For centuries, the Middle East has been subject to imperial and colonial forces acting upon it. Today, most countries are firmly in “post-colonial” or “neo-colonial” states. This means that they exist in spaces that were once colonized or occupied in some way, and that those forces still resonate within their contemporary cultures.
Whereas in the colonial age, countries would be dominated by an outside nation that would take advantage of their material resources for the disproportionate advantage of the host nation, neo-colonialism has a different face. Instead of tangible material resources of which Jordan has few, the Hashemite Kingdom exports a much more valuable resource: security. This security comes in three forms: intelligence, geographic security, and stability.
The Jordanian secret police - the mukhabarat - was criticized by King Abdullah II in a recent interview as an organization that was “just not on board” with his reforms. The same article continues to explain that the mukhabarat is infamous in the region and in the west alike for their use of torture. It has been nicknamed “in Western diplomatic and intelligence circles as ‘the fingernail factory’”. It is no secret then that the Americans export their least tolerable acts of violence to this organization. It has also been rumoured that the C.I.A. has recently begun funding the mukhabarat directly, so that they do not even have to answer to the King himself.
The stability of Jordan is essential to the stability of the region at large. America’s two most crucial alliances rest on the back of the small monarchy. The first is America’s alliance with Israel, for which Jordan provides security. Jordan shares the largest border with the state of Israel of any Arab nation. Coincidentally, it is one of the only Arab states to have a peace treaty with the Zionist state. The Jordanian military is one of the largest in the Arab world and is trained by the American military. American pilots operate Jordanian F16s.
Jordan acts as a buffer with other Arab nations while they are being destroyed as in the case of Syria (and historically Iraq and Palestine) and takes in refugees from those nations so that they are not stranded at the Israeli border. Jordan is equipped with a steady IV drip of aid from the US, and in exchange makes sure that all is quiet on the Eastern bank.
The next alliance, the one that holds the key to the American economy, is that of Saudi Arabia. To keep oil flowing to America, several things must happen. The gulf must remain stable. The Saudi monarchy must stay in power. In this sense, the Arab Spring posed a potential nightmare for Americans. When Ben Ali fell in Tunisia, the Americans were not pleased. When Mubarak fell in Egypt, they were on edge.
When protests started spreading to Jordan, Bahrain, and the Gulf, the United States knew that dissent must be either stifled or otherwise quenched. If a domino effect was to start, and the Saudi monarchy was to fall, the effects could have easily sent the world spiralling into another recession. America is aware of their huge reliance on Saudi oil, and Obama has time and time again vowed to reduce this dependence. Until that happens, the Jordanian monarchy will be defended at all costs.
Under colonialism, a ruler would be installed by the colonizing nation, usually from a minority group, and given the financial and political privileges that accompany any such situation. In return, the colonized government would need to continuously rely on the colonizer to remain in power. With the leadership of a nation practically on a leash, the colonizer’s “sphere of influence” would grow.
This would normally be accompanied by the rewarding of an elite class with the benefits of studying and maybe working in the colonizing nation, internalizing their paradigms, and returning to their native lands with the intention of maintaining the status quo.
This is clearly the case in Jordan where the Monarch himself speaks Arabic with an accent and studied most of his life in America. Many Jordanians study in America and England and learn western supremacy from its source. In Abdullah’s case, the minority group is the Hashemites, who rule over a Palestinian (and increasingly mixed) majority. A new world requires a new kind of colony, and Jordan is just that.
Get our weekly email