U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes:  Jordan, October 1995 
Bureau of Public Affairs 
 
 
October 1995 
Official Name:  Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 
 
PROFILE 
 
Geography *  
 
Area:  89,544 sq. km. (34,573 sq. mi.). 
Cities:  Capital--Amman (pop. 1 million).  Other cities--Irbid 
(281,000), Az-Zarqa (421,000). 
 
People 
  
Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Jordanian(s). 
Population (est.):  3.9 million. 
Religions:  Sunni Muslim 95% (est.), Christian 5% (est.). 
Languages:  Arabic (official), English. 
Education:  Literacy (1992)--82%. 
Health:  Infant mortality rate (1992)--27/1,000.  Life expectancy 
(1992)--70 yrs. 
Ethnic groups:  Mostly Arab, but small communities of Circassians, 
Armenians, and Kurds. 
Work force (750,000):  Government and services--47%.  Manufacturing and 
mining--25%.  Trade--16%.  Agriculture--12%. 
 
Government  
 
Type:  Constitutional monarchy. 
Independence:  May 25, 1946. 
Constitution:  January 8, 1952. 
Branches:  Executive--king (chief of state), prime minister (head of 
government), council of ministers (cabinet).  Legislative--bicameral 
National Assembly (appointed Senate, elected Chamber of Deputies).  
Judicial--civil, religious, special courts. 
Political parties:  Wide spectrum of parties legalized in 1992. 
Suffrage:  Universal at 19. 
Administrative subdivisions:  Eight governorates--Irbid, al-Mafraq, al-
Zarqa, Amman, al-Balqa, al-Karak, al-Tafilah, and Ma'an. 
 
Economy 
 
GDP (1994 est.):  $6.1 billion. 
Annual growth rate (1994 est.):  5.5%. 
Per capita GDP (1994 est.):  $1,565. 
Natural resources:  Phosphate, potash. 
Agriculture:  Products--fruits, vegetables, wheat, olive oil.  Land--10% 
arable. 
Industry (30% of GDP):  Types--phosphate mining, manufacturing, and 
cement and petroleum production. 
Trade (1993 est.):  Exports--$1.2 billion:  phosphates, fruits, 
vegetables.  Major markets--Iraq, Saudi Arabia, U.S.  Imports--$3.4 
billion:  machinery, transportation equipment, cereals, petroleum 
products.  Major suppliers--U.S., Iraq, Japan, U.K., Syria. 
Official exchange rate (September 1995):  0.71 Jordanian dinar=U.S. $1. 
 
* From 1949 to 1967, Jordan administered that part of former mandate 
Palestine west of the Jordan River known as the West Bank.  Since the 
1967 war, when Israel took control of this territory, the United States 
has considered the West Bank to be territory occupied by Israel.  The 
United States believes that the final status of the West Bank can be 
determined only through negotiations among the parties concerned on the 
basis of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. 
 
PEOPLE 
 
Jordanians are Arabs, except for a few small communities of Circassians, 
Armenians, and Kurds which have adapted to Arab culture.  The official 
language is Arabic, but English is used widely in commerce and 
government.  About 70% of Jordan's population is urban; less than 6% of 
the rural population is nomadic or seminomadic.  Most people live where 
the rainfall supports agriculture.  About 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs-
-including more than 950,000 registered refugees and displaced persons--
reside in Jordan, many as citizens. 
 
HISTORY 
 
The land that became Jordan is part of the richly historical Fertile 
Crescent region.  Its history began around 2000 B.C., when Semitic 
Amorites settled around the Jordan River in the area called Canaan.  
Subsequent invaders and settlers included Hittites, Egyptians, 
Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arab 
Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Mameluks, Ottoman Turks, and, finally, the 
British. 
 
At the end of World War I, the territory now comprising Israel, Jordan, 
the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem was awarded to the United Kingdom by 
the League of Nations as the mandate for Palestine and Transjordan.  In 
1922, the British divided the mandate by establishing the semiautonomous 
Emirate of Transjordan, ruled by the Hashemite Prince Abdullah, while 
continuing the administration of Palestine under a British High 
Commissioner. 
 
The mandate over Transjordan ended on May 22, 1946; on May 25, the 
country became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.  It 
continued to have a special defense treaty relationship with the United 
Kingdom until 1957, when the treaty was dissolved by mutual consent. 
 
The British mandate over Palestine ended on May 14, 1948, and the State 
of Israel was proclaimed.  Neighboring Arab states, including 
Transjordan, moved to assist Palestinian nationalists opposed to this 
development, resulting in open warfare between the Arab states and the 
newly founded State of Israel.  The armistice agreements of April 3, 
1949, established armistice demarcation lines between Jordan and Israel, 
leaving Jordan in control of the West Bank.  The agreements expressly 
provided that the armistice demarcation lines were without prejudice to 
future territorial settlements or boundary lines.   
 
In 1950, the country was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to 
include those portions of Palestine annexed by King Abdullah.  Jordan 
established three governorates on the West Bank:  Nablus, al-Quds 
(Jerusalem), and al-Khalil.  While recognizing Jordanian administration 
over the West Bank, the United States maintained the position that 
ultimate sovereignty was subject to future agreement. 
 
Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it 
participated in the June 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states of 
Syria, Egypt, and Iraq.  After repelling the Arab attack, Israel 
extended its control to the Jordan River, including Jordanian-controlled 
eastern Jerusalem.  In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West 
Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement on 
the West Bank.  The U.S. Government considers the West Bank to be 
territory occupied by Israel and believes that its final status should 
be determined through direct negotiations among the parties concerned on 
the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. 
 
The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians 
living in Jordan.  Its Palestinian refugee population--700,000 in 1966--
grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank.  The period following the 
1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian 
resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan.  Differing with the Jordanian 
Government's policies, the heavily armed fedayeen constituted a growing 
threat to the sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state.  Tensions 
between the government and the fedayeen increased until open fighting 
erupted in June 1970. 
 
Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution, but by 
September, continuing fedayeen actions in Jordan--including the 
destruction of three international airliners hijacked and held in the 
desert east of Amman--prompted the government to take action to regain 
control over its territory and population.  In the ensuing heavy 
fighting, a Syrian tank force (camouflaged as a Palestinian force) 
initially took up positions in northern Jordan to support the fedayeen.  
By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a 
cease-fire beginning the following day.  Sporadic violence continued, 
however, until Jordanian forces won a decisive victory over the fedayeen 
in July 1971, expelling them from the country.  Since then, the fedayeen 
have not presented a threat to the Jordanian Government. 
 
No fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during 
the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to 
fight Israeli units on Syrian territory.  Jordan did not participate in 
the Gulf war of 1990-91.  Except for a period of border tension with 
Syria in 1980, it has been at de facto peace with all its neighbors.  In 
1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian 
representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel 
sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. 
 
GOVERNMENT 
 
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution 
promulgated on January 8, 1952.  Executive authority is vested in the 
king and his council of ministers.  The king signs and executes all 
laws.  His veto power may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both 
houses of the National Assembly.  He appoints and may dismiss all judges 
by decree, approves amendments to the constitution, declares war, and 
commands the armed forces.  Cabinet decisions, court judgments, and the 
national currency are issued in his name. 
 
The council of ministers, led by a prime minister, is appointed by the 
king, who may dismiss other cabinet members at the prime minister's 
request.  The cabinet is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies on 
matters of general policy and can be forced to resign by a two-thirds 
vote of "no confidence" by that body. 
 
Legislative power rests in the bicameral National Assembly.  The 80-
member Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage to a four-year 
term, is subject to dissolution by the king.  Of the 80 seats, 71 must 
go to Muslims and nine to Christians.  The 40-member Senate is appointed 
by the king for an eight-year term. 
 
The constitution provides for three categories of courts--civil, 
religious, and special.  Administratively, Jordan is divided into eight 
governorates, each headed by a governor appointed by the king.  They are 
the sole authorities for all government departments and development 
projects in their respective areas. 
 
Principal Government Officials 
  
Chief of State--King Hussein I  
Prime Minister, Minister of Defense--Sharif Zayd Bin Shakir 
Foreign Minister--Abdul Karim Kabariti 
Ambassador to the U.S.--Fayez Tarawneh 
Ambassador to the UN--Adnan Abu Odeh 
 
Jordan maintains an embassy in the United States at 3504 International 
Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008  
(tel. 202-966-2664). 
 
POLITICAL CONDITIONS 
 
King Hussein has ruled Jordan since 1953 and has survived a number of 
challenges to his rule, drawing on the loyalty of his military and 
serving as a symbol of unity and stability for both the East Bank and 
Palestinian communities in Jordan.  In 1989 and 1993, Jordan held free 
and fair parliamentary elections.  Islamists are represented in but do 
not dominate the parliament.  King Hussein has shown a commitment to 
democratization, most importantly by ending martial law in 1991 and 
legalizing political parties in 1992. 
 
Jordan's continuing structural economic difficulties, burgeoning 
population, and more open political environment have led to the 
emergence of a variety of political parties.  Moving toward greater 
independence, parliament has investigated corruption charges against 
several regime figures and has become the major forum in which differing 
political views, including those of political Islamists, are expressed.  
While King Hussein remains the ultimate authority in Jordan, the 
parliament plays an important role. 
 
Although Jordan in 1988 disengaged from the West Bank and ceased efforts 
to restore the country's 1948-67 position, it retains considerable 
influence in the West Bank--for example, regulating the operations of 
Jordanian banks and issuing limited-validity Jordanian passports to West 
Bankers. 
 
ECONOMY 
 
Jordan is a small country with limited natural resources.  Just over 10% 
of its land is arable, and even that is subject to the vagaries of a 
limited water supply. Rainfall is low and highly variable, and much of 
Jordan's available ground water is not renewable.  Jordan's economic 
resource base traditionally has centered on phosphates, potash, and 
their fertilizer derivatives; overseas remittances; and foreign aid.  
These are its principal sources of hard currency earnings.  Lacking 
forests, coal reserves, hydroelectric power, or commercially viable oil 
deposits, Jordan relies on natural gas for 10% of its domestic energy 
needs.  For the other 90%, Jordan depends entirely on its oil-producing 
neighbors. 
 
Although the population is highly educated, its high growth rate (3.4%) 
and relative youth (more than 50% of Jordanians are under 16) will make 
it difficult for the economy to generate jobs and sustain living 
standards.  Jordan's distance from other markets makes its exports less 
competitive outside the region, and political disputes among its 
traditional trading partners (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states) 
frequently restrict regional trade and development. 
 
Since 1987, Jordan has struggled with a substantial debt burden, lower 
per capita income, and rising unemployment.  From 1988-90, the official 
cost of living index rose 56%, while the dinar lost 51% of its value 
against the dollar.  In 1989, Jordan concluded an 18-month standby 
arrangement (SBA) with the IMF and achieved agreement with Paris Club 
creditors to reschedule $573 million of debt.  At the same time, to 
increase revenues, the government raised prices of certain commodities 
and utilities, triggering riots in the south.  The mood of political 
discontent that swept the country in the wake of the riots helped set 
the stage for Jordan's moves toward democratization. 
 
The SBA was derailed by economic consequences of the 1990-91 Gulf war.  
While tourist trade plummeted, the Gulf states' decision to limit 
economic ties with Jordan deprived it of worker remittances, traditional 
export markets, a secure supply of oil, and substantial foreign aid 
revenues.  UN sanctions against Iraq-- Jordan's largest pre-war trading 
partner--caused further hard-ships, including higher shipping costs due 
to inspections of cargo shipments entering the Gulf of Aqaba.  Finally, 
absorbing up to 300,000 returnees from the Gulf countries exacerbated 
unemployment and strained the government's ability to provide essential 
services. 
 
In February 1992, Jordan renewed its commitment to pursuing long-term 
economic growth and entered into another 18-month standby arrangement 
with the IMF, followed by another Paris Club rescheduling of $771 
million.  Success in implementing its economic reform program will 
depend upon how effectively the government can stimulate private 
enterprise and encourage trade and investment in productive enterprises.  
In 1992, economic performance was solid:  With all IMF targets met by 
wide margins, Jordan's $4.7-billion economy grew an impressive 11%.  
Inflation was held to 6.8%, but unemployment persisted at high levels 
(20%-25%).  Although much of the 1992 growth resulted from non-recurring 
factors--a construction boom and customs receipts generated by Gulf war 
returnees--Jordan experienced growth of about 6% in 1993. 
 
Further economic reform efforts are likely to be tempered by concerns 
about effects on low-income voters.  With parliament playing a more 
active role in the formulation of economic policy, it may be difficult 
to impose further belt-tightening measures.  In the near term, Jordan 
will continue to depend on foreign grants and concessional loans to 
further its development efforts.  While in the past the largest aid 
flows have come from the Arab states, the United States and other 
Western countries also have been important sources of development funds. 
 
During the first half of 1994, Jordan's economy dipped into recession.  
Its prospects for growth in the second half improved following Jordan's 
additional rescheduling of debt with Paris Club creditors, decisions by 
the U.S. and U.K. to forgive its official debt, and growing confidence 
as a result of progress in the Middle East peace process. 
 
FOREIGN RELATIONS 
 
Jordan has consistently followed a pro-Western foreign policy and 
traditionally has had close relations with the United States and the 
United Kingdom.  These relations were damaged by support in Jordan for 
Iraq during the Gulf war.  Although the Government of Jordan stated its 
opposition to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, popular support for Iraq 
was driven by Jordan's Palestinian community, which favored Saddam as a 
champion against Western supporters of Israel. 
 
Since the end of the war, Jordan has largely restored its relations with 
Western countries through its participation in the Middle East peace 
process and enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq.  Relations between 
Jordan and the Gulf countries have improved only slightly since the Gulf 
crisis. 
 
Jordan signed a non-belligerency agreement with Israel (the Washington 
Declaration) in Washington, DC, on   July 25, 1994.  Jordan and Israel 
signed a historic peace treaty on October 26, 1994, witnessed by 
President Clinton, accompanied by Secretary Christopher.   
 
The U.S. has participated with Jordan and Israel in trilateral 
development discussions in which key issues have been water-sharing and 
security; cooperation on Jordan Rift Valley development; infrastructure 
projects; and trade, finance, and banking issues.  Jordan also 
participates in the multilateral peace talks. 
 
Jordan belongs to the UN and several of its specialized and related 
agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and World Health Organization 
(WHO).  Jordan also is a member of the World Bank, International 
Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), 
INTELSAT, Nonaligned Movement, and Arab League. 
 
U.S.-JORDANIAN RELATIONS 
 
Relations between the U.S. and Jordan have been close for four decades.  
A primary objective of U.S. policy, particularly since the end of the 
Gulf war, has been the achievement of a comprehensive, just, and lasting 
peace in the Middle East.  Jordan's constructive participation in the 
Madrid peace process is key in achieving peace. 
 
U.S. policy seeks to reinforce Jordan's commitment to democratization, 
stability, and moderation.  The peace process and Jordan's opposition to 
terrorism parallel and indirectly assist wider U.S. interests.  
Accordingly, through economic and military assistance and through close 
political cooperation, the United States has helped Jordan maintain its 
stability and move forward with democratization.  Recently, though, a 
declining U.S. foreign assistance budget has limited its ability to 
assist Jordan. 
 
Since 1952, the United States has provided Jordan with economic 
assistance totaling more than $1.5 billion, including funds for 
development projects, health care, support for macro-economic policy 
shifts toward a more completely free-market system, and both grant and 
loan acquisition of U.S. agricultural commodities.  These programs have 
been overwhelmingly successful and have contributed to Jordanian 
stability while strengthening the bilateral relationship.  U.S. military 
assistance--provision of materiel and training--is designed to meet 
Jordan's legitimate defense needs, including preservation of border 
integrity and regional stability. 
 
Principal U.S. Officials  
 
Ambassador--Wesley W. Egan  
Deputy Chief of Mission--Robert Beecroft 
 
The U.S. embassy in Jordan is located in Abdoun, Amman (tel. 820-101) 
and is closed on all U.S. federal holidays and some Jordanian holidays. 
 
============================== 
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State  --  Bureau of Public Affairs  --  Office of Public Communication  
--  Washington, DC  --  This material is in the public domain and can be 
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