Laurie Brand, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, has a talent for approaching her subjects from unique perspectives. She first did so in Palestinians in the Arab World (Columbia University Press, 1988) which traced the reemergence of Palestinian nationalism by examining Palestinian's sociopolitical institutions in Egypt, Kuwait and Jordan. In her most recent work, Jordan s Inter-Arab Relations, Brand explores her subject from an equally original vantage point and in turn presents a fresh examination of Jordan's ties with key Arab states.
Again applying the case-study method, Brand analyzes Jordan's relations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq and Egypt between 1975 and the 1990-91 Gulf War. Her purpose in examining Amman's bilateral ties with these five Arab neighbors is to understand alliance shifts. Tired of the conventional wisdom that explained Jordanian foreign policy through the lens of domestic politics (usually the Palestinian factor) or as a search for security (either through a regional balance of power or bandwagoning against a threat), Brand seeks a more complete explanation. For example, why did the kingdom seek rapprochement with Damascus in 1975 only to move closer to Syria's regional adversary Iraq by 1979? Why was Jordan the first Arab state to reopen official diplomatic links with Egypt a mere five years after the Camp David accords (and long before the Arab consensus)? What explains the actions leading up to the Gulf War that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait perceived as support for Iraq?
In pursuing more complete answers to these questions, Brand puts her broad international-relations background to work. By bridging two subfields of political science, security studies and political economy, the author posits expanding the concept of security to include challenges to the domestic economy. She labels this approach "budget security." Defined as "ensuring sources of state revenue or reducing budgetary vulnerabilities," Brand maintains that budget security is "central to understanding the alignment decisions in the cases studied" (p. 2). In other words, one of Jordan's foremost priorities is to seek financial solvency in order to pay the bills, cultivate domestic support and stability, and keep the Hashemite regime intact. Consequently, Amman's alliances with its Arab neighbors as well as shifts in those alliances stem from this economic agenda. As Brand explains:
[A] leadership may choose a policy of external alliances or realignment as its response to a real or perceived economic crisis if the realignment offers economic benefits that can delay or allay an economic threat. However, even short of a crisis situation, a leadership may still choose an alliance strategy as a means of addressing a particular pressing economic need: diversifying trading partners, securing additional or alternative financial-aid sources, and the like. In either case, the alliance or alignment decision should be understood as constituting a means of ensuring or reinforcing financial solvency, which has a direct impact on the security of the leadership or the regime (p. 38).
According to Brand, Jordan has the following economic characteristics: 1) limited development of its indigenous productive forces, 2) a higher standard of living than these forces would produce naturally, 3) state services and infrastructure in excess of what GDP would allow for and 4) nearly 50 percent of the work force on the kingdom's payroll (p. 48). In short, Jordan has lived above its means in order to maintain domestic stability. Furthermore from its inception in the 1920s as a ward of Great Britain until the period under study in Brand's work, the kingdom has relied heavily on outside generosity to survive fiscally. It is this foreign support and Amman's overall economic relations with five Arab states that Brand weds together to explain the concept of Jordan's budget security.
Each of Brand's case studies is explored in separate chapters. As Saudi and Kuwaiti ties with Jordan are similar, they can be discussed jointly here. Not surprisingly, these connections largely focus on the issue of aid. By 1975, the two Gulf kingdoms were supplying almost 40 percent of all budgetary aid to Jordan in the form of grants, low-interest loans or subsidized oil. In addition, citizens of Jordan (most were Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship) worked in the Gulf sending remittances home. This infusion of hard currency added to Jordan's budget security. Exported laborers also eased pressures on the domestic labor market, thus contributing to internal stability as well.
The return for this aid was a "stable Jordan," which Brand notes, was viewed as key to Saudi (and Kuwaiti) security (p. 88). The Hashemite Kingdom served as a buffer for the Gulf from both the dangers of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the threat of radical ideologies. To preserve Jordan as a conservative regime, the Gulf states "paid well, although not as well as the Jordanians...had often hoped or requested" (p.117).
By the mid-l 980s, both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait began to dramatically decrease the amount of aid given to Jordan. This shift in policy was caused by the expenditures associated with the Iran-Iraq War as well as the fall in oil prices. Jordan was forced to increase its external borrowing, contributing to its domestic economic turmoil starting in 1988. The altered relationships with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are also instrumental in understanding Jordan's alignment with Syria.
The kingdom's economic statecraft with Syria clusters around two issues: increasing bilateral trade and providing a united front in seeking funds from the Gulf states. The first Jordanian goal derives from Syria's border closure to transit trade following the Jordanian Palestinian civil war of 1970 (the border would not be reopened until late 1973). This action had grave economic effects on Jordan. Brand holds that Amman's strategy after 1975 was to strengthen the economic interdependence between the two states to such a point that future political differences would not impact upon Jordan's economic livelihood. She presents ample evidence to suggest that Jordan was largely successful in this endeavor.
In respect to the second goal of a united front against the Gulf states, Brand writes:
Unified ranks in solicitation of funds was no doubt a more successful strategy than going it alone; in the same vein, effectively threatening the Gulf states with a political unification project [in 1977]...could only put additional political pressure on the prospective patrons to pay attention and pay up (p. 157).
As long as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had the means to pay, the joint strategy by Damascus and Amman seemed to work. Brand believes that, at least from the Jordanian perspective, the proposed merger with Syria was a ruse to keep the Gulf payments coming. Because the Syrian-Jordanian relationship was built largely on being similarly aid-dependent, other sources of aid, namely those from Syria's Baathist rival in Iraq, placed strains on bilateral ties. When Amman could no longer balance its alliances with Damascus and Baghdad, "Jordan chose Iraq for sound financial, budget-security reasons" (p. 171).
The Iraqi-Jordanian link is perhaps the most interesting case study in Brand's work. It sheds tremendous light on the most recent events in the Middle East. Regarding the budget security theme, Iraq was a major proponent of greater Arab funding to Jordan and the other confrontation states in the wake of the Camp David accords. As the author writes, "The Baghdad summits and Saddam's role in them in mobilizing Arab financial support...along with his own promises of support, must have seemed a budgetary dream come true for the Jordanians" (pp. 209-10). In return, King Hussein was an early and vocal champion of Iraq's war with Iran. Indeed it is this conflict that would ultimately intertwine the Iraqi and Jordanian economies to such an extent that Amman's freedom of action was restricted when the next Gulf war erupted in 1990-91. Brand provides the economic underpinnings of the relationship:
Jordan had benefited in three major ways from the Iran-Iraq War. The first was through the expansion of Aqaba port into a major import-export facility, serving primarily, but by no means exclusively, Iraq. The second was in the form of the expansion of its transport sector as a result of trucking goods to and from the port. Third was the opening up of the Iraqi market to Jordanian products, to the point where by late 1985 Iraq was absorbing one-third of Amman's exports. Although if phosphates were excluded the figure was closer to 50 percent (p. 222).
These reasons, coupled with the dangerously excessive export credits extended by Amman to Baghdad, bound the two economies together. The export credits would eventually push Jordan's economy to the breaking point by 1988 and usher in a wave of domestic unrest.
The kingdom's dealings with Egypt can be fully appreciated within the context of the Iran-Iraq War. By extending needed arms and manpower to Saddam's regime, Cairo reintegrated itself into the Arab fold. The Jordanian port of Aqaba served as the transit station for Egyptian aid. A Jordanian-Iraqi-Egyptian axis soon evolved. This axis was formally codified in an alliance called the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC) in 1989. The three states, joined by North Yemen, created the ACC as an economic-and possibly political-arrangement following the end of the war with Iran.
In Jordanian calculations, the ACC had tremendous economic potential. With a combined population of 80 million and a $100 billion GNP, the grouping "could expand the markets for Jordan's products, increase job opportunities for its skilled unemployed, and open up business opportunities for its private sector" (p. 230). Other countries did not view it so altruistically, however. The organization was reportedly opposed by Saudi Arabia at its inception. Certainly by 1990-91 Riyadh would see the Jordanian and North Yemeni membership in the ACC as part of Iraq's sinister plot to dismember the Saudi kingdom. In giving considerable attention to the ACC, Brand highlights an important alliance that has not been addressed elsewhere.
The author's concluding chapter is devoted to Jordan's budget security in the wake of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. At the time of the invasion, Jordan's economy was in a shambles and the kingdom was experiencing serious internal turmoil. Despite its economic relationships with Syria and Egypt, neither country offered much help with the budgetary crisis. Funds from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia had dwindled considerably. While these states were still significant trading partners with Amman, they paled in comparison with Iraq. Baghdad was Amman's largest trading partner and supplied the kingdom with over 80 percent of its petroleum needs. Given these realities, King Hussein was left few palatable choices when the Gulf crisis exploded.
With the domestic instability Jordan was already experiencing and the support for Saddam from the Jordanian "street," the king was in an impossible situation. He tried to steer a middle ground between his country's vital economic alliance with Iraq and the coalition forces which included the other four Arab states under study. But no such middle ground existed. In the zero-sum regional politics of the Gulf War, not to be part of the coalition was to be against it. While the Kuwaiti and Iraqi economies suffered as a result of the crisis, Jordan's did not fare much better. Brand's work builds to a rather satisfying set of explanations to decipher Jordan's foreign policy between 1990 and 1991.
While Jordan’s Inter-Arab Relations went to press in late summer 1994, and hence Brand had little time to digest the emerging peace overtures between Jordan and Israel, her concept of budget security offers a useful framework for the eventual Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty. Promises of debt relief from the United States and other creditors, pledges of aid from donor countries, and the potential economic benefits associated with trade and development figured prominently in the kingdom's decision to sign a formal accord with Tel Aviv in October 1994. Jordan's quest for budget security has perhaps led to a new alliance shift between it and the state of Israel, thus opening a new chapter in Jordan's foreign policy.
Most examinations of Jordan's foreign policy focus upon the kingdom's relations with either Britain or Israel or the Palestinians. Those works that have tried to place Amman's diplomacy within a larger Arab framework are either time-constrained, like Uriel Dann's classic, King Hussein and the Challenge of Arab Radicalism: Jordan 1955-1967 (Oxford University Press, 1989) or are already decades old, such as Mohammad Ibrahim Faddah's fine study, The Middle East in Transition: A Study of Jordan’s Foreign Policy (Asia Publishing House, 1974). Brand ably fills an informational void regarding Jordan's bilateral ties with other Arab countries. As she also presents nuanced and original arguments, providing the reader with increased insight into Jordan's alliance shifts, Brand's contribution is all the more welcomed.