US to Pay Large Sums For Helping Jordan Make Peace With Israel

HAVING entered into a nonbelligerency pact with Israel last week, Jordan now expects to win financial favors from the United States.

A Jordanian official who accompanied King Hussein to Washington for the July 25 signing ceremony with Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, is unabashed in his contention that the US owes Jordan for coming to the peace table.

``Jordanians must feel that the US has given them something in return,'' says Jawad Al-Anani, Jordan's minister of state for prime ministerial affairs and minister of information. ``Historically, everybody has gotten something for peace,'' he says, referring to Washington's multibillion dollar aid to Egypt after it signed the Camp David accords with Israel 16 years ago.

Just after King Hussein delivered what many called a stunning address to a special joint session of Congress last week, US legislators voted to approve a package of assistance for Jordan, including debt relief and military aid.

While no dollar figure was attached to the military aid, Jordan will get free weapons and free spare parts. But, despite its standing request, Jordan will not be able to get F-16 fighter jets ``until such time as Jordan and Israel conclude a peace agreement,'' according to a document accompanying the bill.

Discounting Jordan's debt, Congress appropriated $100 million in order to relieve Jordan of $193 million it owed to the US government. This is the first of three stages in debt forgiveness planned over the next several years. But lawmakers in effect conditioned the next two stages on ``substantial further steps,'' including progress on a final peace with Israel, ending participation in the Arab boycott, and compliance with the United Nations-imposed embargo against Iraq.

Animosity toward Amman

``The restrictions on aid to Jordan were included at the specific request of members who still feel great animosity toward the kingdom because of what they perceive as Jordan's pro-Iraq stance during the Gulf war,'' says John Lawrence, who has represented Jordan as vice president of the Washington International Group.

But Mr. Al-Anani warns that if Jordan's economic situation does not improve ``sufficiently,'' there will be only marginal support for peace with Israel. Jordan, he contends, needs ``the US catalytic role to ensure that Jordan can ... take those steps for the peace process.''

Securing Jordan's cooperation in the sanctions against Iraq will take more than a congressional request, according to Pentagon and US Treasury officials. Closely involved in the oversight of compliance with the prohibition of defense-related sales and transfers to Iraq, these officials lament that the Clinton administration is extending assistance to Jordan while the Arab state continues to violate the embargo.

The US Customs Department is conducting at least 19 ongoing investigations of illegal exports to Iraq from US-based entities; many of the deals entail transfer through Jordan, a conduit for contraband to Iraq.

Al-Anani protests that these US probes on Jordan, which US officials have identified as the main center of military reexports to Iraq since the embargo was imposed. ``Turkey is violating, Syria is openly violating - [by] sending goods to Iraq,'' he says. ``People are saying that Iran is doing it. Why has Jordan been singled out as the country to watch, and make pay?'' Al-Anani asks.

Because suspicions run high that cargo ships are carrying embargoed goods bound for Iraq through Jordan's port of Aqaba, Al-Anani says his country incurs up to $315 million a year extra in freight and insurance charges. ``Everyone is monitoring Jor- dan; every violation we make is being raised.''

In recent weeks, says a Treasury official, policymakers from his department have been at loggerheads with their counterparts at the State Department over just how to fashion a new agreement concerning the inspection of cargo bound for Jordan's port of Aqaba. Since sanctions were imposed against Iraq in 1991, ships carrying goods into this port have been stopped and inspected by a team of US-led warships.

Clinton accedes

After vigorous opposition from Amman, the Clinton administration acceded to the Jordanians' request to end what they called a blockade. Washington agreed to give control of the cargo to a neutral party - Lloyd's Registry - in conjunction with Jordanian customs officials. Critics of the plan, including top officials in the Clinton administration, assert that the agreement will make it so easy for contraband to reach Iraq that it is the same as ending the embargo.

Despite strong pressure from State Department officials to further soften the US stand allowing Jordan to ``monitor'' the flow of goods into its port, US Treasury officials remained steadfast in their insistence that the goods must be ``inspected.''

``Jordanians have to be convinced that peace is its own reward, and that anything else [such as international assistance] is icing on the cake,'' says Patrick Clawson, a former International Monetary Fund economist who is now a strategic fellow at the Washington-based National Defense University.

Besides, he adds, the kingdom can afford to wait for the reward. ``Jordan's economic circumstances are much better than we thought they'd be after the Gulf war.'' He notes a 20 percent increase in the kingdom's gross domestic product from 1991 to 1993, despite the initial strain placed on Jordan's resources by refugees and so-called returnees who flocked to the country after being expelled from the Gulf.

Yet, Mr. Clawson says, ``the Jordanians have been able to persuade people that they're much more vulnerable than they really are.''

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