Politics & Government

Obama requests $1B in aid annually for Jordan

President Barack Obama told King Abdullah II Friday that he hopes to increase the United States’s aid to Jordan to $1 billion a year -- a significant increase -- as the small nation continues to struggle to cope with more than one million refugees pouring in from nearby Syria.

Obama praised Jordan for working with the United States and its allies “in making slow but steady progress” to empower the moderate forces in Syria in an attempt to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group.

“Jordan is an important partner,” Obama said. “We had an extensive discussion about how to debilitate and destroy ISIL both in Iraq and Syria. Jordan has been working on this side-by-side with U.S. troops and other countries. We are making slow but steady progress, and we recognize that it is a long-term and extremely complex challenge.”

Obama will ask Congress to provide the money over three years, fiscal years 2015-2017. The current agreement, in effect between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, calls for $660 million in foreign assistance annually to Jordan, a country with just over 6 million people, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Obama announced the aid to help Jordan, Jordan, a key Middle East player and a longtime U.S. ally, as it faces increasing challenges from regional unrest, a huge refugee presence and high energy costs due to expensive foreign energy imports, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. It “signifies the administration’s long-standing and ongoing commitment to Jordan’s economic and security development, and to working closely with Jordan to support continued progress in implementing needed reforms, she said.

At their White House meeting Friday, the president and king also spoke about Israeli-Palestinian relations, negotiations with Iran and fighting a variety of groups, including Boko Haram and al Shabab.

The king thanked Congress, Obama and the American people for the aid. Jordanian Americans stand “shoulder to shoulder against extremism.”

“Our troops are very proud to be working together to combat ISIL in Syria and Iraq,” he sad. “We have a long-term commitment to bring a long-term solution to the region...The fight against ISIL is a global challenge to fight evil. It is a generational fight against extremism all over the world.”

The United States is the largest donor to Syrian refugees, including millions of dollars to Jordan, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Abdullah, who studied in the United States and Europe, speaks flawless English and is a frequent visitor here, often meeting with film, technology and business leaders and once even touring Northern California on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The two met earlier this year at a tony retreat in the desert near Palm Springs.