The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

As execution of pilot is publicized, U.S. expands relationship with Jordan

A Jordanian tank fires on May 7, 2012, during bilateral tank training in Jordan with the U.S. military’s 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit as part of Exercise Eager Lion 12. (Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein/ Marine Corps)

Washington will expand its funding to Jordan over the next three years, in part to combat the Islamic State, U.S. officials said Tuesday, as militants with the group released video showing an imprisoned Jordanian fighter pilot being burned to death.

The United States will boost financial assistance to Jordan from $660 million per year over the last five years to $1 billion per year over the next three, U.S. officials said. President Obama and Jordanian King Abdullah II agreed in December to renew their memorandum of understanding for assistance for Jordan, State Department officials said, but the terms of the deal were not released until Tuesday. The announcement came while both Abdullah and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh were in Washington. The king cut short his visit when news of the execution broke.

“The United States and Jordan share a commitment to promoting regional security and stability, furthering Jordan’s economic development, and advancing social, political, and economic reform in Jordan,” the State Department said. “The United States recognizes Jordan’s increased immediate needs resulting from regional unrest, the efforts Jordan is undertaking at the forefront of the fight against [Islamic State] and other extremist ideology and terrorism, the influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq, the disruption of foreign energy supplies, and other unprecedented strains.”

The increase in funding is designed to address Jordan’s “short-term, extraordinary needs,” including those related to regional instability, U.S. officials said.

Militants released a video online Tuesday showing Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned alive by his captors; he was captured after his F-16 fighter plane went down in Syria in December while carrying out combat missions led by the United States.

Jordan's King Abdullah cut short his U.S. visit after Islamic State released a video appearing to show a captive Jordanian pilot being burned alive. (Video: Reuters)

The relationship with Jordan has had a strong military component for years. Jordan’s involvement in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the civil war in Syria and ongoing U.S.-Jordanian military and intelligence cooperation are all likely to figure into future discussions of aid to the kingdom, according to a December assessment by the Congressional Research Service posted on the State Department website.

“Jordan’s geographic position, wedged between Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, has made it vulnerable to the strategic designs of more powerful neighbors, but has also given Jordan an important role as a buffer between these potential adversaries,” the assessment said.

Washington has provided economic aid to Jordan since 1951, and military aid since 1957. The levels have fluctuated through the years, but U.S. officials reached an agreement with Jordan in September 2008 that would provide a total of $660 million per year over the next five years. Since 1951, U.S. financial assistance to Jordan exceeds $13.8 billion.

Part of the assistance is to help Jordan to modernize its military. In recent years, the kingdom has used U.S. military grants to purchase advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, upgrades for its fleet of about 70 to 80 F-16 fighters, and Black Hawk helicopters. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States also delivered three Patriot anti-missile batteries to Jordan to protect it against possible attacks.

Hundreds of Jordanian troops also attend military training in the United States each year, and carry out joint military exercises in Jordan with U.S. forces.