Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Jordan’s Bid for the UN Security Council

Jordan’s Bid for the UN Security Council

Jordanian Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh, announced on Sunday that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has officially applied for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) – a position that it has previously held twice since 1955. This announcement was made only after “consulting with Saudi Arabia,” which won the seat and then subsequently turned it down in protest over the body’s failure to act decisively to end the war in Syria and substantively affect other Middle Eastern issues. Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications, Mohammad Momani, described the UNSC seat as an “opportunity to further contribute to regional and international peace and security.” Speaking to the Jordan Times, he went on to elaborate that “We believe that the support Jordan gained so far for this membership candidacy indicates the respect that His Majesty King Abdullah has at the international and regional levels and is a testimony in favour of Jordan’s foreign policy that has always been balanced.”

Whether that is the reason or not, Jordan is expected to win the bid as it is likely the only candidate up for consideration. And from the U.S. perspective, why not? Jordan is one of our most reliable allies in a region, which is currently plagued by conflict and uncertainty. In fact, bilateral relations and cooperation between the U.S. and the Hashemite Kingdom are at an all-time high precisely because of all the surrounding chaos.

Jordan, for its part, has made the case that it is particularly well-suited to play a mediating role in regional conflicts, which is true. It has legitimacy and in many cases, it maintains relative impartiality. Likewise, there is little doubt that it will gain influence and prestige by participating – if its ambition is realized, that is. Yet its traditional modus operandi may also be constrained by the burden of occupying a seat on the UNSC. In particular, King Abdullah II favors a diplomatic, middle of the road strategy when it comes to relations with his neighbors and counterparts in the region. Syria is a case in point, in which the King had sent mixed messages about the necessity of Assad’s removal and has refrained from throwing all his weight behind supporting the anti-Assad elements. Jordan’s severe Syrian refugee problem coupled with the inevitability of foreign fighter seepage from the Syrian battlefield into Jordan has surely colored the King’s response. Yet history has shown us that Abdullah was unlikely to take a firm stance either way considering the backlash the Kingdom suffered from its Iraq policy in 1991.

A seat on the Council will force Jordan to speak out decisively on many regional issues and this may come back to haunt the resource-poor country in its own foreign relations. Jordan, to some extent, has many masters – the U.S. being one and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) being another. It may be difficult to satisfy the agendas of both.

Likewise, Jordan was having a tumultuous time with its own mini version of the Arab Uprisings, which perhaps is more suitably described as Arab Spring lite. However, since the deterioration of the Syrian situation and the ensuing security concerns that it precipitated in the Kindgom, agitation toward democratic and economic reform have fallen by the wayside. It is possible that gaining a seat on Council will continue to insulate the state from pressure to reform for a time, but it won’t last forever. The genie cannot be put back into the bottle and Jordanians, from the tribes to the Western-minded youth, have demonstrated that they are unsatisfied with cosmetic reform. The King may find a second wave of protests coming his way following Jordan’s two-year stint on the Council and he will have to act decisively one way or another to ensure his survival.

In short, a seat on the United Nations Security Council yields a mixed bag for Jordan – there are surely some incentives, but there are also challenges in equal measure.