Saudi-Jordanian cooperation ‘a role model’ for the entire Middle East

Special Saudi-Jordanian cooperation ‘a role model’ for the entire Middle East
The two nations have become a ‘role model’ for regional cooperation and coordination, a former Jordanian minister said. (Twitter: @Spa_Eng)
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Updated 23 June 2022

Saudi-Jordanian cooperation ‘a role model’ for the entire Middle East

Saudi-Jordanian cooperation ‘a role model’ for the entire Middle East
  • Common history, geography, and politics unite Saudis and Jordanians, who say their country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is vital
  • Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest trade partner, and Jordan receives billions in remittances, investments, and direct aid from them annually

AMMAN: Saudi Arabia’s longstanding relationship with Jordan is a tale of the two kingdoms becoming a “role model” for regional and pan-Arab cooperation, that is expected to be strengthened with several new initiatives on the political and economic fronts, according to experts.

Ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s upcoming visit to Jordan, observers point to the long, shared history, similar culture and values of both peoples, which have had an impact on diplomatic relations.

“Diplomacy is not the right word to describe the Amman-Riyadh relations. It’s history, geography, politics, and common interests,” said Samih Maaitah, former Jordan minister of media affairs.



In remarks to Arab News, Maaitah explained that the two nations have become a “role model” for regional cooperation and coordination, thanks to a “number of facts, including primarily the similar political and ruling system.”

Maaitah, a prolific writer, explained that the two countries have long adopted a similar political approach to regional and international issues, including on Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This includes tackling terrorism, and “nowadays, illicit drug trafficking (from Syria).”

“Since a stable Jordan is in the very interest of Saudi Arabia, a strong Saudi Arabia is at the heart of Jordan’s interests. A constant Amman-Riyadh strategic partnership is a top priority and cannot be compromised or sacrificed. The leaders of both countries are fully aware of that, and they are acting accordingly.”

Amer Sabaileh, a Jordanian strategic analyst and university professor, echoed Maaitah’s remarks, hailing the progress of ties and calling for stronger political cooperation and coordination.

Sabaileh told Arab News that Jordan must take on a role in “Saudi Arabia’s new vision (2030) and its leaders’ ambitious plan for the entire region.”

“Saudi Arabia has a progressive and ambitious strategic vision for the entire Middle East region, and Jordan is urgently required to capitalize on the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Amman.”

“Constant Jordanian-Saudi cooperation and coordination serves the interests of the entire region,” he added.



Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest economic partner, with investments of more than $13 billion. Trade between the two nations reached $5 billion in 2021.

According to the World Bank, Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest donor, having given its neighbor direct financial assistance of $3 billion, or around 8 percent of Jordan’s GDP.

In April this year, Saudi Arabia sent $50 million in direct funding to Jordan, the fourth installment out of five that Riyadh pledged to the country. According to the Saudi Press Agency, this assistance was part of a 2018 agreement between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE to provide a $2.5 billion economic aid package to Jordan.

The Saudi-Jordanian Investment Fund, backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, recently signed an agreement with Jordan to invest $400 million in a healthcare facility in the country.

The project has been described as the “culmination” of Saudi investment in Jordan.



March 22, 1945 Saudi Arabia and Jordan co-found the Arab League in Cairo with four other members to coordinate policy, arrange studies and committees to matters of common concern.

June 3, 1999 Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz talks with Joran’s King Abdullah II on latest developments in the Middle East peace process.

May 10, 2011 Jordan makes bid to join Gulf Cooperation Council.

March 27, 2017 King Salman arrived in Amman for summit meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. 15 agreements and $1 billion marking a new economic era between the two nations.

October 29, 2019 King Abdullah II participates at the Future Investment Initiative 2019 conference in Riyadh.

March 8, 2021 Jordan’s King Abdullah II arrives in Riyadh where they reviewed relations and joint cooperation to further develop promising opportunities.

January 26, 2022 Saudi Arabia and Jordan cooperate in NEOM to establish projects and partnerships that could potentially benefit both sides across crucial and strategic sectors, especially the energy and water desalination sectors on the Red Sea.

During the signing ceremony, Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh emphasized that the leaders of the two nations had a deep-rooted relationship, and urged greater cooperation on all fronts.

Supporting this view, Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi said that the Kingdom was eager to enhance its relations with Jordan.

SJIF Chairman Hisham Attar explained that the fund’s main objective is to contribute to economic growth in Jordan through long-term investments in key strategic sectors, reflecting the vision of the two countries’ leaders.

He also highlighted the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 and the strategy of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to further promote economic integration. The SJIF was seeking to become the most impactful investor in Jordan.

The SJIF and the Jordanian government, represented by the Jordan Investment Fund, signed a memorandum of understanding on June 16 that would enable the SJIF to explore investments in the National Railway Network Project.

This project entails the construction of a 418-kilometer railway line connecting the Aqaba Container Terminal with the Madouna land port in southern Amman for the shipment of containers, phosphate, grain, and automobiles, according to an SJIF statement.

In June 2021, the SJIF announced a $15 million investment in leading Jordanian technology company OpenSooq, an e-commerce mobile app that enables consumer-to-consumer sales, as part of its capital growth investment strategy.

The fund said at the time that the investment sought to bolster the entrepreneurial environment in Jordan, that would support the development of local companies, and provide them an opportunity for regional expansion.

In March this year, a bilateral agreement that could be worth over $1 billion was signed by business leaders from Makkah and Amman.

Attending the signing ceremony between the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its Amman counterpart, Jordan’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Yousef Mahmoud Al-Shamali said: “There is a need to strengthen these relations to rise above $1 billion, especially since Amman is proud of Saudi products, and Saudi investments are the most important in Jordan.”

Jamal Shalabi, a political science professor at the Hashemite University of Jordan, explained that Saudi Arabia has shifted its economic cooperation with Jordan from “cash assistance to direct investment in services and infrastructure projects.”

“This is very smart and more sustainable and it has a direct impact on creating jobs and accelerating economic growth,” he said during a ceremony marking the centenary of the Jordanian state at the university in April.

According to official figures, around 430,000 Jordanians work in Saudi Arabia.

Remittances sent from Saudi Arabia to Jordan have increased by $16.4 million to $1.1 billion during the first four months of 2022, marking a 1.5 percent rise from the same period last year.

The Central Bank of Jordan’s data showed that these remittances totaled $3.4 billion at the end of 2021. Most of the remittances from Jordanian expatriates come from Gulf countries, and from Saudi Arabia in particular.

An opinion poll conducted by the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies in March revealed that Jordanians see an “institutionalized relationship with Saudi Arabia” as a top priority for their country.

The poll also revealed that 37 percent of Jordanians view Saudi Arabia as their country’s largest economic and political supporter, and the “closest neighbor both culturally and traditionally.”


Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages

Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages
Updated 26 September 2022

Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages

Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages
  • Tunisia seeks to secure an IMF loan to save public finances from collapse

TUNIS: Hundreds of Tunisians protested on Sunday night in a poor neighborhood in the capital against poverty, high prices and the shortage of some foodstuff, escalating pressure on the government of President Kais Saied, as the country suffers an economic and political crisis.
Tunisia is struggling to revive its public finances as discontent grows over inflation running at nearly 9 percent and a shortage of many food items in stores because the country cannot afford to pay for some imports.
The North African nation is also in the midst of a severe political crisis since Saied seized control of the executive power last year and dissolved parliament in a move his opponents called a coup.
In the poor Douar Hicher district in the capital, some protesters lifted loaves of bread in the air. Other chanted, “Where is Kais Saied?.” Angry youths burned wheels.
Protesters chanted “Jobs, freedom and national dignity,” and “We can’t support crazy price hikes,” “Where is sugar?.”
Food shortages are worsening in Tunisia with empty shelves in supermarkets and bakeries, adding to popular discontent at high prices of many Tunisians who spend hours searching for sugar, milk, butter, cooking oil and rice.
Videos on social media showed on Sunday dozens of customers scrambling to win a kilogram of sugar in market.
Tunisia, which is suffering its worst financial crisis, is seeking to secure an International Monetary Fund loan to save public finances from collapse.
The government raised this month the price of cooking gas cylinders by 14 percent for the first time in 12 years. It also raised fuel prices for the fourth time this year as part of a plan to reduce energy subsidies, a policy change sought by the IMF.

Mahsa Amini’s death in Iranian police custody has lit a spark in a nation seething with anger and discontent

Mahsa Amini’s death in Iranian police custody has lit a spark in a nation seething with anger and discontent
Updated 26 September 2022

Mahsa Amini’s death in Iranian police custody has lit a spark in a nation seething with anger and discontent

Mahsa Amini’s death in Iranian police custody has lit a spark in a nation seething with anger and discontent
  • At least 41 people have died since protests erupted over the death of the 22-year-old 
  • Amini was arrested by morality police for allegedly violating the regime’s strict dress code 

DUBAI: Protests have spread to almost all of Iran’s 31 provinces and urban cities since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police. On Sept. 13, Amini was arrested by a morality police (Gasht-e Ershad) patrol in a Tehran metro station, allegedly for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

She was hospitalized after the arrest, fell into a coma and died three days later. Iranian authorities maintain that she died of a heart attack. Her family says thart she had no pre-existing heart conditions.

Her death has sparked outrage in a country seething with anger over a long list of grievances and a wide range of socio-economic concerns.

Iranian women, fed up with the morality police’s heavy-handed approach, have been posting videos of themselves online cutting locks of their hair in support of Amini. Protesters who have taken to the streets have been chanting “Death to the moral police” and “Women, life, freedom.”

In acts of defiance, female demonstrators can be seen taking off their headscarves, burning them and dancing in the streets. State police have been cracking down on the protesters by attacking them with tear gas while volunteers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been beating them. At least 41 people have died so far.

“The Internet in Tehran has been cut off. I have not been able to reach family members, but every now and then they are able to get a message through,” an Iranian man who fled to the US during the days of the Islamic Revolution, told Arab News.

Mehdi, who did not want to give his full name, added: “We are hopeful that the government will offer concessions this time. It has been the biggest demonstration since the revolution. We take pride in what is happening in Iran.”

Writing in The Washington Post, Karim Sajdadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, described the protests against the killing of Amin as “led by the nation’s granddaughters against the grandfathers who have ruled their country for over four decades.”

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Sharia laws in the country require women to wear headscarves and loose garb in public. Those who do not abide by the code are fined or jailed.

Iranian authorities’ campaign to make women dress modestly and against the wearing of mandatory clothing “incorrectly” began soon after the revolution, which ended an era of unfettered sartorial freedom for women under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. During the shah’s rule, his wife Farah, who often wore Western clothing, was held up as a model of a modern woman.

The image of protesters destroying portraits of Iranian leaders in the northern city of Sari is just one of many emerging from Iran over the past week in a symbol of anti-regime sentiment. (AFP) 

By 1981, women were not allowed to show their arms in public. In 1983, Iran’s parliament decided that women who did not cover their hair in public could be punished with 74 lashes. In recent times, it added the punishment of up to 60 days in prison.

Restrictions kept evolving, and the extent of enforcement of the female dress code has varied since 1979, depending on which president was in office. The Gasht-e Ershad was formed to enforce dress codes after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the ultraconservative mayor of Tehran, became president in 2005.

The restrictions were eased a little under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, who was considered a relative moderate. After Rouhani accused the morality police of being aggressive, the head of the force declared in 2017 women violating the modesty code would no longer be arrested.

However, the rule of President Ebrahim Raisi appears to have emboldened the morality police once again. In August, Raisi signed a decree for stricter enforcement of rules that require women to wear hijabs at all times in public.

In his speech at the UN General Assembly last week, Raisi tried to deflect blame for the protests in Iran by pointing to Canada’s treatment of indigenous people and accused the West of applying double standards when it comes to human rights.

When I look at how the women are standing up to the vicious regime that never shied away from genocide, it gives me goosebumps.

Mehdi, who fled to the US during the Islamic Revolution

Raisi’s government, meanwhile, is seeking some form of guarantee whereby the lifting of severe sanctions and resumed business activities by Western firms cannot be disrupted if a future US president rescinds the 2015 nuclear deal. Iranian officials also dispute the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency about illicit nuclear material found at three sites and want the IAEA’s investigation to close.

Protests in Iran are not new. In 2009, the Green Movement held protests over election results believed to be fraudulent. In 2019, there were demonstrations over the spike in fuel prices and deteriorating standard of living conditions and basic needs.

This year’s protests are different in that they are feminist in nature. Firuzeh Mahmoudi, executive director of United for Iran, a human rights NGO, said it is unprecedented for the country to see women taking off their hijabs en masse, burning police cars and tearing down pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (the country’s supreme leader).

It is also unprecedented to see men chant “We’ll support our sisters and women, life, liberty.”

“Through social media, mobile apps, blogs and websites, Iranian women are actively participating in public discourse and exercising their civil rights,” Mahmoudi said. “Luckily for the growing women’s rights movements, the patriarchal and misogynistic government has not yet figured out how to completely censor and control the Internet.”

Protests against the death of Mahsa Amini have erupted across Iran, and among the diaspora living around the world. (AFP)

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian political activist who has been living in exile in America since 2009, said that she has been receiving many messages from women in Iran. They have been sharing with her their frustrations, videos of the protests, and their goodbyes to their parents, which they believe might be for the last time.

Saying that she can feel their anger through their messages, Alinejad said the hijab is a way for the government to control women and therefore society, adding that “their hair and their identity have been taken hostage.”

Scores of Iranian male celebrities have also voiced their support of the protests and women. Toomaj Salehi, a dissident rapper who was arrested earlier this year because of his lyrics on regime change and social and political issues, posted a video of himself walking through the streets saying: “My tears don’t dry, it’s blood, it’s anger. The end is near, history repeats itself. Be afraid of us, pull back, know that you are done.”

For its part, the movie industry released a statement on Saturday calling on the military to drop their weapons and “return to the arms of the nation.”

A number of famous actresses have taken off their hijab in support of the movement and the protests. Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, Iran’s culture minister, said that actresses who voiced their support online and removed their hijabs can no longer pursue their careers.

In a tweet on Saturday, Sajdadpour said: “To understand Iran’s protests it’s striking to juxtapose images of the young, modern women killed in Iran over the last week (Mahsa Amini, Ghazale Chelavi, Hanane Kia, Mahsa Mogoi) with the images of the country’s ruling elite, virtually all deeply traditional, geriatric men.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds up a photo of Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. attack, during his remarks at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. (AFP)

Iranian authorities have shut down mobile Internet connections, disrupting WhatsApp and Instagram services. On Iranian state media, ISNA, Issa Zarepour, minister of communications, justified the act for “national security” and said it was not clear how long the blocks on social media platforms and WhatsApp would continue, as it was being implemented for “security purposes and discussions related to recent events.”

However, Mahsa Alimardani, an academic at the Oxford Internet Institute who studies Iran’s Internet shutdowns and controls, said the authorities are targeting these platforms because they are “lifelines for information and communication that’s keeping the protests alive.”

On Twitter, the hashtag #MahsaAmini in Farsi has exceeded well over 30 million posts.

“Everyone in Iran knows that the authorities will crack down very hard on the protesters and kill them,” Mehdi, the US-based Iranian, told Arab News.

“It’s almost target practice for them. When I look at how the women there are standing up to the ruthless and vicious regime that never shied away from genocide to maintain their power, it gives me goose bumps. It takes a certain courage to do what they are doing.”

Looking forward to the future with hope, he said: “The flame has been ignited and we are not the kind of people who back out.”


Freed Moroccan POW speaks of Ukraine struggle

Freed Moroccan POW speaks of Ukraine struggle
Updated 25 September 2022

Freed Moroccan POW speaks of Ukraine struggle

Freed Moroccan POW speaks of Ukraine struggle

CASABLANCA: A Moroccan prisoner of war released as part of an exchange between Moscow and Kyiv said he wanted to draw attention to the “struggle” of Ukraine as he returned home Saturday.

“I’m happy to come home after going through very difficult times,” said Brahim Saadoun, 21, an aeronautical engineering student who had been based in Ukraine since 2019.

“I want to draw attention to the difficult situation in Ukraine and the struggle of its people in this painful time,” he said at his family home, in a working-class district of Casablanca.

Saadoun was freed on Wednesday, one of 10 foreign prisoners of war — including five British and two American citizens — transferred to Saudi Arabia as part of the exchange between Moscow and Kyiv.

Smiling and appearing in good health alongside his mother, Saadoun thanked Saudi Arabia, the Turkish government and the Moroccan people “who stood in solidarity with us.”

His father, Taher Saadoun, said he had “an indescribable feeling of joy,” and also praised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in the release.

Brahim “has suffered from the imprisonment but he will recover and get back to his studies,” he said.

Brahim Saadoun was sentenced to death alongside two British men by the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic in early June.

After his trial, the Moroccan government said that Saadoun had been “captured while wearing the uniform of the military of the state of Ukraine, as a member of a Ukrainian naval unit.”

It said he had been “imprisoned by an entity that is recognized by neither the United Nations nor Morocco.”

Rabat has adopted a position of neutrality in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Morocco is keen not to alienate Moscow, a UN Security Council member, on the issue of the disputed status of Western Sahara, a vast stretch of mineral-rich desert which Rabat considers part of its own territory.

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’
Updated 25 September 2022

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’
  • A wave of protests has rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police

BRUSSELS: The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday that Iran’s crackdown on protests is “unjustifiable” and “unacceptable,” as Tehran vowed no leniency against the unrest gripping the country.
A wave of protests has rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police.
At least 41 people have died, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic republic’s security forces, according to an official toll, although human rights groups say the real figure is higher.
In a statement on behalf of the EU, Borrell said: “For the European Union and its member states, the widespread and disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protesters is unjustifiable and unacceptable.”
Moves “to severely restrict Internet access by the relevant Iranian authorities and to block instant messaging platforms is a further cause for concern, as it blatantly violates freedom of expression,” he added.
Amini was arrested on September 13, accused of having breached rules that mandate tightly fitted hijab head coverings as well as ripped jeans and brightly colored clothes.
Iran’s judiciary chief on Sunday “emphasised the need for decisive action without leniency.”

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce
Updated 25 September 2022

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce
  • The Quad countries called on the Houthis to open the main roads around Taiz
  • Reaffirmed support for Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, stressed importance of cohesion in the council

LONDON: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, and the US have condemned the Houthis’ large scale military reinforcement and all attacks that threaten to derail the truce in Yemen.

The countries, known as the Quad, recently met to discuss the situation in Yemen and also condemned recent Houthi attacks on Taiz and a Houthi military parade that was put on in Hodeidah at the beginning of this month which violated the Hodeidah Agreement.

The Quad welcomed the tangible benefits of the truce in Yemen for the country’s people since it began on April. 2 and the continued implementation of agreed confidence building measures by its government.

The countries welcomed the flow of fuel into Hodeidah Port despite a Houthi order that delayed the established process for clearing ships, and the resumption of flights in and out of Sanaa airport.

They called for the implementation of outstanding measures including the opening by the Houthis of the main roads around Taiz and an agreement on a joint mechanism for the payment of civil servant salaries.

The Quad said it fully supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg to extend and expand the truce which is due for renewal on Oct. 2, and that all terms of the truce must be fully implemented.

The governments of the four countries also agreed that a permanent ceasefire and a durable political settlement must be the ultimate objectives of the Yemeni political process, under UN auspices, and that such a settlement must be based on the agreed references and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

They reaffirmed their support to Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, stressed the importance of cohesion in the council, and welcomed the council’s commitment to improving basic services and economic stability in the war-torn country.