Jordan Government and Politics

Jordan is a monarchy with parliamentary-democratic elements. The monarchy is hereditary, and the Hashemitt dynasty has ruled the country since it became independent in 1946. Since 1999, Abdullah 2 has been king.

The King approves and proclaims laws. He declares war, makes peace and signs treaties. However, treaties must be approved by the National Assembly. The king is a military commander, appoints and dismisses officers, announces elections and appoints the prime minister, and the senate president and members.

The monarchy is enshrined in the constitution of 1952, last revised in 2003.

Jordan Country Flag

National Assembly

The Legislative National Assembly, Majlis al-Umma, plays a more modest role. It consists of two chambers, a people-elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate. The House of Representatives, Majlis al-Nuwaab, has 110 members and is elected for four years. Nine of the seats are reserved for Christians, three for churchgoers and six for women.

Parties were allowed from 1993, but the House of Representatives is nevertheless dominated by independent center candidates who are loyal to the King. The Islamic Action Front, which won 6 of the seats in the House of Representatives in the 2007 elections, is the Assembly’s only organized party. The Senate, Majlis al-Ayan, has 55 members appointed by the king for four years. Formally, the government is responsible to the National Assembly.

Administrative division

Jordan has been divided into 12 governorate-controlled provinces (muhafazah) since 1996.


The country’s judiciary is based on Islamic law, French models and elements of British common law. The Supreme Court is the Court of Cassation, with seven judges. Otherwise, there are three appeal courts, 11 of first courses and 17 magistrate dishes that judges in minor civil cases, besides two kinds of religious courts – Sharia dishes and church dishes (for different Christian groups).

Jordan’s foreign policy

The Jordanian king has played a key role in the political process in the Middle East, and has had to balance between support for the Palestinian liberation struggle and the close relationship with the United States. Jordan has been a front-line state in several conflicts; in relation to the liberation struggle in Palestine, the resistance struggle in Iraq and the civil war in Syria. The country is politically, economically and militarily exposed in all respects.

King Hussein’s external balance also included long-standing secret contacts with Israel, which were formalized in a peace process that in 1994 led to a separate peace agreement.

Jordan is considered the conservative Arab states with a close relationship with the West. Next to Egypt, Jordan has been the United States’ foremost political ally in the Middle East, and the country has received extensive economic and military assistance from the United States. A close relationship with the United States, and some shared political interests with Israel, has been a guarantee of Jordan’s security. But relations with the United States have also been somewhat volatile, and due to political pressure internally and externally, Jordan has had to stand behind the Palestinian liberation struggle and against US politics.

During the Gulf War in 1990-1991, King Hussein had to make a difficult political balance. Jordan regretted, but did not condemn, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the fall of 1990, and remained officially neutral in the conflict. Jordan’s opinion backed Iraq. The two countries have had close ties ever since two brothers were appointed as kings in the two states after the First World War, and in 1958 a merger of the kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq was announced, but the union was dissolved by the fall of the monarchy in Iraq that year. Subsequent economic relations have been substantial, with mutual dependence, with Jordan in particular relying on free or subsidized oil from Iraq. King Hussein sought to find a diplomatic solution to the situation that arose after Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, also by linking the conflict to the Palestine issue. Jordan went, including in the Arab League, in to find an Arab solution, and opposed a multinational intervention, but did not win. The criticism led to a temporary weakening of relations with the United States. After the war, Jordan depended on repairing relations with Saudi Arabia and the United States, and took a critical stance on Iraq. The country took on a number of Iraqi oppositionists and allowed Iraqi opposition to open offices in the country. In 1996, relations improved, while the UN eased the sanctions on Iraq. After King Hussein’s death, King Abdullah sought to improve relations with Iraq.

Following the peace agreement with Israel in 1994, relations with the United States were also significantly strengthened. After the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 sent Jordan troops to the multinational force in Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), but did not participate in the US-led attack on Iraq in 2003. But Jordan was not, as in 1991, willing to risk relations with the United States, and officially opposed the conflict. Jordan thus sought to take a balanced position between Iraq and the United States, both of which have provided substantial financial support to the country. Iraq has given Jordan free or heavily subsidized oil, while Jordan has benefited from Iraqi trade over the port city of Aqaba. Jordan has received extensive assistance from the United States for many years.

Although Jordan repeatedly stated that the United States would not use Jordanian territory in actions against Iraq, the United States was given the opportunity to deploy special forces into western Iraq from Jordan. Prior to the outbreak of the war, large numbers of refugees from Iraq had been prepared, but these were limited, and consisted largely of Iranians and Palestinians. Jordan later arrested about one million Iraqi refugees, but in 2007 tightened the entry rules. After the war, Jordan has helped train Iraqi police officers in Jordan, funded by the United States. The new Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, made his first state visit to Jordan in 2005. King Abdullah made an official visit to Iraq in 2008; the first Arab head of state to visit Iraq after 2003.

Jordanian foreign policy is also marked by the country’s proximity to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Jordan participated in the Arab attack on the newly created state of Israel in 1948, but not in the second Arab-Israeli war in 1956. Jordan joined the Arab countries in the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel conquered the territories Jordan occupied in 1948: the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Jordan did not participate in the attack on Israel during the October war in 1973, but sent troops to Golan to support Syria; however, the country was not directly withdrawn.

There was constant contact between Israel and Jordan, and after the peace agreement between PLO and Israel in 1993, Jordan entered into direct negotiations with Israel. The first official meeting between the two states took place between King Hussein 1 and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington in 1994, when the two countries signed an agreement that formally ended the state of war between them. A peace agreement was signed on October 26 and was recognized by the PLO.

King Abdullah 2 has continued his father’s policy towards Israel, but the relationship has been marked by the second intifada and Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinian autonomy authorities. Jordan has strongly criticized Israel’s construction of the security barrier against the West Bank, as well as attacks and isolation of the Gaza Strip. Jordan again sent an ambassador to Israel in 2005, after Jordan withdrew his envoy in 2000 in protest against Israel’s handling of the conflict with the Palestinian autonomy authorities. There are good relations between Israel and Jordan, and normal high-level contact, to discuss both bilateral and regional issues. While Jordan has long supported Hamas, saw the Jordanian government worrying that the party would win the Palestinian elections in 2006, and then seized power after fighting with al-Fatah in Gaza.

Jordan’s close relations with Iraq have contributed to a partially measured relationship with Syria, which has traditionally been a rival to Iraq in the Arab world. The Palestine conflict is another cause of conflict between Jordan and Syria, where Syria participated in the PLO’s side during the Jordanian civil war in 1970 – and where Syria has taken a more uncompromising stance on the whole issue. Jordan and Syria, however, fought against Israel in 1948 and 1967, and Jordan sent forces to support Syria during the October war in 1973. Through King Abdullah 2 and Syria’s new president, Bashar al-Assad, an approach was reached between neighboring countries, including cooperation on water reserve management, including a steam project in the Jarmuk River. In 2005, Jordan and Syria agreed on an unresolved border crossing.

The war in Syria, from 2011, made the relationship between the two countries more difficult. Jordan remained relatively passive for a long time, but welcomed refugees and criticized the Baath regime. Jordan sought to take a neutral position, including fear of the rise of militant Islamism, but allowed other Arab, and Western, states to use their territory to supply the Syrian rebels with weapons. In return, Jordan was promised increased financial support from several Gulf states, and membership in the Gulf Councilhas been promoted as an opportunity. At the same time, Jordan maintained some contact with the Syrian regime. The kingdom feared being drawn into the war, and in 2013 welcomed US troops to support Jordanian forces along the Syria border. Jordan is one of America’s most important allies in the region, from 2014 also in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). Jordan participates in the multinational, US-led military campaign against the Islamists, in Operation Inherent Resolve. The Jordanian King has engaged in international diplomacy to find a solution to the conflict in Syria, including through meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. King Abdulla was the first Arab head of state to have political ties with President Trump.

Relations with the Gulf States, which provided extensive financial assistance to Jordan, were greatly weakened by King Hussein’s take on the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It took several years to repair relations, especially to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and a normalization with Qatar was achieved in 1994, then with the United Arab Emirates and Oman. relations with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were facilitated by the change of throne in 1999, and King Abdullah’s first official Jordanian state visit to Kuwait since the Iraqi invasion. Full diplomatic relations were opened with Saudi Arabia in 1995. In 2003, King Abdullah visited Iran; the first official visit to Iran since the fall of the Shah in 1979.

Relations with the Gulf states have improved as a result of the civil war in Syria, with several countries, notably Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, channeling support for the Syrian opposition through Jordan. At the same time, Jordan opened a channel to Iran, which has consolidated its position in the region through the Syria war.

Jordan’s defense

Jordan has a general military duty for men over the age of 18, but military service is based on selective selection. The total force numbers for Jordan’s armed forces are 100,500 active personnel, with a reserve of 65,000 personnel (2018, IISS). In addition, about 15,000 semi-military forces come in a gendarmerie.

In 2018, the United States, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany had personnel, fighter jets and combat drones in Jordan in connection with Operation Inherent Resolve.


The army has a strength of 86,000 active personnel. Heavy equipment includes 282 tanks (100 Al Hussein, and 182 M60), 103 Scimitar type trucks, 751 storm tanks, around 879 armored personnel vehicles, 115 armored fighters and 754 self-propelled artillery, of which 200 self-propelled artillery. In addition, the army has heavy artillery.

Air Force

The Air Force has a strength of 14,000 active personnel. Material comprising 47 fighter aircraft of the type F-16, two attack aircraft of the AC-235, 12 transport and 24 trainers. In addition, the Air Force has 74 helicopters, including 12 Cobra- type combat helicopters, long range anti-aircraft missiles, and light and heavy drones.

The Navy

The Navy has a personnel force of about 500 active personnel and seven patrol vessels.

International operations

Jordan participated in 2018 with observers and a small number of personnel in UN operations in Central African Republic (MINUSCA), Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), in Mali (MINUSMA), in Sudan (UNAMID), in South Sudan (UNMISS), and in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

Jordan Head of Government

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