History of Jordan
From the earliest days of antiquity until the turn of the twentieth century, Jordan lacked a clearly defined political and territorial identity. Rather, its past was defined by the contending empires and kingdoms of which it often formed a part and by its geographic location as a buffer zone between the desert tribes to the east and the settled Mediterranean littoral to the west across the Jordan River.
Jordan in antiquity was characterized by small settlements on both sides of the Jordan River and after 2000 B.C. by a number of small tribal kingdoms based primarily on the East Bank.
The Coming of Islam: By 632 the eastern deserts of the Arabian Peninsula had been united under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad and the banner of a new monotheistic faith—Islam. In 633, the year after the prophet’s death, Arab armies entered the Jordan region, initiating a campaign of conquest and conversion in the name of Islam that would ultimately extend over the majority of the Middle East and beyond. Through the centuries, a changing array of Islamic empires held sway in the region—Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Seljuks, Ayyubids, and Mamluks. The defining characteristics of the Jordan region under most of these rulers was a remoteness from the seat of power; an Islamic population that was predominantly Sunni; a definitive decline in trade; a depopulation of the towns and other sedentary agricultural settlements, coupled with an influx of nomadic Arab Bedouins; and an increasing reliance on the pilgrim caravan trade to Mecca.
The Mamluks were displaced in 1517 by the Ottoman Turks, who went on to dominate the region for the next 400 years. Jordan was included in the vilayet (administrative district) of Syria, but it continued to stagnate under the Ottomans and was mostly forgotten by the outside world until the nineteenth century. In the early years of the twentieth century, dissatisfaction with the rule of the Ottoman sultan brought to power a clique of reform-minded nationalist army officers known as the Young Turks. Despite their initial support of the Young Turks, the Ottoman Empire’s many Arab subjects quickly turned against the new regime’s secular-nationalist Turkification policies, as the local autonomy that they had hoped for failed to materialize. Combining an ability to merge the Arab nationalism of the region’s urban intellectual class with the fierce independence of the desert tribes, the Hashemite (Hashimite) family of the Arabian Peninsula, who claimed descent from the Prophet Muhammad, rose to prominence as the spokesmen for the cause of Arab self-determination. The Hashemites were led by Hussein ibn
Ali Al Hashimi (1853–1931), the grand sharif and emir of Mecca and hereditary custodian of the Muslim holy places, and by his two sons, Abdullah (1882–1951) and Faisal (1885–1933).
The Arab Revolt and the Mandate Period: The outbreak of World War I provided the Arabs of the region an opportunity to rise up against their weakened Turkish rulers. With British support and aid, Sharif Hussein launched the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in June 1916. Britain during World War I eventually negotiated three differing and highly contradictory agreements concerning the future of the area—the Hussein-McMahon correspondence (July–October 1915) declaring British support for postwar Arab independence; the Sykes-Picot Agreement (February 1916) proposing the partition of the Middle East into separate British and French zones of control and influence; and the Balfour Declaration (November 1917), which stated British policy as viewing with favor the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Despite these conflicting policies, the Arab forces (militarily led by Faisal) and the British prosecuted the war successfully and in tandem.
The end of Ottoman domination of the region did not herald the much-anticipated rise of Arab self-determination. By April 1920 at the San Remo Conference, the decision came to enforce Allied rule of the Middle East via the mandate system of the League of Nations. While the French received Syria, the British obtained Iraq and Palestine; the latter was divided in two a year later. The eastern portion across the Jordan River was called Transjordan. An Arab administration headed by Abdullah (now an emir) operated this new entity on the East Bank under the supervision of the British commissioner for Palestine. A year later in September 1922, the British government and the League of Nations specifically excluded Jewish settlement from the Transjordan area of the Palestine Mandate in order to try to satisfy Arab aspirations and to fulfill Britain’s responsibilities under the mandate.
Independence: Across the Jordan River in Palestine, violence and civil unrest between the Arab and Jewish populations had been escalating. Britain was overextended after World War II and unable to cope with the growing crisis. In fact, its eventual withdrawal from Palestine came on May 14, 1948. After the state of Israel was declared in the territory that had been designated the Jewish zone under a rejected United Nations-sponsored partition plan, armies from Transjordan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia advanced into the territory of the former Palestine. Because the Arab Legion was the most competent fighting force among the Arabs, Transjordan at the end of the conflict in early 1949 found itself in possession of much of the West Bank of the Jordan River in addition to the eastern portion of Jerusalem, including the Old City and holy sites. Moreover, approximately 500,000 Palestinian Arabs took refuge in Transjordan or the West Bank.
With Abdullah now in control of both sides of the Jordan River, the official name of the country was changed in April 1949 to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a name found in the 1946 constitution but hitherto not commonly used. A year later, Jordan formally annexed the West Bank, a move that only Britain and Pakistan recognized. On July 20, 1951, a Palestinian radical assassinated King Abdullah as he entered the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for Friday prayers. Abdullah’s eldest son Talal succeeded to the throne, but because of a mental illness, he peacefully abdicated in favor of his son Hussein in August 1952. Hussein, who at the time was still a minor, would have to wait until May 1953 to formally become king.
King Hussein: For the four decades following his accession in the early 1950s, King Hussein and Jordan would have to navigate between two contradictory tendencies: the Hashemites’ historical inclination toward conservatism, pragmatism, and close relations with the West on the one hand and the Middle East’s frequent crises and the rise of pan-Arab nationalism on the other. By July 1957, the last British troops had left the country, although Jordan’s relations with most of its neighbors (specifically Egypt, Syria, and Iraq) remained uneasy owing to the rise of socialist-leaning governments (aligned with the Soviet Union) that were ideologically at odds with Jordan’s monarchic system of government.
In 1964, despite Jordan’s opposition, the Arab League created the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to be the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The creation of the PLO and its subsequent armed operations into Israel served as a direct challenge to Jordanian sovereignty and internal government control and brought about harsh Israeli reprisals. In June 1967, war broke out between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Despite a history of uncertain relations with Syria and Egypt, Jordan immediately entered the hostilities and paid a heavy price for its participation when Israel subsequently occupied all of its territory west of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem. Additionally, another influx of approximately 150,000 to 200,000 Palestinian refugees crossed over into the East Bank.
In the years following the Six-Day War of 1967, Jordan was beset by internal turmoil resulting primarily from the tension between “native” East Bankers and the government of King Hussein on the one hand and the domestic Palestinian population led by various guerrilla organizations (of which the PLO was the most prominent) on the other. Low-level skirmishes between the two sides took place beginning in 1968, but it was not until September 1970 that full-scale fighting broke out. In what came to be known among Palestinians as “Black September,” the Jordan Arab Army and the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) bitterly fought into the month of October, causing severe material harm to the country and the deaths of an estimated 3,500 on all sides. The civil war culminated, after several broken agreements, in July of the following year with the routing and eventual expulsion of the Palestinian guerrilla fighters from the kingdom.
In 1973 Jordan did not directly participate in another round of Arab-Israeli fighting, although it did support Syria militarily during the war. In the ensuing years and into the 1980s, Jordan’s regional position was characterized by fluctuating relations with nearly all of its neighbors, in addition to the unresolved Palestinian question, which King Hussein intended to resolve by establishing a confederated status between Jordan and a Palestinian state on the West Bank. This diplomatic approach was dispelled with the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) against Israeli rule in the Occupied Territories in 1987. By 1988 King Hussein had officially revoked any Jordanian legal claim and administrative link to the West Bank, as Palestinian nationalist aspirations for an independent state could no longer be suppressed.
With the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1990, Jordan maintained an officially neutral stand and failed to condemn Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait. Economically, the kingdom was hurt by the influx of refugees from the Gulf and by the embargo on its largest trading partner to the east. Diplomatically, Jordan was increasingly isolated as a result of its lack of support for Western military intervention (especially given its historically strong ties with the United States and Britain), which the majority of the Arab states supported.
Jordan’s position improved dramatically in the mid- to late 1990s. In October 1994, Jordan signed a formal peace treaty with Israel, finally ending nearly 50 years of hostilities and finding agreement on issues such as borders, water allocation, security, and economic relations. Political parties were allowed to organize and to operate more freely than in the past, and despite boycotts by individual Islamist parties in certain instances, local and national elections were held more frequently. Additionally, a rapprochement with the United States, especially in military and economic matters, proved beneficial to the kingdom.
Jordan is one of the poorest countries in the middle east. Syria is now having a civil war. Citizens from Syria are moving into Jordan's refugee camps. For a year now the war has been going on, more and more refugees are going to Jordan. As Jordan is using it's resources the country is losing water. Jordan gives the refugee camps 400 gallons of water a year. So the situation in Jordan is a water shortage