Drone strike brings renewed attention to US military presence in Jordan

Drone strike brings renewed attention to US military presence in Jordan
Jordanian public anger over US support for Israel's war on Gaza has transformed into calls for US forces to exit the country.
3 min read
31 January, 2024
Jordan is the closest US security ally in the Middle East. [Getty]

Jordanian parliamentarians have renewed calls to review the US military presence in Jordan over continual and staunch US support for Israel's war on Gaza. The debates reemerged after a drone strike killed three US soldiers along the Jordan-Syria border on 27 January.

During Tuesday's discussions of the 2024 budget, MPs demanded that a 2021 defence agreement that gives US forces, aircraft, and vehicles free entry into Jordan be reviewed.

The drone attack by allegedly Iranian-backed forces on the US border base brought attention to the US military base in northeast Jordan, recently a subject of controversy in Jordan for US support for the Israeli military operation in Gaza, which has left more than 26,000 dead, mostly women and children. 

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The US uses the Muwaffaq al-Salti airbase in northeast Syria for aerial missions in Syria and Iraq, as well as maintains the al-Tanf military base along the Syrian-Jordanian border.

"The Jordanian people in all of their marches and protests have expressed their refusal of the presence of these bases, and they have questioned if they are used to support the Zionist entity," Khaled al-Juhni, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah parliamentary bloc, told The New Arab.

The US gives more than US$425 million in security assistance to Jordan annually and maintains a close security relationship with the country's military and intelligence apparatus.

Public anger in Jordan towards Israel's military operation has been palpable since 7 October, with protesters storming the Israeli embassy and holding rallies in front of the US embassy in Amman.

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The Jordanian government has been outspoken in its criticism of Israel, expelling its ambassador and announcing that it would support South Africa's case against Israel on the charge of genocide at the International Court of Justice.

Protesters have called for the Jordanian government to also take action against its top ally, the US, for its support of Israel. In a 22 December protest in the Jordanian capital, demonstrators held up shoes towards the US embassy and held signs condemning US President Joe Biden.

Protests held outside the US embassy in Amman have been met by a heavy security presence, and have not been allowed to approach the premises.

"At the very least, they should summon the US ambassador and inform him that we are unhappy with the US position on Israel," Duaa Jaber, a media personality and former Islah MP candidate, told TNA.

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After the drone strike on the US base, Jordan called for the US to station Patriot Missile Defense batteries in Jordan to better protect the country's borders.

According to Jawad Anani, the former Foreign Minister of Jordan and Chief of the Royal Court, there is "no chance" that the Jordanian government would cancel its defence agreement with the US.

"There is a sense of resentment and displeasure [with the US], but there's no way for Jordan to renege on its agreement. Jordanians are equally unhappy with the UK, Germany and France; we cannot break our relations with everyone," Anani told TNA.

Anani added that Jordan is seeking to play a role in a diplomatic resolution of Israel's war on Gaza and would likely seek to avoid angering the US to maintain its mediator position.

Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and the US have all been involved in behind-the-scenes talks to try to achieve a ceasefire and secure the release of in Gaza and those held in Israeli prisons.