While Jordan has so far thankfully managed to insulate itself from the violence engulfing its neighbors, the Kingdom’s economy has still taken a hit. According to sources, exports to Iraq, Jordan’s number one trading partner, dropped by 20 to 30 percent over the last two months as Islamic State militants upped their vicious campaign, and relations between Sunni and Shiite communities were strained to breaking point.
Nouri al-Malki’s stubborn refusal to shoulder some of the blame for the crisis only made things worse. But his decision to finally step down from his position as prime minister following pressure from Iran, the United States, and his own political party, will hopefully lead to the formation of a more representative government that can restore much needed stability and allow trade with Iraq’s neighbors to flow freely again.
How important is Iraq to Jordan? Department of Statistics figures show exports to Iraq are worth JD442.1 million, or 17.4 percent of the Kingdom’s total annual exports. A proposed oil and gas pipeline between both countries is also crucial to Jordan, which has been struggling to secure different sources of energy to generate cheaper electricity. But the pipeline is also crucial to Baghdad as routes through the north of the country, where Iraq’s Kurds are growing from strength to strength, are becoming increasingly difficult to access. Kurds have begun independently selling oil via Turkey on the open market, so a pipeline through Jordan once the security situation improves, is first and foremost in Baghdad’s interest.
While all of the above sounds positive, Irbil, a crucial part of Iraq, is still beyond our reach. The Jordanian government should think smartly and strategically about wooing Iraq’s Kurds and boosting trade with the thriving north. We also hope the new Iraqi premier will be wise enough not to expend too much time and energy cozying up to either Tehran or Washington (its beneficial airstrikes not withstanding), but opt instead to focus on achieving internal unity and the formation of a more inclusive administration that’s not beholden to anyone but the Iraqi people.