Jordan Geography - History

Jordan Geography - History


Jordan is located in the Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia.
The terrain of the Jordan is mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west; Great Rift Valley separates East and West Banks of the Jordan River.
Climate: Jordan is mostly arid desert; rainy season in west (November to April)

Maps of Jordan

Jordan occupies an area of around 91,880 sq. km in Southwest Asia.

As observed on the physical map above, the country can be divided into three main physiographic regions.

The desert region includes the eastward extensions of the Syrian and the Ard As Sawwan Deserts and covers over four-fifths of the country.

To the west of the desert is the upland region that features an escarpment overlooking the rift valley to the west. Here the average elevation of land is 600 to 900 m. Jordan's highest point marked on the map by a yellow upright triangle is located at the southern edge of this upland region. It is the 5,755 feet (1,754 m) tall Mount Ramm.

Further west is the Great Rift Valley's mountains and hills that cut through the Jordan River's East and West Banks.

Significant bordering bodies of water include the Dead Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Sea of Galilee.

The Jordan River runs for about 5,755 feet (1,754 m) and drains into the Dead Sea.

The Geography of Jordan

Total Size: 92,300 square km

Size Comparison: slightly smaller than Indiana

Geographical Coordinates: 31 00 N, 36 00 E

World Region or Continent: Middle East

General Terrain: mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west Great Rift Valley separates East and West Banks of the Jordan River

Geographical Low Point: Dead Sea -408 m

Geographical High Point: Jabal Ram 1,734 m

Climate: mostly arid desert rainy season in west (November to April)

Major cities: AMMAN (capital) 1.088 million (2009), Az Zarqa, Irbid

Jordan History

At the crossroads of the Middle East today's Jordan has seen numerous civilizations like the Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, the Persians, the Seleucids, and the Greeks. In biblical times the Jordan territory contained three kingdoms: Edom in the south, Moab in central Jordan, and Ammon in the northern mountain areas. The growing importance of the trade route from Arabia boosted in the southeast the Nabataean kingdom with Petra as capital. In 106 AD it became part of the Roman province of Arabia. The Romans finalized in 114 the Via Nova Traiana, an important trade route, linking the port of Aqaba with Bosra in the north. Cities like Umm Quais, Jerash and Amman took advantage from the close location to this route. With the division of the Roman Empire in east and west in the 4th century, Jordan passed to the Byzantine Empire. As the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, many churches and chapels had been also built on Jordanian territory. The prosperity of this period finds it expression in mosaic art, still can be seen in Madaba.

In 636 the Jordan territory was conquered by the Arabs, establishing the Umayyad dynasty with Damascus as capital. The 11th and 12th centuries were characterized by the conflicts between the Christian Crusaders and Islamic forces. In 1116 the Crusaders controlled most of Jordan, till in 1187 sultan Salah ad Din conquered the area. Salah ad Din and his successors ruled from Cairo till the late 12th century until they were displaced by the Mamluks. In 1517 the Ottoman Turks took over Jordan and 4 centuries of general stagnation begun. In 1908 the Hejaz Railway opens, running from Damascus to Medina, passing through Jordan and gave room for some economic development.

The Hejaz Railway was repeatedly damaged during the Arab Revolt, particularly by the guerrilla force led by the British T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia. After World War I the Ottoman Empire was broken, the major Western powers distributed the territories among themselves, the area east of the Jordan River fell to the British.

In December 1920 Transjordan was established as British mandate Abdullah Bin Al Hussein, born in Mecca, ruled as Emir the country. In May 1946 Transjordan became independent and Abdullah acted as first king. Two years later the country participated in the First Palestinian War against the new state of Israel. At the end of the war Jordan controlled the West Bank. In July 1951, King Abdullah I was shot dead by a Palestinian in Jerusalem while visiting the Al Aqsa Mosque. King Abdullah's eldest son, Talal Ibn Abdullah, was proclaimed king but he was deposed in 1952 because of health reasons. During his short reign he was responsible for the formation of a liberalized constitution for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, ratified in January 1952.

His son, Hussein, ruled as king from 1953 for 46 years as a pragmatic ruler. He successfully navigated the country through several wars, crises and pressures from major powers like USA and USSR, various Arab states and Israel. In the 1967 war with Israel Jordan lost the West Bank and had to cope with a dramatic increase of Palestinians refugees. The following years showed the rising power of Palestinian militants in Jordan. They constituted a growing threat to the sovereignty and security of the state, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. In July 1971 the Jordanian forces won a decisive victory over the Palestinian guerillas. In 1974 Jordan recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole represen-tative for the Palestinians. In 1988 it gives up all claims on the West Bank, declaring it Palestinian territory. In 1991 Jordan joined the Middle East peace talks with Israel. Three years later King Hussein and the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a treaty ending 46-year official state of war. The agreement improved Jordan's relations with the USA and moderate Arab states.

A domestic issue for democratic development had been in 1991 the end of martial law, existing since 1967. The signing of a national charter by King Hussein and leaders of the main political groups meant, political parties were permitted in exchange for acceptance of the constitution and the monarchy. Following the legalization of political parties in 1993 Jordan held free and fair parliamentary elections.

King Hussein died in February 1999 and his son Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein ascended the throne. Since, King Abdullah II has continued his father's commitment to creating a strong and positive moderating role for Jordan within the Arab region and the world, following a pragmatic, non-confrontational line in foreign relations.

King Abdullah focuses moreover on economic growth and social development. Under his reign, Jordan was admitted to the World Trade Organization, and ratified agreements for the establishment of a Free Trade Area with the United States of America, the European Union, the European Free Trade Association countries, and sixteen Arab countries. King Abdullah II has also been involved in the drive for national administrative reform, as well as governmental transparency and accountability. Also, he supported the necessary legislations that guarantee women a full role in the kingdom's socio-economic and political life. Abdullah actively encouraged information technology, democracy, liberal economic policies and integration with the rest of the world.

The parliamentary election in June 2003, the first parliamentary elections under King Abdullah II, resulted in a majority for the king's supporters, win two-thirds of the seats. Parliamentary elections last took place in November 2007 with independent, pro-government candidates winning the majority of seats.

The Constitution of 1952 declares Jordan a hereditary monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. The constitution stipulates the separated powers of the state: executive, legislative and judicial. The king is the most powerful figure in the country he is the head of state, the chief executive and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. 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. Cabinet decisions, court judgments, and the national currency are issued in his name.

The king appoints the cabinet/council of ministers, led by a prime minister, who is the head of the government and a multi-party system. The king 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.

The Chamber of Deputies and the House of Notables (Senate) constitute the legislative branch of the government, and the two chambers are the National Assembly. The Chamber of Deputies has 110 members, 104 elected for a four year term in single-seat constituencies and 6 female members by a special electoral college. Of the 110 seats, Christians are reserved 9 seats and Chechens/Circassians are reserved 3. The Senate has 55 members appointed by the king for an 4-year term.

The judicial branch is an independent branch of the government. The constitution provides for three categories of courts: civil, religious, and special.

Jordan shares borders with Syria to the north, Iraq to the north-east, the West Bank and Israel to the west, and Saudi Arabia to the east and south. All these border lines add up to 1,619 km. The Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea also touch the country, and thus Jordan has a coastline of 26 km. It shares control of the Dead Sea with Israel, and the coastline of the Gulf of Aqaba with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. The kingdom has an area of 92,300 sq km, much of Jordan is covered by desert.

Jordan consists of arid forest plateau in the east, with highland area in the west of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry. The Great Rift Valley of the Jordan River separates Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. The highest point in the country is Jabal Umm al Dami, it is 1,854 m above sea level, while the lowest is the Dead Sea with 420 m below sea level.

In a July 2008 census, the estimated population of Jordan was 6,198, 677. 95-98 percent of Jordan's population are Arabs, Palestinians, the remaining non-Arabs of the population are mainly Circassians, Chechens and Kurds.

The population consists of 92 percent Sunni Muslims, 6 percent Christian (majority Greek Orthodox), and 2 percent other religions like the Druze. The percentages vary slightly in different cities and regions, for instance the south of Jordan and cities like Zarqa have the highest percentage of Muslims, while Amman, Madaba, Salt, and Kerak have larger Christian communities than the national average, and the town of Fuhais is Christian.

Jordan is a small country with limited natural resources and a lack of water supplies. Just over 10% of its land is arable. The principal crops are vegetables, wheat, citrus fruits and olives, mostly grown in the Jordan Valley. Main exports are phosphates, potash and pharmaceuticals. The service sector accounts for around two-thirds of total output and covers wholesale and retail trading, finance, transport and tourism. Jordan depends on overseas remittances and foreign aid from its oil-rich neighboring countries. The economical development had been undermined by the regional instabilities. For instance, Jordan suffered adverse economic consequences from the 1990/91 Gulf War. The number of tourists reduced and 300 000 returnees from the Gulf countries increased Jordan's unemployment rate to 30% this year. Jordan's economy has been liberalized through connecting it with partnership agreements, the World Trade Organization and Arab and foreign trade areas. Jordan is a member of various pan-Arab economic bodies, notably the Council of Arab Economic Co-operation and the Arab Monetary Fund. Jordan has a free trade accord with the USA and an association agreement with the EU. Since King Abdullah has taken throne, he has worked very closely with the IMF, been careful when implementing monetary policy, made considerable progress with privatization, and relaxed the trade regime just enough so that it has assured Jordan's membership in the World Trade Organization. The economic reforms helped Jordan become more productive and put it on the foreign investment map. Jordan's main goals are to reduce its reliance on foreign aid, lower its budget deficit, and increase incentives to invest in order to encourage job creation.

Education has played an important role in the development of Jordan from an agrarian, subsistence economy to a predominantly urban, industrialized nation. All citizens in poor and remote areas shall gain access to education. The government gives good attention to education to keep up with the demands of global economy.

The structure of the educational system in Jordan consists of a two-year cycle of pre-school education, ten years of compulsory basic education, and two years of secondary academic or vocational education. Access to higher education is open to holders of the General Secondary Education Certificate who can choose between private Community Colleges, public Community Colleges or universities. Most universities in Jordan follow the English-American education systems. Bachelor's Degrees normally take four years, for some subjects like Dentistry five years. A Master's degree is awarded after a further one to two years' study following a Bachelor's Degree. A Doctorate Degree is awarded after three to five years of further study and the submission of an original dissertation.


Jordan borders Israel (and the Palestinian National Authority Region), the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. At 400m (1,300ft) below sea level, the Dead Sea, in the northwest of Jordan, is the lowest point on earth and one of the country's most distinctive features. The Red Sea, to which Jordan has a narrow access at Aqaba in the southwest, is teeming with life.

The River Jordan flows into the Dead Sea, and there are plans to build a canal - the Two Seas Canal (or the Dead-Red Canal) - that would link the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. Capital Amman perches above the Dead Sea Depression, at a height of 800m (2,625ft), surrounded to the north by undulating hills, and by desert escarpments to the south, on which graze the sheep and goat herds of nomadic tribes.

Jordan's northeastern flank is flat desert sprinkled with oases, while the spectacular southeastern desert is characterised by wind-eroded forms and brightly coloured sandstone cliffs.

Dr. Jordan Brasher

Dr. Jordan Brasher is a specialist in the racial politics of Confederate memory in a U.S. Southern and global context. He arrived to CSU in Fall 2020 after completing his Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Tennessee with a Graduate Certificate in Africana Studies. His dissertation focused on the Confederados of Brazil and the transnational racial politics at work in the commemoration and romanticization of Confederate memory in Brazil.

He is also a Research Fellow with Tourism RESET, a collaborative research and outreach initiative dedicated to identifying, studying, and challenging patterns of social inequity in the tourism industry.

Dr. Brasher teaches World Regional Geography, Introduction to GIS, Intermediate GIS, and Advanced GIS, and oversees the Geographic Information Systems and Sciences (GIS) Certificate program.

Scholarly Activity

Among Dr. Brasher’s recent peer-reviewed publications are:

  • Brasher, J.P., Alderman, D.H., and Subanthore, A. 2020. "Was Tulsa’s Brady Street Really Renamed? Racial (in)justice, Memory-work, and the Neoliberal Politics of Practicality." Social & Cultural Geography
  • Brasher, J.P. 2020. Creating “Confederate pioneers”: A spatial narrative analysis of race, settler colonialism, and heritage tourism at the Museu da Imigração, Santa Bárbara d’Oeste, São Paulo. Journal of Heritage Tourism.
  • Brasher, J.P. 2020. Positionality and participatory ethics in the Global South: Critical reflections on and lessons learned from fieldwork failure. Journal of Cultural Geography.
  • Alderman, D.H., Brasher, J.P., Dwyer III, O.J. 2020. Memorials and Monuments. In: Kobayashi, A. (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, 2nd edition. vol. 9, Elsevier, pp. 39–47.
  • Brasher, J.P. 2019. Contesting the Confederacy: Mobile memory and the making of Black Geographies in Brazil. FOCUS on Geography Vol. 62.

Dr. Brasher takes a publicly engaged approach to research and scholarship, which is reflected in not only his peer-reviewed scholarship, but also his publications and mentions in the following outlets:


Jordan's principal environmental problems are insuffi cient water resources, soil erosion caused by overgrazing of goats and sheep, and deforestation. Water pollution is an important issue in Jordan. Jordan has 1 cu km of renewable water resources with 75% used for farming activity and 3% used for industrial purposes. About 91% of the total population have access to pure water. It is expected that the rate of population growth will place more demands on an already inadequate water supply. Current sources of pollution are sewage, herbicides, and pesticides.

Jordan's wildlife was reduced drastically by livestock overgrazing and uncontrolled hunting between 1930 and 1960 larger wild animals, such as the Arabian oryx, onager, and Asiatic lion, have completely disappeared. Under a law of 1973, the government has prohibited unlicensed hunting of birds or wild animals and unlicensed sport fishing, as well as the cutting of trees, shrubs, and plants. As of 2003, 3.4% of Jordan's total land area is protected.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 7 types of mammals, 14 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 5 species of fish, and 3 species of invertebrates. Endangered species in Jordan include the South Arabian leopard, the sand cat, the cheetah, and the goitered gazelle.

Go Inside Jordan's Stunning City of Stone

The caves, temples, and tombs of Petra reveal an impressive civilization.

Discover the raw beauty of Petra

The “Rose City” is a honeycomb of hand-hewn caves, temples, and tombs carved from blushing pink sandstone in the high desert of Jordan some 2,000 years ago. Hidden by time and shifting sand, Petra tells of a lost civilization. Little is known about the Nabateans—a nomadic desert people whose kingdom rose up from these cliffs and peaks, and whose incredible wealth grew from the lucrative incense trade.

Raqmu, or Petra (as the Greeks knew it), grew into the Nabateans’ most prominent city, linking camel caravans between the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas, from Egypt to Syria and beyond to Greece. Control of water sources and an almost magic ability to vanish into the cleft rocks ensured the Nabateans remained unconquered for centuries.

The Romans arrived in 63 B.C., signaling a new era of massive expansion and grandiose construction, like the theater that sat more than 6,000 spectators, as well as some of the city’s most impressive facades. Carved into the rock face, the Treasury and the Monastery both have unmistakable Hellenistic features, with ornate Corinthian columns, bas-relief Amazons, and fanciful acroteria. Knowing that such architectural feats were achieved by carving from the top down makes it even more impressive.

Petra’s engineering phenomena are legion, including the sophisticated water system that supported some 30,000 inhabitants. Carved into the twisted passageway of the Siq, the irrigation channel drops only 12 feet over the course of a mile, while underground cisterns stored runoff to be used in drier times of the year.

And yet it’s the raw beauty of Petra that draws in so many millions of visitors—the entire city of ruins is a work of art, painted on a natural stone backdrop that changes color every hour. The elegant Silk Tomb swirls with streaks of red, blue, and ocher, while vivid mosaics still pave the floors of a Byzantine-era church.

Christianity came to Petra in the third and fourth centuries and flourished, but the city waned after an A.D. 336 earthquake and under the early Islamic dynasties of the seventh century.

Petra was only rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt in 1812, and it continues to spill its secrets. Even now, archaeologists have explored less than half of the sprawling site, and in 2016, with the help of satellite imagery, a monumental structure was found still buried in the sand. It’s no wonder that Petra remains Jordan’s top tourist attraction and one of the most revered of the World Heritage sites.

Geopolitics of Jordan

With its close proximity to major regional conflicts, artificial borders dictated by imperial politics instead of geography, limited natural resources and a swelling refugee population, we sit down to discuss the geopolitics of Jordan in this episode of the Stratfor Podcast.

Stratfor analysts Emily Hawthorne and Mark Fleming-Williams take closer look at Jordan&rsquos rich history, incredible success maintaining a stable government and both the economic challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for this Middle East kingdom.

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Faisel Pervaiz [00:00:00] Hello, I'm Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia analyst here at Stratfor and this podcast is brought to you by Stratfor Worldview, our premier digital publication for objective geopolitical intelligence and analysis. Individual, team, and enterprise memberships are available at

Emily Hawthorne [00:00:32] I've heard Jordan's economy referred to as a colander, as a sieve. It's so structurally unsound that it receives a lot of money, but it just sort of trickles through. There's a lot of work to be done in reforming Jordan's economy and that's one of the big battles ahead.

Ben Sheen [00:00:51] Welcome to the Stratfor podcast. Focused on geopolitics and world affairs from I'm your host, Ben Sheen. Despite artificial borders dictated by imperial politics instead of geography, limited natural resources in close proximity to regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the kingdom of Jordan has managed to remain quite stable since its founding in 1946. Today, Jordan also plays host to nearly three quarters of a million refugees, according to the United Nations. And 90% of them are fleeing the ongoing conflict in Syria. For a closer look at the delicate balance the nation has struck so far, and the geographical constraints it faces going forward, we're joined by Middle East and North Africa analyst, Emily Hawthorne and senior analyst, Mark Fleming-Williams for discussion about the geopolitics of Jordan in this episode of the Stratfor podcast.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:01:41] My name is Mark Fleming-Williams. I'm a Ssenior Economy Analyst here at Stratfor and today I'm joined by Emily Hawthorne who is our MENA Analyst. Emily, today we're going to talk about Jordan and I want to be very open and clear and up front about it, but the Middle East and Jordan is not an area I know. It's not one of my fortes, so I'm going to be asking you questions to which I probably don't know the answer. Hopefully that's going to be the case for our listeners as well and we can all learn at once. Looking at the map of Jordan, which I don't think necessarily our listeners will be doing at the same time, could you just start by just giving us a little tour of where Jordan is? Just a little introduction to its geography, who its neighbors are, that kind of thing.

Emily Hawthorne [00:02:23] Jordan is really in the core of the region of the Middle East that is called the Levant. It is surrounded by Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq. It has a little bit of coastline on the Red Sea. It's really, pretty landlocked. It does have a very fertile east bank, the Jordan River of biblical fame runs along its western border. That river is really important for Jordan's agricultural production especially because the vast majority of the country is desert. Those deserts are known as the Syrian and Northern Arabian Deserts. These deserts just open up into these vast expanses where there really is no population there. There's no arable, agricultural production there. Jordan, while it does have that important river on the west side, it doesn't have a lot of resources. It has to import a lot of resources for domestic energy and to supply its population. Jordan doesn't have an ideal picture in terms of resources and in terms of being in the crux of an area that is prone to, certainly right now in the 21st century, prone to a lot of instability. Jordan is not well located. It does get pulled into a lot of conflict that way.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:03:34] Interesting. Jordan and a lot of the Middle East has been, the borders have been drawn in a manner which isn't necessarily organic or natural. The borders were largely drawn by colonial powers in the past. Could you just paint the picture a little bit as to kind of where Jordan comes from and how it came into being?

Emily Hawthorne [00:03:52] This is interesting because you are absolutely correct that the 20th century Jordan were drawn after World War One. But this area that Jordan was in, it was referred to as Jordan and the capital was referred to as Amman which it's still known as today as far as back as the Umayyad Empire which is 600, 700s AD. This area has been a crossing point, that's what the Levant is known for, sort of a crossing point of trade, a low lying area that is easy to invade, easy to cross and that's what Jordan and Syria and Iraq, together, their borders together, that desert throughout history has become part of so many different empires and subject to a lot of trade activity and war and sort of flip flopping of different capitals. Jordan was really important during the Umayyad Empire because of the importance of Damascus at that time. When the capital of the Muslim dynasty, the muslim world, moved to Baghdad, Jordan and Amman became a little bit less important at that time.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:04:57] It moved to Baghdad from Cairo, from Egypt?

Emily Hawthorne [00:05:01] No it was from Damascus. Syria which is, if you look at a map of the Middle East, one thing that strikes people if you haven't looked at a map of the Middle East, is just how close a lot of these capitals in the Levant are. If you look at the distance between Damascus and Beirut and Jerusalem and Amman, they're all very, very close. You have all these national borders and intense border security now, but before the Ottomans swept through the area and even during the Ottoman period, these were really commonly used trade routes.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:05:31] Bring it forward to the 20th century, how did today's Jordan come about?

Emily Hawthorne [00:05:35] You have of course a long period, centuries when the Ottomans, after the beginning of the 1500s when Ottoman forces invaded, Jordan was part of that. Then at the end of the era, the Ottoman era, it's well known that there of course was this breakup of a lot of the former Ottoman territories to a lot of the imperial powers. There was a ceding of those areas to the control of certain local allies that had worked alongside the imperial powers. When you look at Jordan, it was actually not a very desirable area. You had the mandate of Syria, which the French took control of. You had the Palestine mandate which the British took control of. And the Transjordan was a part of that. Actually, the local ruler that was given control over this area, he really didn't want it. It was not viewed as strategic. Abdullah became the Emir of Transjordan in 1921. Eventually, Jordan did declare its independence in 1946. Abdullah became the king of Jordan. Then his descendants still rule over the kingdom today. It's still the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:06:42] We've got the Hashemite Kingdom and that, as you say, the continuity runs all the way through the 20th century. We've still got the Hashemites in control. If you could just introduce them a little bit. Who are they? And also how do they relate to neighboring states? Because a lot of these tribes, have got connections and relations, haven't they?

Emily Hawthorne [00:07:00] Yes, and the Hashemites trace their lineage back to a close of relative of the prophet Muhammad that was living in what is now modern day Saudi Arabia. The connection to Jordan comes when you had a leader named Sharif Hussein. He was appointed the Sharif and Emir of Mecca in 1908 by the Ottoman ruler at the time. Of course this is just before the Ottoman Empire broke up but he helped the British, some of the imperial forces in the Arab revolt against the Ottomans in 1916.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:07:27] We're talking Lawrence of Arabia time now?

Emily Hawthorne [00:07:28] Exactly. We're talking this period of time when some of the local Bedouin tribes, some of the local Bedouin forces, and the different Arab tribes united under Sharif Hussein. He was sort of named king of the Arab lands, king of the Hejaz, which is that region of Saudi Arabia. He was rewarded for his work in this by, his sons were given leadership over what is now Jordan and what is now Iraq and that happened in 1921. His son Abdullah, the leadership then went to Talal, and then it went to Hussein. Then it went to Abdullah the second, who is king today. It's a very clear lineage but because the Hashemites have that connection to those original companions of the prophet Muhammad in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia and the royal family there has a strong connection with the royal family in Jordan. Really any the Arab tribes that can trace lineage back to those original companions of the prophet, they have a connection to the Hashemites as well. This has been a part of Jordan's ability to have a strong bit of legitimacy in the Islamic world and in the Arab world at large.

Ben Sheen [00:08:34] We'll get back to our conversion on the geopolitics of Jordan in just one moment. But if you're interested in exploring the geopolitical realities and constraints facing nations and how that continues to shake their actions, be sure to visit us at Stratfor Worldview. This intersection of history, politics, and geography is at the core of all our work and the foundation of Stratfor's unique methodology. It drives the analysis and forecasting we produce each and every day to help make sense of an increasingly complex world. If you're not already a Stratfor Worldview member, you can learn more about individual, team, and enterprise access at While you're there be sure to check out our series of short geographic challenge videos. That's where our team uses animated maps and graphics to outline the primary geopolitical constraints and opportunities facing nations. We'll include some links in the show notes. Now to part two of our conversation on the geopolitics of Jordan, and Stratfor's Emily Hawthorne and Mark Fleming-Williams.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:09:32] Looking at the map, we've got Jordan, it's situated in a very hot area. We've got Syria and Iraq on two borders. We've got Israel on another border. And yet, Jordan has had the same family in charge for a 100 years. How are those two things possible?

Emily Hawthorne [00:09:51] This is a question that people ask about Jordan all the time. It's a really important question because it defies logic somewhat that under so much pressure, Jordan has not seen the type of conflict over the last decades that many of its neighbors have seen. This doesn't mean that Jordan is immune to conflict or instability. Jordan does struggle with the development of terrorist organizations within its borders, but it has a very strong military and security forces that help suss out plots before they can metastasize. That's one thing, is that Jordan has built up its security forces in a very profound way. Another thing is that Jordan does have a varied ethnic makeup. A lot of Jordan is comprised of different waves of refugees and migrants that have come to settle in Jordan over the decades. Jordan became an independent kingdom in 1946. In 1948 you had the Nakba, the west bank, and Israel claimed a lot of Jerusalem, prompting thousands and thousands of Palestinians to move across the Jordan river into Jordan. Most of these Palestinians have not left. Then you have other waves of immigration from Iraq. Now in the last seven years, we've had incredible waves of migration from Syria. That said, the royal family and the government, they try to keep on top of all these different groups by really making sure that they have enough foreign aid to keep refugee camps running and providing services. That's one thing we can talk about is those foreign relationships.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:11:15] It seems to me, what you're telling me, is that Jordan is like the spare room of the Middle East. It seems to be that anyone who is leaving the neighboring countries ends up kind of stumbling into Jordan and finding a room for the night. Does that mean that Jordan in a way is not really an active player, an agent of its own destiny in the Middle East? Is it more a recipient of what other people want?

Emily Hawthorne [00:11:35] That is an apt way of looking at Jordan historically. Because it has been so stable, it's emerging now as more and more of a strategic actor in the Middle East but it still is not a major power because it doesn't have its own sources of wealth generation. There's a really interesting way to look at what those waves of Palestinian migration to Jordan have given to it over the years. They've comprised over half of the population. These Palestinians, especially from the first waves of migration, they call themselves Jordanians but they will proudly identify as Palestinian as well. But they're part of Jordan. They've become part of the national fabric. Even though these borders famously were drawn because of the Sykes-Picot agreement, Jordanians of all different nationalities originally have really fleshed out those borders and have built of this narrative. That's one thing is that the royal family over the years, especially King Hussein who was king for decades up until 1999, really told a good narrative that Jordanians could be a part of. The Palestinian migration, the Palestinian issue in the enduring, unsolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, this is a great thorn in the side of Middle East peace. All the other Arab states feel similarly about the Palestinian cause and that they want them to be able to return home and have their own state. Well Jordan has become a place for them to live supposedly temporarily and that has given Jordan sort of a vaulted status of hosting a whole generation of Palestinians. This is valuable for the rest of the Middle East

Emily Hawthorne [00:13:07] in that they've sort of served as their home.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:13:10] How would you characterize Jordan's role in the region? Obviously, it's a bit involved in invasions, Arab invasions against Israel in the past. It doesn't feel to me like the leader. How does Jordan manage the tension surrounding it?

Emily Hawthorne [00:13:23] Well one, Jordan doesn't get deeply involved in a lot of the conflicts in the Middle East any more than it has to just to secure its own security. For example, Jordan has very capable security forces. Part of that is thanks to decades of agreements with the United States and with the U.K. to train up Jordan security forces. But they use them to directly protect Jordan. They don't use them to deploy abroad and conduct an intervention. Egypt in the 60s deployed Egyptian troops to Yemen. That's not something that Jordan has done unless it's alongside a much broader Arab League mission. Jordan, for example, has been active in the Syrian civil war but really has only worked alongside Syrian rebels in the area just adjacent to Jordan. It tries not to get involved in too many of the conflicts in the region. It also has a strategic peace agreement with Israel that was sort of worked by Hussein in the 90s. That has given Jordan something that a lot of the Arab states don't have which is this ability to work proactively with Israel and to benefit from having an open relationship with them and share intelligence. That's another thing, is that Jordan is known to have capable intelligence services. They're in a strategic neighborhood, a hot neighborhood. They do have a lot to share in terms of intelligence and they use that to their advantage in agreements with regional players and with outside players as well. Really, Jordan wants to be everyone's friend. With Russia, with the U.K., with the E.U, with the United States, and with all these regional powers.

Emily Hawthorne [00:14:55] It doesn't like to be forced to one side or the other and they're very good at staying on top of that balance.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:15:00] We've got a few lines drawn in the Middle East at moment and clear alliances in place and obviously friction between the U.A.E and Saudi Arabia and Qatar and obviously the alliances being drawn up in Syria. Can we clearly say within these regional engagements that Jordan is on this side and not the other? If so, who are its friends?

Emily Hawthorne [00:15:19] If you had to lay out Jordan's allegiances, it's going to be very close with most of the Arab Gulf states. Part of that goes back to that Hashemite connection. Part of it is the fact that Jordan is overwhelming a Sunni Muslim country. It also is very closely allied with the United States and the United States' regional alliances in the region fall strongly with the Arab Gulf states and not with Iran. But at the same time, Jordan maintained an open relationship and pragmatic relationship with Syria throughout the course of the war as well as with Iraq even though they were fighting on the side of the Syrian rebels. But to keep all of Jordan's options open they try to make sure that they don't shut off any relationships. You can see that sometimes, in the wake of the GCC Qatar crisis of last June, Jordan came out in support of what the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia and Egypt were doing in trying to clamp down on Qatar's independence. But they didn't move as firmly and strongly as Egypt or some of the other close GCC allies in the region because they don't want to have to pick sides.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:16:25] We've got a very fast moving surroundings to Jordan at the moment. We've got civil war in Syria. We've got a lot of mixing up going on in Iraq in recent years. It's still not entirely clear how the chessboard is going to settle, if it does. It's hard to talk about the future, but is there anything we can say with certainty about Jordan's future? Is there a goal that they're moving towards? Is there anything which any clarity that we can try and divine for where Jordan is headed?

Emily Hawthorne [00:16:54] One of the big variables for Jordan that will determine its future is what happens with the latest wave of refugees that have come into the country, specifically Syrians. We just were talking about how Jordan has been able to assimilate and put together a very diverse population under one government, but the newest waves of migration, Jordan is actually pretty concerned about and the king has appealed to the E.U. and to the U.N. and to others that they need more monetary help and that Jordan is sort of at the brink of what its economy can afford to do. That is a big question that Jordan has and they want to make sure that they still have a lot of international aid coming in to the country, but I've heard Jordan's economy referred to as a colander, as a sieve. It's so structurally unsound that it receives a lot of money but it just sort of trickles through. There's a lot of work to be done in reforming Jordan's economy and that's one of the big battles ahead is actually patching up a lot of those big gaping holes in sort of labor reform and tax reform and all this. All that to say, the constitutional monarchy system that they've set up, where there's a prime minister and a government that can issue a lot of rulings and laws, that kind of shields the monarchy from a lot of public dissent over the economy. It's safe to say that the monarchy still has a lot of control over making sure that Jordan stays stable and they can sort of recycle in and out prime ministers and parliament members to take some of the heat.

Emily Hawthorne [00:18:20] But the economy is something to watch. The refugees are something to watch and also how Jordan deals with the enduring threats of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and how it keeps it from forming new militant groups in its own borders. That's going to determine Jordan's ability to remain stable moving forward.

Mark Flemming-Williams [00:18:39] Basically they've had a very strong performance at managing to remain stable through a very difficult 100 years and they'll be doing extremely well if they carry on managing to remain stable through the next 100.

Emily Hawthorne [00:18:51] Yes, and there are interesting things about modern Jordan. They have a booming but small entrepreneurial tech sector. The government's nurtured that. There are some unique things about Jordan and it's diversity has given it some sort of strength and it's very open. It's very open to tourism. It's very open. It's easy to travel in Jordan. It's easy to do journalism in Jordan. This is also something that the government strategically wants to maintain because it helps it cultivate those positive relationships with outside powers that continue to support Jordan and want to keep it the way it is.

Jordan is located in a politically unstable region, but the country has managed to remain at peace as civil wars and terrorism run riot in neighboring countries. It was unscarred during the Arab Spring and has managed to deter terrorists from its borders. It is a popular destination for Western tourists who feel much safer than in other countries.

The flag of Jordan portrays three bands of black, white, and green, and a red triangle. The black color represents the Abbassid Caliphate, white represents Ummayyad Caliphate, and the green represents the Fatimid Caliphate. The red triangle represents the Arab Revolt of 1916.

Watch the video: Geography Now! Jordan