By Jim Garamone
Even with all that is happening in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East remains a source of concern for the United States and its partners in the region.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Pentagon Thursday to discuss the situation in the region and to examine ways for the two nations to work together even more closely.
“Jordan is a valued leader in a difficult neighborhood and a powerful partner for stability and security in the region,” Austin said at the beginning of the meeting. “Of course, Russia’s unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine is on everybody’s mind. My recent meetings in Kyiv left me more determined than ever to help Ukraine better defend itself. And I look forward to hearing your views, Your Majesty, on the crisis. as well.”
Jordan is an area of stability in a sea of unrest. The nation shares borders with Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and there are perhaps as many as a million refugees from Syria and Iraq taking shelter in the nation. There are also Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, which swells that number.
Austin wants to widen and deepen U.S. cooperation with Jordan. “Our partnership with Jordan is more important than ever,” he said. “That’s because of our long-standing friendship, as well as the threats that we face today, including Iran’s support for terrorism, the rise of drug smuggling in the Levant and the continued threat of violent extremist organizations such as [the Islamic State].”
The Levant refers to the region along the eastern Mediterranean shores, roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and certain adjacent areas.
Austin expressed U.S. concern for the recent escalation of violence in East Jerusalem, and he thanked the king for his efforts to reduce those tensions. “I look forward to our ongoing work together to find a viable path to stability, security and a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the secretary said.
Iran continues to disturb the peace in the region, sponsoring proxy groups that launch attacks using missiles and unmanned aerial systems. “We’ll keep working together to strengthen the region’s multilateral security frameworks to counter destabilizing activities by Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Syria and beyond,” Austin said.
King Abdullah noted the many times and places throughout the world where U.S. and Jordanian troops worked alongside each other. “We have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in many parts of the world, and this is a source of pride and honor for us,” he said. “As we look to the challenges of the region and the future, we know that we’ll be standing next to each other more and more. And that gives me tremendous hope.”
The king specifically wants to examine the situation in the region as it comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that many terror groups used the past two years as a time to rebuild and “incubate” terror.