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April 24, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10573

Repercussions Of Saudi-Iranian Deal: Jordan Is Close To Normalizing Relations With Iran

April 24, 2023
Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 10573

The China-brokered deal signed by Saudi Arabia and Iran on March 10, 2023, in which they agreed to renew their relations after a hiatus of seven years, [1] is beginning to cause significant changes in the region, including moves to renew the relations between Jordan and Iran, which have been at a low diplomatic level since 2016.[2]

In an April 20, 2023 phone conversation between Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, it was agreed that the two countries would move towards normalization and address various points of contention between them, including the drug trafficking by Iran-backed elements across the Syria-Jordan border.

According to the online daily Raialyoum.com, the rapprochement between Jordan and Iran was initiated by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, in coordination with American elements that green-lighted the move. The London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi assessed that Jordan intends to appoint a new ambassador in Tehran.

It should be noted that, since the signing of the normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there has been a heated public debate in Jordan about the implications of this agreement for Jordan's relations with Iran and about the possibility of renewing these relations. Some articles in the Jordanian press described such rapprochement as a Jordanian interest and called for returning the ambassadors.  Others urged caution and called to test Iran's intentions between taking steps to warm the relations.[3]

Below are details from reports in the Arab and Iranian media about the phone conversation between the Jordanian and Iranian foreign ministers and about the signs of rapprochement between the two countries.

Jordan's Official News Agency Petra: The Sides Will Act To Fully Normalize Relations

According to reports by Jordan's official news agency Petra, the phone conversation between the foreign ministers of Jordan and Iran dealt with "ways to handle several bilateral issues between the countries." The Jordanian minister, Ayman Al-Safadi, stressed that "Jordan, like all the Arab countries, is interested in good relations with Iran, based on principles of neighborliness, non-interference in internal affairs, and cooperation, which is beneficial to both countries and to the region." He called to "continue practical, transparent and sincere talks in order to address all the pending issues, including the situation on the Jordan-Syria border and the challenges posed by the smuggling of drugs into Jordan [by Iran-backed elements on the Syrian side of the border]."

According to the report, the ministers agreed "to advance the security talks between the countries [which began, with Iraqi mediation, in the summer of 2022] and address the issues pending between them. [The ministers agreed] to maintain their political contacts in order to reach understandings that will lay the foundations for the future relations [between the countries]… that will contribute to enhancing the security, stability and cooperation in the region."

Also according to the Petra report, the ministers agreed to meet soon "in order to continue discussing ways to overcome the challenges in the relations between the two sister countries, with an eye to fully normalizing the relations in a way that will serve both countries' interests and contribute to ending the crises and tensions in the region." The Jordanian minister welcomed the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, calling it "a major step towards resolving the tensions in the region and strengthening security and stability." The Iranian minister, for his part, stressed that "Iran seeks to develop its relations with Jordan and appreciates Jordan's role in the region." The ministers relayed mutual Eid Al-Fitr greetings by their heads of state, and also discussed the Palestinian issue.[4]

Iran's news agency ISNA reported that Abdollahian expressed appreciation for Jordan's efforts in supporting the Palestinian people and the holy sites in Jerusalem, and said that "the Zionist apartheid state is the greatest threat to the region and the Islamic nation." He also emphasized the need for Islamic unity and for a full realization of the Palestinians' rights, while stressing that "the Zionists' hands [reaching for] Al-Aqsa must be chopped off." According to ISNA, the Jordanian minister "declared his country's willingness to develop the ties between [Jordan and Iran]" and that "Iran is an important country in the region and we ascribe great importance to developing the ties with it."[5]  

Raialyoum.com: It Was The Saudi Crown Prince Who Initiated The Jordan-Iran Rapprochement, "In Coordination With U.S."

The online pan-Arab daily Raialyoum.com reported, citing "U.S. diplomats and experts," that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) is the one who "engineered" the rapprochement between Jordan and Iran "in coordination with American institutions and figures" that green-lighted the move. The report also claimed that the issue of Jordan-Iran rapprochement had been discussed at an April 20 meeting between MBS and Jordan's King 'Abdullah during the latter's latest visit to Saudi Arabia.[6]

The Qatari London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi assessed that Jordan, which recalled its ambassador from Tehran in 2016 in protest over the attack on the Saudi embassy there, intends to appoint a new ambassador to Iran. The two countries, it added, are likely to reach security understandings "on pending issues," chief of them the distancing of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) forces to at least 40 km from the Syria-Jordan border, and tighter oversight of the Iran-backed elements to prevent drug trafficking from Syria into Jordan.[7]

Media reports also indicate that, on April 13, a week before the phone conversation between the foreign ministers, the Iranian embassy in Amman held a festive iftar (evening meal ending the daily Ramadan fast) attended by Jordanian politicians and journalists. Events of this kind were held in previous years as well. But, according to Raialyoum.com, since the signing of the Saudi-Iranian agreement, Ali Asghar Nasseri, the Iranian Chargé d'Affaires in Jordan, who organized the iftar,  "is able to act with greater freedom and with fewer limitations as [Iran's] diplomatic representative" in Jordan.[8]

 


[1]  See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10522, In Saudi Press, Cautious Optimism Follows Saudi-Iranian Renewal Of Relations, March 13, 2023.

[2] In April 2016 Jordan recalled its ambassador from Iran over the latter's "intervention in the internal affairs of Arab countries, especially of the Gulf states." This was a gesture of solidarity with Jordan's ally Saudi Arabia, whose embassy in Tehran had been attacked and torched by Iranian rioters three months earlier. In early 2019 the last Iranian ambassador to Jordan, Mojtaba Ferdosipour, finished his term in office and Jordan refused to receive a new Iranian ambassador.

Over the years Jordan has taken a cautious position vis-à-vis Iran due to the threats posed to it by this country. King Abdullah II warned about Iran's expansionist ambitions in the region and its efforts to create a territorial continuum extending from Iran to Lebanon, which he referred to in 2004 as "the Shi'ite Crescent." The civil war in Syria and Iran's growing involvement there deepened Jordan's concern about Iran, especially about the presence of Iranian and Iran-backed militias on the Syria-Jordan border, which the kingdom regards as a grave strategic threat to its security. Moreover, in the past few years Iran-backed militias have been involved in attempts to smuggle drugs and weapons from Syria into Jordan. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1683, Following Renewal Of Saudi-Iranian Relations, Debate In Jordanian Press Over Whether Jordan Should Also Reconcile With Iran, March 29, 2023.

[4]  Petra.gov.jo, April 20, 2023.

[5]  Isna.ir, April 20, 2023.

[6] Raialyoum.com, April 20, 2023.

[7] Alquds.co.uk, April 22, 2023.

[8]  Raialyoum.com, April 14, 2023.

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