Why the King of Jordan’s Visit to Washington Matters—to Israel and to the U.S.

July 20 2021

Yesterday, King Abdullah II of Jordan met with President Biden—the latter’s first meeting with an Arab head of state since taking office. Writing in advance of the visit, Ghaith al-Omari and Ben Fishman discuss the problems currently facing the kingdom, America’s priorities, and how all this relates to Israel:

Externally, Jordan is facing challenges on all of its borders. To the north, the Syrian conflict has flooded the kingdom with refugees, cut off an important trade route, and threatened to bring Iran—directly or through its proxies—to its frontier. To the east, attempts to deepen relations with Iraq (whether bilaterally or through a trilateral process with Egypt) have produced diplomatic progress but few concrete economic dividends. To the west, a weak and fickle Palestinian Authority remains a source of concern, and relations with Israel’s leadership were extremely negative under the former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, causing civil and diplomatic affairs to suffer greatly (though security ties remained strong). And to the south, King Abdullah’s relations with the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman are tepid at best.

[But] Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett and its foreign minister Yair Lapid have placed early emphasis on revitalizing the relationship with Amman. On July 8, Lapid and the Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi signed an important deal that will increase water sales to the kingdom (after the collapse of the long-negotiated Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance Project) and expand Jordanian trade to the West Bank. The United States should applaud this momentum and encourage other areas of cooperation, including healthcare, energy, the environment, and grassroots initiatives.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Israeli Security, Jordan, Joseph Biden, King Abdullah, Naftali Bennett, U.S. Foreign policy

How the U.S. Is Financing Bashar al-Assad

Due to a long history of supporting terrorism and having waged a brutal and devastating war on its own people, the Syrian regime is subject to numerous U.S. sanctions. But that doesn’t stop American tax dollars from going to President Bashar al-Assad and his cronies, via the United Nations. David Adesnik explains:

UN agencies have spent $95.5 million over the past eight years to house their staff at the Four Seasons Damascus, including $14.2 million last year. New Yorkers know good hotel rooms don’t come cheap, but the real problem in Damascus is that the Four Seasons’ owners are the Assad regime itself and one of the war profiteers who manages the regime’s finances.

The hotel would likely go under if not for UN business; Damascus is not a tourist destination these days. The UN claims keeping its staff at the Four Seasons is about keeping them safe. Yet there has been little fighting in Damascus since 2017. A former UN diplomat with experience in the Syrian capital told me the regime tells UN agencies it can only guarantee the safety of their staff if they stay at the Four Seasons.

What makes the Four Seasons debacle especially galling is that it’s been public knowledge for seven years, and the UN has done nothing about it—or the many other ways the regime siphons off aid for its own benefit. One of the most lucrative is manipulating exchange rates. . . . One of Washington’s top experts on humanitarian aid crunched the numbers and concluded the UN lost $100 million over eighteen months to this kind of rate-fixing.

What the United States and its allies should do is make clear to the UN they will turn off the spigot if the body doesn’t get its act together.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations