted and entirely dependent on foreign aid from key external benefactors, especially the United States. (9) There is even a certain redundancy of pressures built into the global political economy since for Jordan and so many other countries the major sources of economic aid (the U.S., European Union, and Japan) happen also to have the majority of votes within powerful global economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The redundancy issue continues even to the world of private banking or corporate foreign investment, since most global banks and indeed most of the world's foreign investment capital is also concentrated in the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan. In short, small indebted countries like Jordan tend to be inherently constrained in their foreign policy decision-making. Jordan, to be blunt, cannot afford to alienate its creditors and its sources of foreign aid.
Yet at the same time Jordan's economy, like all economies, still runs on oil. Hence an additional economic concern is the kingdom's oil supply source. In the context of the 2003 U.S. war on Iraq, however, the economic pressures were contradictory, since all of Jordan's oil came from Iraq, while the kingdom's dependency on U.S. and even British foreign aid was also clear. But for Jordan the oil issue was not just a matter of being entirely dependent on a single country as a source; rather, it also turned on the lucrative nature of the specific Jordanian-Iraqi oil deal. Iraq provided Jordan with 100 percent of its oil supply, to be sure. But just as importantly, half that supply was provided for free, while the other half was provided at severely reduced prices (usually half price). For Jordan, the question then became not only one of alternative suppliers, but also one of whether any other supplier would provide the kingdom with this kind of concessionary deal--and the kingdom's budget is not set to accommodate any other kind of arrangement.
For these reasons the kingdom is intent on preserving its economic links to global powers, and also on restoring and deepening its economic connections to regional states such as the "oil kingdoms"--the Arab monarchies of the Gulf. Because of its stance during the 1991 Gulf war, Jordan suffered from the economic backlash of these same states. Saudi Arabia had in particular severed foreign aid, cut all oil supplies to the kingdom, and expelled more than 300,000 Jordanian guest workers. Jordan had also suffered from a brief cessation of U.S. and European economic aid in the aftermath of that same crisis. (10) It is worth noting here that both circumstances still haunt Jordanian policy makers. (11)
King Abdullah appears to be particularly determined to ensure that such a political-economic rift will never again emerge in Jordan's relations with the West or with the Gulf. It took several years for Jordan to reestablish its relations with the Arab Gulf states after the 1991 Gulf war. Jordan restored full diplomatic relations with Qatar in 1994, and reestablished full diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia only in 1995. But even earlier that same year King Fahd had refused to meet with King Hussein when the latter was in-country for a pilgrimage. It would not be until 1996 that the first face-to-face meetings would occur between the Jordanian and Saudi monarchs since the 1991 Gulf war. In sum, Jordanian government officials remain wary of future such diplomatic--and more importantly economic--rifts with major external benefactors. These overriding concerns with the political economy of Hashemite regime security continue severely to constrain Jordanian foreign policy, including during the 2002-03 crisis and war with Iraq.
King Abdullah, for his part, has attempted to lessen Jordan's dependence on foreign aid by increasing the domestic productive capabilities of the economy. This has led the king's teams of economic planners to focus especially on foreign investment, joint ventures, and trade as the key factors in Jordan's economic development. The very makeup of the Jordanian government reflects these priorities, as more and more top officials, including Prime Minister Ali Abu al-Raghib himself, are neoliberal technocrats who share King Abdullah's vision of a Jordan rich in information technology and productive private capital. Thus as important as economic factors have been in Jordanian policy in the past, they are even more important to Jordan under King Abdullah II. According to one of Jordan's former cabinet ministers, "it is development that defines King Abdullah. And that right there explains Jordan's relations with the Gulf countries. It's about development." (12) These economic concerns provided strong incentives for the new king to solidify existing bilateral relations, while also repairing the rifts that had emerged between Jordan and its main economic partners or patrons.
Yet with the political economy of regime survival appearing to drive so many Jordanian foreign policy shifts, it must also be noted that these have carried domestic costs. The Abdullah regime, like that of Hussein before it, has placed paramount importance on economic links and security concerns, often at the expense of the program of domestic political liberalization. All controversial foreign policy moves in recent years have been accompanied by further retreats from Jordan's domestic political liberalization process. (13) In the current climate of regional crises, for example, from renewed Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza, to renewed U.S. war against Iraq, Jordan's parliamentary elections were repeatedly postponed. National parliamentary elections had been held in 1989, 1993, and 1997 with a fourth round due in November 2001. (14) Those elections were rescheduled to the summer, then the fall of 2002, and were soon more than a year overdue. The elections finally did take place, however, in June 2003 in the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq war and in the context of attempts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
As Schwedler has noted, it seems clear that these electoral postponements would have occurred even without the additional security concerns that followed the 11 September 2001, attacks on the United States. The deliberalization process seemed to be well underway in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. The renewed Palestinian uprising, coupled with fears of renewed war in the Persian Gulf, only added to that process. In Schwedler's view, "the events of September 11 did not so much change the course of domestic politics in Jordan as accelerate them by providing a Washington-friendly justification for increased political repression." (15) Jordanian foreign policy, therefore, must be seen as walking the tightrope between domestic, regional, and even global constraints. But by the same token, the regime's interest in the economics of its own security tends to take precedence in both domestic and foreign policy over all other considerations. I will now turn to an analysis of Jordan's changing relations with Syria and Iraq, before returning to the domestic implications of the regime's own slogan: "Jordan first".
JORDAN'S CHANGING RELATIONS WITH SYRIA
Within regional and inter-Arab relations, the Jordanian-Syrian relationship has been among the most volatile. Jordan and Syria fought as (at least nominal) allies in the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars, but more often acted as rivals in regional politics. (16) In 1970, with the outbreak of the Jordanian civil war or the "Black September" conflict between the Hashemite armies and PLO guerrilla forces, Syria had launched an unsuccessful invasion of northern Jordan. That invasion failed for three main reasons: Jordanian military resistance, Syrian intra-regime rifts that prevented air cover from supporting Syrian ground troops, and finally, Israeli threats to intervene on the side of the Hashemite monarchy against Syria. Yet only a few years later, in 1975, Jordan and Syria had allied together this time in a very real sense--and had achieved fairly extensive levels of political and economic cooperation. By 1980, however, they had de-aligned once again with intense recriminations and saber-rattling on their mutual border. Jordan had by this time shifted to an alliance with Iraq and throughout the 1980's Jordan supported Iraq while Syria supported Iran in the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war. The two states differed again during the 1991 Gulf war, when Syrian troops deployed in Saudi Arabia as part of the U.S.-led coalition, while Jordan opposed foreign intervention (and was thus viewed by some in the U.S. government as collaborating with Iraq). (17)
Jordan and Syria, in short, seemed doomed to find themselves on opposite sides of major conflicts from the Gulf wars throughout the global Cold War. Adding to the usually frosty relations between the two states was the personal animosity of the respective rulers. There was certainly no love lost between King Hussein and Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad. But by 1994, King Hussein's decision to pursue a lull peace treaty with Israel confirmed the worst suspicions in Damascus that Jordan, like Egypt before it, would opt for a separate bilateral peace with Israel. In Asad's view, this marked yet another departure from the ranks of a united Arab front against Israel.
Despite Syrian hostility, the Jordanian regime signed on to the Washington-sponsored Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty. While Asad in particular made clear his displeasure, the reaction from Damascus was nonetheless rather subdued. Syria did not support Jordan's move, but neither did it indulge in recriminations such as those that had followed from Anwar Sadat's separate peace between Egypt and Israel. Unlike Sadat's Egypt, Jordan was not expelled from the Arab League, nor did it stiffer from a pan-Arab embargo. The difference here was the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israel and the PLO. With Israeli-Palestinian negotiations already underway, the Jordanian peace treaty with Israel became part of a broader regional process, and most importantly followed the Palestinian move, unlike Sadat's more unilateral "defection" from Arab ranks. Still. the peace treaty did nothing to ameliorate Jordanian-Syrian tensions, and relations between Jordan and Syria remained positively frigid for several years.
When King Hussein passed away in 1999, he and President Asad had never really reconciled. Yet to the surprise of many Jordanians, Asad arrived in Amman with a large entourage to march in King Hussein's funeral procession and to pay his respects to the late king's son and heir, Abdullah. Asad's presence also served another purpose, by allowing the Syrian president to meet directly with other key world leaders, at a time when U.S. and European leaders were otherwise unlikely to travel to Damascus.
Within inter-Arab relations, however, Jordanian-Syrian rapprochement may have begun at that very moment. Within the year, President Hafiz al-Asad had also passed away, and despite the seeming blur between republic and monarchy, he too passed power on to his son. With both states under new leadership for the first time in decades, the Jordanian-Syrian rapprochement was fully underway. President Bashar al-Asad and King Abdullah II already knew one another and had met on several occasions. In some ways they are similar: both in their mid-thirties, both interested in computers and communications and changing their societies, and both succeeding a leader that served so long that most citizens remembered no other.
The warm personal rapport of Bashar and Abdullah has certainly helped bring Jordanian-Syrian relations to one of their closest points ever. This has been further enhanced by strong pro-Syrian constituencies in Jordanian politics that have long viewed warm Jordanian-Syrian relations as the "natural" order of things. In the absence of the personal rivalries and the opposite stances that had characterized the Cold War and the Iran-Iraq war, Jordan no longer seems to have to choose between aligning with either Syria or Iraq. While the Jordanian-Iraqi relationship did indeed suffer in the mid- and late 1990's, that was not attributable to warming Jordanian-Syrian ties, and indeed even that rift did not extend to Jordan under King Abdullah. For some policy makers, such as former foreign minister Tahir al-Masri, a key component of this change is not only the new leadership in Damascus and Amman, but also the changes following the peace treaty with Israel:
For our relations with Syria, it's natural it would get better because the two old pillars have disappeared and with that came two new leaders, without the same inhibitions. And they're the same age and generation ... Now, Jordan has diluted its role in the region. There is no clear role to play now. It used to be that good relations with Syria meant Iraq was angry with you, or good relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia was angry with you. But with Jordan's diminishing role and the disengagement from the Palestinian cause and issue, and the real and genuine acceptance that Ararat and the PLO or PNA represents the real entity called Palestine, there is now no reason to have a quarrel with Jordan over this. (18)
While Jordan's peace with Israel did indeed change the strategic conditions of regional politics, this is not to say that the move was met with universal acceptance. Jordanian-Syrian relations had already been strained for years, and that relationship predictably deteriorated still further following the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty. The fall of 1998, for example, saw a particularly virulent barrage of attacks against Jordan within the state media in Syria, especially in a series of statements by Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, who accused Jordan of having been entirely co-opted by Israel. Tlas managed also to jab the Hashemite regime over what he saw as an emerging Jordanian-Israeli-Turkish alliance, and he even complained of Jordan's limited commitment to the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. (19)
Following the death of King Hussein in 1999, however, the two countries' bilateral relations began to improve. In that year, both countries revived the Joint Jordanian-Syrian Higher Committee, marking the first such organized meeting in more than a decade. In 2000, King Abdullah and President Bashar al-Asad exchanged a series of state visits to each other's capitals, thereby pushing the warming trend still further. Each bilateral summit produced further evidence of cooperation, especially in trade and other economic issues.
As noted above, however, Jordan's various foreign policy links--especially those with Western countries, the Gulf monarchies, and even Israel--are not only of political but also of paramount economic importance to the regime. Jordan is dependent not only on financial aid, but also on external sources of water. That fact, for example, was an incentive in securing a peace treaty with Israel in the first place, but it is also an incentive in maintaining that treaty, and with it, access to water transported from Israel to Jordan. But even then, with droughts and politics intervening to reduce the amount of water sent from Israel, the kingdom had to turn to Syria in the summers of 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 for additional water supplies. The Jordanian-Syrian entente, in short, quickly proved valuable in at least partially alleviating the kingdom's chronic water shortages.
But beyond the specific questions of water supplies or indeed even of Jordanian-Syrian relations, it is clear that external ties are seen as so economically vital to the kingdom: the regime has tended to exhibit limited tolerance for domestic opposition to its foreign policy decisions. This is especially noticeable in the continuing rift between the government and the political opposition over the peace treaty with Israel. Opposition forces have continued in their campaign to halt normalization of ties with Israel, a campaign led largely by the professional associations--that is, the organizations within Jordanian civil society that represent specific professions such as pharmacists, engineers, lawyers, medical doctors, journalists, and so on. These associations in turn overlap to some extent in membership and outlook with numerous political parties, such as the Islamic Action Front and various leftist and pan-Arab nationalist parties.
With the second Intifada beginning in 2000, that campaign gathered steadily more domestic political support and soon came to encompass public anger over U.S. threats against Iraq. As Lynch has argued, this led to an unusually powerful and pervasive consensus in Jordanian domestic politics against U.S. support for the Israeli occupation and against U.S. military threats to neighboring Iraq. The consensus had in turn led to a boycott of U.S. goods in the kingdom, including the many U.S. fast food restaurants that have multiplied especially across Amman. The level of popular dissatisfaction, and of government unease, is reflected in increasing Jordanian military deployments in civilian areas in anticipation of unrest, in what some opposition leaders have described as "occupied Amman." (20)
What escaped the notice of many outside of Jordan, however, was that--despite their many differences--the regimes in Damascus and Amman were actually in general agreement with one another on some major foreign policy issues. At least verbally and officially, Jordan and Syria both supported the Palestinian Intifada against the Israeli occupation and both opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, albeit in varying degrees. Jordanian-Syrian relations, in short, now bear no resemblance to the "Cold War" that so long characterized their international interactions.
I will return to the domestic consequences of Jordan's precarious international maneuvering in the concluding section of this article, but first I will turn to Jordan's other tumultuous relationship within Arab regional politics--the kingdom's relations with Iraq.
JORDAN'S CHANGING RELATIONS WITH IRAQ
Like its relationship with Syria, Jordan's relations with Iraq shifted dramatically many times over the years. This becomes especially clear if we note how close the two countries' relations had been for more than a decade preceding the ill-fated Iraqi military invasion of Kuwait. As the two original Hashemite monarchies established in the Middle East by Britain, following World War One and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Jordan and Iraq had initially maintained close relations based on family ties. This ended when the Hashemite royal family in Iraq was overthrown and killed by dissident military officers in the 1958 coup d'etat. Not surprisingly, in the years that followed the two regimes became unalterably hostile to one another. But by the late 1970's, Jordan and Iraq had drifted together once again, building a bilateral alliance that would last through the 1991 Gulf war. In 1979 Iraq initiated contacts aimed at closer alignment at a time when the newly established President Saddam Hussein was seeking Arab allies, perhaps to provide for at least some level of transnational support and inter-Arab legitimacy for his regime. (21) More important for the Jordanians, however, were the economic pay-offs of such an alliance: Iraq could provide economic support and oil supplies that the kingdom desperately needed. (22)
But as the new alliance began to solidify in 1980, Saddam Hussein's military forces invaded Iran and King Hussein in particular immediately backed Iraq against the revolutionary Islamist regime in Iran. The Hashemite government viewed Iran as a potential threat not from military expansion, but as a supporter and living example of Islamist revolutionary militancy against conservative pro-Western monarchies. For King Hussein, Iran was a threat not just to his regime's security directly, but also indirectly in so far as it threatened the Arab Gulf monarchies oil which Jordan was partially reliant for aid. (23) Throughout the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Jordan supported Iraq politically and especially economically. Indeed, Jordan's port of Aqaba and its overland trucking routes became Iraq's main supply line throughout the eight long years of that war. In return, Jordan received oil from Iraq at prices far below market value. (24)
To expand on these political-economic linkages, Jordan helped create the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC) in 1989, in the immediate aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war. The ACC alliance of Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Yemen was meant to facilitate capital and labor flows between members while also allowing them to act as a fairly formidable lobbying bloc within inter-Arab politics in their mutual efforts to renegotiate their debt terms with the Arab Gulf monarchies. Despite strenuous Jordanian efforts to prevent it, that alliance evaporated in the heat of the 1990-91 Gulf war. (25)
As the United States recruited Arab countries to join its coalition against Iraq in 1991, Jordan tried to steer a middle course between Baghdad and Washington. The Hashemite Kingdom thereby attempted to maintain both its U.S. and Iraqi alliances, while King Hussein engaged in ultimately unsuccessful attempts at mediation. In the end, Jordan's Gulf war position alienated most of the kingdom's allies and especially damaged relations with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Arab Gulf monarchies. The context of these Jordanian decisions, in domestic politics and political economy, is vital to understanding the Jordanian position. In the year before the Iraqi invasion, Jordan had helped assemble the ACC that had served to deepen the already existing Jordanian-Iraqi alignment. In domestic politics, the kingdom had been rocked by political upheavals following the implementation of an International Monetary Fund adjustment and austerity program. (26) The 1989 IMF riots made clear the regime's domestic political and economic vulnerability, but also led the monarchy to initiate a program of political liberalization that included national parliamentary elections and looser restrictions on the media. The newly liberalized atmosphere, however, also served to amplify public opinion, which was hostile to any Jordanian or U.S. move against Iraq. (27)
Jordan's foreign policy decisions must therefore be seen against this backdrop of change. Domestic opinion, now able to be more vocal than ever before, was overwhelmingly supportive of Iraq against any foreign coalition. Decision-makers were certainly influenced and constrained by the public response, but they were also concerned that turning against Iraq would mean losing the country's largest local ally, its largest trading partner, and its main source of oil imports. (28) As a result of these calculations. Jordan did indeed steer a middle course: it refused to join the coalition, but also refused to send its troops to defend Iraq. Similarly it rejected Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and called for withdrawal, but also rejected the legitimacy of all international--rather than an inter-Arab--solution to the crisis. In the end, Jordan's stance satisfied no one and temporarily cost the kingdom its lucrative economic ties to the U.S., the United Kingdom, and the Arab Gulf monarchies. The latter states further penalized the kingdom not only by cutting off oil and aid supplies, but also by expelling hundreds of thousands of Jordanian and Palestinian guest workers. (29)
Jordan's 1991 Gulf war decision had therefore led to severe economic, social, and political costs. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the regime attempted to recoup some of these losses by playing on the kingdom's geo-strategic role and its critical importance to any hope for Arab-Israeli peace. In 1991, in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf war, Jordan quickly agreed to participate in the regional peace conference in Madrid. The process eventually led to the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, but not to stability or peace for the region.
The mid-1990's, however, also marked a new low point in Jordanian-Iraqi relations. By 1995, King Hussein had broken publicly with Iraq and allowed Iraqi opposition groups to organize and set up offices in Amman. Jordan even gave asylum to Saddam Hussein's daughters and sons-in-law when they temporarily defected from Iraq . As has occurred during every Jordanian-Iraqi rift, regional rumor mills and assorted tabloids put forward the theory that Jordan intended to revive Hashemite claims to Iraq--something the Jordanian government has always denied, and would again feel compelled to deny as late as 2003. In 1997, Jordan expelled Iraqi diplomats following the execution in Baghdad of several Jordanian merchants accused of smuggling. During this heated period, each government accused the other of meddling in its domestic affairs, with verbal charges punctuated by the violent episodes noted above. The rift, however, proved nonetheless to be short-lived and in the final years of King Hussein's reign, Jordanian-Iraqi relations began to become warmer.
Following the 1999 succession in the Jordanian monarchy, King Abdullah called--in his first speech before parliament for an end to the United Nations embargo on Iraq. In 2000, Jordan became the first Arab country officially to break the embargo by sending planes of medical supplies and later high-level government delegations to Baghdad. After Jordanian airliners began landing in Baghdad, numerous other countries followed suit. Jordan and Iraq softened their diplomatic rhetoric toward one another and agreed to resume Iraqi shipments of oil to Jordan at concessionary prices. The improved Jordanian-Iraqi relationship did not amount to a new alliance, but the foreign policy shift was nonetheless extremely significant, for it signaled an end to the brief period of open hostility that had marked the late 1990's. (30)
Even before returning to warmer diplomatic ties, Iraq and Jordan had maintained functional and pragmatic economic cooperation despite their diplomatic rift. By the late 1990's, the lack of an economic windfall from Israel had pushed Jordan and Iraq back together at least at the economic level. Iraq remained the sole source of Jordan's oil supply, while Jordan's port of Aqaba remained practically Iraq's only lifeline to the outside world as the UN sanctions regime continued. (31) Thus the economic symbiosis between the two states, while problematic for several years, managed to survive the Israeli peace treaty.
Rebuilding diplomatic (and more importantly economic) bridges between Jordan and Iraq capped the overall trend in Jordanian policy under Abdullah to restore or improve relations with each of Jordan's neighbors, with the Arab world in general, and with non-Arab regional and global powers. With the tumultuous 1980's and 1990's finally behind them, the Jordanians had achieved (albeit briefly) greater stability in foreign relations than perhaps ever before. Specifically, the kingdom's relations with all of its neighbors ranged from stable to warm, with extra-regional connections to Western powers and global economic institutions stronger than ever. This moment of stability would last barely two years, however, for although Jordan's official state-to-state relations were stable, the same could not be said of the regional political climate. Despite solid foreign relations, Jordan remained wedged between escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence to the west and heightened fears of renewed U.S.-Iraqi warfare to the east.
9-11 AND AFTER: JORDAN AND THE "WAR ON TERRORISM"
Following the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the already strong Jordanian-U.S. link grew stronger still. The kingdom backed the U.S. military campaign against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and later sent Jordanian troops to participate in peacekeeping operations there. Within the Jordanian press, stories had even circulated claiming that the government had uncovered and foiled a plot, linked to Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qa'eda organization, to assassinate Jordan's royal family itself. (32) The immediate impact of these events led to even closer U.S.-Jordanian relations, including the Congressional vote to approve the U.S.-Jordanian Free Trade Agreement--the first free trade agreement between the U.S. and an Arab country. Jordan even managed to secure a doubling of its foreign aid package from the United States, elevating the kingdom to one of the top recipients of U.S. aid, behind Israel, Egypt, and Colombia. Yet in the context of rising Palestinian and Iraqi casualty tolls (in the former case from Israeli forces, and in the latter case from the sanctions regime and the later U.S. invasion), Jordan's seemingly unwavering support of the U.S. carried potentially severe domestic costs. The rift between state and society was indeed wide, and steadily growing.
Given the rising regional crises, many Jordanian officials feared the nightmare scenario of an Israeli mass expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank across the Jordan river. Similarly, to the east, the regime feared being dragged into a U.S.-Iraq war. Among many other objections, they feared that massive numbers of Iraqi refugees might flow westward into the kingdom, joining the hundreds of thousands of dissident Iraqis already there. They may also have feared potential U.S. pressures to allow American forces to launch combat missions from the Jordanian desert into western Iraq. The domestic implications of the regime joining an unprovoked attack on another Arab country, especially one that had suffered so much under the sanctions regime, were dire to say the least.
For these reasons, King Abdullah and the Hashemite regime repeatedly made clear their opposition to any strike on Iraq. The Jordanians were joined in this by a veritable chorus from other U.S. regional allies such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia, as well as even more fervent opposition from their new ally, Syria. Contradictory press reports charged that the regime opposed absolutely any strike, and also that the regime was negotiating secret deals to allow strikes to take place from Jordanian soil. (33) These latter reports also charged that economic factors remained a major sticking point, with the regime making clear the need for an alternative oil supplier if Iraqi supplies were to be disrupted. (34) In the end, Jordan did allow the deployment of U.S. Patriot anti-missile batteries in its eastern dessert, but the regime insisted that no U.S. combat operations were launched from Jordanian soil and that the U.S. military deployment was minimal, defensive, and temporary. As noted earlier, King Abdullah was also determined not to have Jordan suffer the same outcome that had occurred after the 1991 Gulf war. Jordan, like most other Arab states, did not join the U.S. coalition--which in effect meant that the coalition was in real terms a bilateral combined operation of the United States and the United Kingdom.
In January 2003, when the World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, King Abdullah was the only Arab head of state to address the conference. In doing so, the king made clear Jordan's opposition to war with Iraq, but also his skepticism that it could be avoided given U.S. military preparations. He also reiterated, however, his concern that the real unresolved issue in Middle East politics was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and not any issue in the Gulf region. (35)
As suggested in the title of this article, King Abdullah's domestic and foreign policy may best be summarized in the regime's own slogan: "Jordan first" (al-Urdun Awalan). While this suggests a strong nationalist approach to foreign policy, it has also been used to counter "foreign" influences within Jordanian domestic politics. King Abdullah has, for example, personally criticized the international ties of many of Jordan's core opposition parties, from both pro-Syrian and pro-Iraqi Ba'thist parties within the kingdom, to the Communist party, to the Islamic Action Front. In King Abdullah's words:
The programs, objectives, membership and financing of every party operating in Jordanian territory ought to be purely Jordanian ... In recent decades, Jordan has given priority to Arab interests and not to its national interests ... We have a right to be concerned first for our own people, as every country in the world does, which is where our "Jordan first" slogan comes from. (36)
The nationalist tone, in short, applies not just to foreign policy, but also to domestic politics. In actual practice, however, this means that many forms of political opposition, whether on the secular left or religious right, can potentially be categorized as un-Jordanian. Even before the "Jordan first" public relations campaign began, dissident voices were silenced through arrests of journalists, political party activists, and professional association officials critical of the regime. Dissidents as diverse as independent Islamist Layth Shubaylat and feminist activist Tujan al-Faysal (the only woman elected to parliament prior to 2003) were in separate cases arrested, convicted of various anti-regime remarks, and released. But having been convicted, neither major opposition figure is eligible to run for a seat in parliament.
In August 2002, the regime signaled the limits to its tolerance of criticism by the satellite television station Al-Jazeera, by shutting down the station's Amman office. The offending program had involved an interview with U.S. scholar Asad Abu Khalil, who had criticized the late King Hussein for being too close to Israel and to the United States even before the 1994 peace treaty. According to Muhammad Afash Adwan, Jordan's minister of information, Al-Jazeera had crossed a line in a way that "continuously intends to harm Jordan and its national stands whether directly or indirectly" and "in a way which confirms that its main goal is to create disturbance ... and provoke sedition." (37)
Within the kingdom itself, meanwhile, unrest had re-emerged once again in the south of Jordan, particularly in the city of Ma'an--the scene of widespread rioting against IMF austerity programs in 1989 and 1996, as well as widespread demonstrations against U.S. bombing of Iraq in 1998. In 2002, Ma'an was once again a local point for opposition, but interestingly the city seems to be seen simultaneously as a bedrock of traditional Hashemite support, as a hotbed of Islamist activity, and also as a center for pro-Iraqi Ba'thist activity. Ma'an, in short, is continually socially reconstructed, but always with emphasis oil external sources of opposition. (38) Jordan's intelligence service, or mukhabarat, apparently believes that this is not just a matter of indigenous Islamist activity, but rather of outside agitators. These were represented as either Al-Qa'eda influenced Saudis, who cross from the nearby Saudi border, or as veterans of Afghani fighting who had re-emerged in Jordan after the fall of the Taliban regime in the 2001-2002 U.S.-Afghani war. During earlier unrest in 1996 and 1998, the mukhaharat had charged that local pro-Iraqi Ba'thist agents were stirring unrest and violence in the same location. As before, the regime response has involved not only the police, but also the regular army. Troops sealed off the town completely before moving through key neighborhoods in force, killing six people, and arresting more than 100.
The November 2002 raid and military deployment in Ma'an followed the October 2002 assassination of American diplomat Lawrence Foley. Foley had been shot to death outside his home in Amman. Jordanian forces since that time have attempted to round up the militants responsible. But whether the domestic military operation in Ma'an was truly aimed at religious fundamentalists or secular leftists, at criminal smuggling syndicates or foreign militants, the appearance in a Jordanian town of soldiers, tanks, and helicopter gunships invoked the same images as the unrest of 1989, 1996, and 1998. Jordanians drew comparisons not just to these earlier events within Jordan, but also to Israeli repression in the Intifada. (39) Given the level of force used to quell Ma'am the Hashemite regime may have been attempting to curb dissent in general, in anticipation of the looming U.S. war against Iraq. Indeed the government has repeatedly issued decrees with new restrictions on publications, public demonstrations, and various other aspects of civil society. From 1999 to 2003 alone, the government issued well over 100 such "temporary" laws. In Jordan, as elsewhere, the state emphasis on security and the "war on terrorism" have been used to justify numerous aspects of de-liberalization.
As this essay has attempted to make clear, Jordan under King Abdullah II has placed a premium on stabilizing and strengthening its inter-Arab and other regional relations. The regime has in many respects succeeded in these endeavors, despite the fact that external events--from the Intifada, to 9-11, to U.S.-Iraqi hostility--threaten to tear down all that the new regime has achieved. And in its external relations, at least, Abdullah's regime has achieved many of its goals. These include in particular establishing stronger ties with its traditional Western allies and with the main global economic institutions. These key international alignments are based in very large part on the regime's perceptions of Jordan's economic interests. Jordan under King Abdullah solidified its alliances and its aid links to the United States and the United Kingdom, while also strengthening ties to the European Union as a whole and working closely with the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. King Abdullah spent a great deal of time in key western capitals lobbying not only for raising aid levels and restructuring debt repayments, but also for increased foreign investment. Jordan's economic development plans and the king's speeches continually emphasize the importance of foreign investment not just in Amman, but throughout the country. This includes the establishment of special free economic zones, such as one in southern Jordan at Aqaba. In many respects, the official message from the Jordanian regime, at venues such as the World Economic Forum and elsewhere, is that Jordan is open for business. But as Greenwood has argued, this strategy seems to be aimed also at mollifying and co-opting key constituencies such as Transjordanians and the business community. (40)
In this context, Jordan had furthermore repaired its formerly ruptured ties with Arab states from Iraq to Syria to Egypt to each Arab Gulf monarchy--all while preserving its peace treaty with Israel and its military links to Turkey. Yet none of these alliances and alignments was able fully to insulate Jordan from the ripple effects of the resurgent Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, terrorist attacks on the United States, and the U.S. war with Iraq. None of these alignments, despite the economic gains that they sometimes entail, can shield the regime from its own population should stability in the region continue to collapse. Since as early as 1994, external crises have for too long provided the cause, or the excuse, for stagnation of the political liberalization process within the kingdom, and even for active deliberalization.
Thus in the current context of severe regional instability, the regime's already established tendency to allow political liberalization to take a back seat to all other priorities is only exacerbated, rendering the successes in foreign policy dubious in the end. "Jordan first", in short, may also amount to "regime security first." But regime security cannot be purchased through external alliance alone, or solely through foreign aid or foreign investment. To achieve real security, for both state and society in Jordan, a revitalization of the political liberalization process is absolutely essential. In that regard, the kingdom's June 2003 parliamentary elections (originally scheduled for November 2001 but postponed several times) were certainly a step in the right direction. (41)
The national parliamentary elections were the first since 1997, the first since the dissolution of parliament in 2001, and the first in the reign of King Abdullah II. The elections took place in the context of electoral laws that introduced a new system of magnetic voting cards, reduced the voting age from 19 to 18, and increased the number of parliamentary seats to 110 (including a new quota of 6 seats to guarantee minimal representation for women). The new laws also maintained the pattern of uneven electoral districts, tilting representation toward more conservative rural areas and away from urban centers of Palestinian or Islamist strength. Not surprisingly, the poll results yielded a parliament dominated by a clear majority of tribal and pro-regime candidates. There is, however, at least minimal representation for the opposition, which had returned to electoral participation after having boycotted the 1997 elections. For example 17 parliamentary seats went to the Islamic Action Front and four to independent Islamists. (42)
But the key question remains whether these elections mark a new beginning in the political liberalization process, or if they were simply an end in themselves. For all Jordanian democracy activists, the hope is that this marks the resumption of genuine liberalization, largely stalled since 1994. By the same token, however, these same advocates of democracy also fear that this may amount to mere cosmetic change, as has been the norm in the past. Much will depend on how the new parliament itself approaches its role, and whether it tackles key issues such as reforming the electoral laws as well as laws on the press, publications, public demonstrations and other aspects of a more vibrant civil society. In the meantime, the regime of King Abdullah II is indeed well positioned to play a particularly productive regional role, both in reviving a more meaningful peace process and in helping dissuade its powerful U.S. ally from still further wars in region. But in concert with such key foreign policy challenges, the greater security of the Hashemite regime will hinge on its commitment to reviving and deepening the once-impressive political liberalization process at home.
(1.) For further analysis of Jordan's political liberalization, monarchical succession, economic adjustment, and foreign policy changes since 1989, see Curtis R. Ryan, Jordan in Transition: From Hussein to Abdullah (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002).
(2.) See Uriel Dann, King Hussein's Strategy of Survival (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1992), Mohammad lbrahim Faddah, The Middle East in Transition: A Study of Jordan's Foreign Policy, (London: Asia Publishing House, 1974), Khalid Ibrahim al-Arabuti, Fikr al-Hussein fi al-Mizan [Hussein's Thought in the Balance] (Amman: 1992).
(3.) On the Arab Cold War and inter-Arab relations generally see, inter alia, Michael Barnett, Dialogues in Arab Politics." Negotiations in Regional Order (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), Malcolm Kerr, The Arab Cold War: Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir and His Rivals, 1958-70 (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria: A Study of PostWar Arab Politics, 1945-1958 (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), and Alan R. Taylor, The Arab Balance of Power (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1982).
(4.) For other analyses of Jordanian foreign policy, see also John C. Creed, "Between Rocks and Hard Places? The Strategic Path of Jordan in a Changing Middle East," Journal of Political Science, Vol. 30 (2002): pp. 89-118 and Curtis R. Ryan, "Jordan: The Politics of Alliance and Foreign Policy," in Jeanne A. K. Hey, (Ed.), Small States in World Politics: Explaining Foreign Policy Behavior (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2003), pp. 135-155.
(5.) Author interview. Amman, July 2001.
(6.) See respectively Laurie A. Brand, Jordan's Inter-Arab Relations: The Political Economy of Alliance Making (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994) and Marc Lynch, State Interests and Public Spheres. The International Politics of Jordan's Identity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).
(7.) Ali E. Hillal Dessouki and Karen Aboul Kheir, "The Politics of Vulnerability and Survival: The Foreign Policy of Jordan," in Bahgat Korany and Ali E. Hillal Dessouki (Eds.), The Foreign Policies of Arab States: The Challenge of Change (Boulder: Westview Press, 1991), pp. 216-235.
(8.) Bassel F. Salloukh, "State Strength, Permeability, and Foreign Policy Behavior: Jordan in Theoretical Perspective," Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Spring 1996): pp. 37-65.
(9.) Khalil Hammad, "The Role of Foreign Aid in the Jordanian Economy, 1959-1983," in Bichara Khader and Adnan Badran (Eds.), The Economic Development of Jordan (London: Croom Helm, 1987), pp. 11-31, Fawzi Khatib, "Foreign Aid and Economic Development in Jordan: An Empirical Investigation," in Rodney Wilson (Ed.), Politics and the Economy in Jordan (New York: Routledge, 1991), pp. 60-76.
(10.) For analyses of Jordan's Gulf war position by Jordanian scholars, see Kamel S. Abu Jaber, "Jordan and the Gulf War," in Tareq Y. Ismael and Jacqueline S. Ismael (Eds.), The Gulf War and the New World Order (Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1994), pp. 366-382 and Mustafa B. Hamarneh, "Jordan Responds to the Gulf Crisis," in Phyllis Bennis and Michel Mousbabeck (Eds.). Beyond the Storm: A Gulf Crisis Reader (Edinburgh: Cannongate, 1992), pp. 228-240.
(11.) This point was made by numerous Jordanian policy makers interviewed in Amman in 1993, 1999, and 2001.
(12.) Author interview with Dr. Jawad al-Anani, former senator, deputy prime minister, minister of industry and trade, minister of supply, and chief of the Royal Hashemite Court. Amman, 13 July 2001.
(13.) Laurie A. Brand, "The Effects of the Peace Process on Political Liberalization in Jordan," Journal of Palestine Studies 28 (2) 1999: 52-67.
(14.) On the 1989, 1993, and 1997 elections see Ryan, "Elections and Parliamentary Democratization in Jordan," Democratization 5 (4) 1998: 194214. See also on Jordan's political liberalization Rex Brynen, "Economic Crisis and Post-Rentier Democratization in the Arab World: The Case of Jordan," Canadian Journal of Political Science 25 (1) 1992: 69-97, Malik Mufti, "Elite Bargains and the Onset of Political Liberalization in Jordan," Comparative Political Studies 32 (1) 1999: 100-129, and Glenn E. Robinson, Defensive Democratization in Jordan," International Journal of Middle East Studies 30 (3) 1998: 387-410.
(15.) Jillian Schwedler, "Don't Blink: Jordan's Democratic Opening and Closing," MERIP Press Information Note, 3 July 2002 (www.merip.org).
(16.) Jordan and Syria each fought Israel in 1948 and 1967, but without coordination or cooperation, which is why these are best regarded as nominal alliances only.
(17.) Economic factors once again influenced both regimes' decisions during the 1991 Gulf war. For the Syrians, with the decline (and coming collapse) of Soviet aid, the war provided Damascus with the opportunity to curb a long-time rival, Iraq, while establishing warmer and potentially more lucrative relations with the wealthy Arab monarchies of the Gulf. The coalition also presented at least the possibility of gaining economic support from both the United States and the European Community. For Jordan, however, the crisis centered on the kingdom's key local ally, and hence Jordan's main source of oil as well as its main trading partner. In addition, the crisis erupted just over a year alter the kingdom had been rocked by riots and an IMF austerity program, leading the regime defensively to initiate its program of domestic political liberalization. The monarchy then chose to follow rather than lead public opinion, which was demonstrably hostile to the U.S.-led coalition.
(18.) Author interview with Tahir al-Masri. Amman, 14 July 2001.
(19.) Jordan Times, 9 September 1998 and 13 October 1998.
(20.) Quoted in Marc Lynch, "Jordan's King Abdullah in Washington," MERIP Press Information Note, 8 May 2002 (www.merip.org).
(21.) On the development of Jordanian-Iraqi relations up to the 1991 Gulf war, see Amatzia Baram, "Baathi Iraq and Hashemite Jordan: From Hostility to Alignment." Middle East Journal 45 (1) 1991 : 51-70.
(22.) See also Brand, Jordan's Inter-Arab Relations.
(23.) This pro-Iraqi and anti-Iranian initiative was led directly by King Hussein himself. Looking back on that time, Prime Ministers Zayd al-Rifa'i (1973-76, 1985-89) and Mudar Badran (1976-79, 1980-84, 1989-91) both stressed the accuracy of the king's longer-term vision in contrast to what they saw as a public failure to appreciate the threatening nature of the Khomeini regime. Author's interviews in Amman with Zayd al-Rifa'i, 29 March 1993, and Mudar Badran, 31 March 1993.
(24.) Andrew W. Terrill, "Saddam's Closest Ally: Jordan and the Gulf War," Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 9 (2) 1985: 43-54.
(25.) For a more detailed analysis, see Curtis R. Ryan, "Jordan and the Rise and Fall of the Arab Cooperation Council." Middle East Journal 52 (3) 1998: pp. 386-401.
(26.) See Curtis R. Ryan, "Peace, Bread, and Riots: Jordan and the International Monetary Fund," Middle East Policy 6 (2) 1998: pp. 54-66 and also Lamis Andoni and Jillian Schwedler, "Bread Riots in Jordan," Middle East Report 201 (October-December 1996): pp. 40-42.
(27.) For other analyses of Jordan during the Gulf war, see Brand, Jordan's Inter-Arab Relations, pp. 284-295 and Lynch, State Interests and Public Spheres, pp. 140-165.
(28.) Richard Harknett and Jeffrey Vandenberg, "Alignment Theory and Interrelated Threats: Jordan and the Persian Gulf Crisis." Security, Studies 6 (3) 1997: pp. 112-153.
(29.) This section on Jordanian-Iraqi relations draws in part on Curtis R. Ryan, "Jordan's Changing Relations," Middle East Insight (November-December 2000), pp. 83-87.
(30.) Curtis R. Ryan "Between Iraq and a Hard Place: Jordanian-Iraqi Relations." Middle East Report 215 (2000): pp. 40-42.
(31.) Barbara Nimri Aziz, "Iraq and Jordan--A Partnership Restored. " Middle EastInternational 2 May 1997, pp. 18-19.
(32.) Jordan Times, 8 October 2001.
(33.) See, for example, al-Dustur, 11 August 2002 and The Guardian, 10 July 2002.
(34.) Sec, for example, The Boston Globe, 10 October 2002 and The Washington Post, 23 September 2002.
(35.) The Star (Amman), 1 February 2003.
(36.) Agence France Presse, 11 October 2002.
(37.) BBC Monitoring Middle East / Associated Press, 7 August 2002.
(38.) See Jillian Schwedler, "Occupied Maan: Jordan's Closed Military Zone," Middle East Report Online, 3 December 2003 (www.merip.org).
(39.) "Black Masks Amid the Devout: Crackdown in Jordan," The Economist, 14 November 2002.
(40.) Scott Greenwood, "Jordan's 'New Bargain': The Political Economy of Regime Security," The Middle East Journal 57 (2) Spring 2003.
(41.) For brief analyses of liberalization and the 2003 elections, see Curtis R. Ryan, "Liberalization and deliberalization in Jordan," Perihelion. Online Journal of the European Rim Policy and Investment Council (ERPIC) February 2003, and Ryan, "Political Opposition, Democracy, and Jordan's 2003 Elections," Perihelion August 2003 (www.erpic.org).
(42.) On the elections, see the coverage in the Jordanian press particularly from 18 and 19 June 2003 in al-Ra'y (www.alrai.com), al-Arab al-Yawm (www.alarab-alyawm.com), al-Dustur (www.addustour.com), and al-Sabil (www.assabeel.com).
Curtis R. Ryan is with the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina.
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|Author:||Ryan, Curtis R.|
|Publication:||Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2004|
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