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On October 23, 2015, the Government of Jordan signed a new agreement with Russia on counter-terrorism cooperation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted: “Under an agreement between His Majesty King Abdullah II and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the militaries of the two countries have agreed to coordinate their actions, including military aircraft missions over the Syrian territory.”
Jordan has been, and remains, a significantly Western-oriented state, but it has, to some degree, recog-nized that it needs to find ways to guarantee its sovereignty with the pronounced decline in U.S. or Euro-pean security support.
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Jordanian Ambassador to Moscow Aiad al-Majali said that establishing a “special working mechanism” — understood to be a planned operational facility, based in Amman — to share information on Syrian operations increased military cooperation between both countries to an unprecedented level, noting: “It will not be just in a format of information exchange … (W)e see a necessity ‘to be on the ground’ as Jordan has a border with Syria. … (W)hen it comes to combating terrorism, we have to” increase Amman/Moscow cooperation. Discussions had been ongoing for some time.
The move reflects the growing disenchantment among senior Jordanian officials with what they have felt was the abuse of Jordanian hospitality, in the activities of U.S. and allied intelligence services in training, arming, and managing anti-Assad jihadist fighters from Jordanian soil in the Syrian conflict. In addition, Jordanian officials have reacted angrily to an October 7, 2015, statement by U.S. Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton which questioned Jordan’s political stability and what she described as its “uncertain future.”
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Jordan, of course, is severely taxed on several fronts, most significantly by the massive influx of refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, as well as from the Palestinian Authority, Somalia, Sudan, and, reportedly, Eritrea. The overwhelming majority — perhaps as much as three-quarters — of the million or so registered refugees in Jordan in late 2015 were from Syria. Thus, much of Jordan’s economic and political focus has, of late, been in containing the crises to its north, rather than focused on the Red Sea. In all of this, and despite hosting U.S. intelligence and special forces units which have been managing jihadist radical organizations fighting to overthrow Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad, Jordan has quietly been working against the U.S.-backed coalition of Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia which began, and sustain, the war against Assad. It has been this war — and the ongoing disruption in Iraq which began with the anti-Saddam Hussein war — which has given Jordan most of its grave refugee problems, and which have stirred radicalism within elements of Jordanian society.
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But in looking forward, much of Jordan’s future strategic strength lies in being able to tap into the Red Sea inlet, the Gulf of Aqaba, to provide desalinated water to transform Jordan’s economic prospects. It is understood to be contemplating the use of nuclear power to facilitate this.
Russia’s Rosatom, on March 24, 2015, signed a $10-billion deal with Jordan to build a 2,000 megaWatt nuclear reactor at Amra in the north of the Kingdom, with Russia meeting 49 percent of the project costs. Jordan has, thus far, been importing 98 percent of its energy, and electricity demand is growing at some seven percent annually. Its energy import costs have amounted to some $3-billion a year. The new nu-clear facility would supply some 10 percent of the national needs. [Significantly, in April 2015, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, while visiting Egypt, signed an agreement to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant.]
By GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs correspondent in Amman
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Defense and Foreign Affairs is a geopolitical news publication offered by the International Strategic Studies Association.