Biden calls Jordan's King a loyal ally in 'difficult neighborhood'


Biden calls Jordan's King a loyal ally in 'difficult neighborhood'

 President Joe Biden hailed King Abdullah II of Jordan as a staunch ally in a "difficult neighborhood" as the two leaders met at the White House on Monday.

Last week, Jordan's State Security Court sentenced two former officials to 15 years in prison over an alleged plot against the King revealed earlier this year that implicated Abdullah's half-brother.

Meanwhile, Biden, who focused much of his foreign policy on China and Russia early on, faces some challenging issues in the Middle East. He deals with escalating attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militias. At the exact moment, his administration is trying to push Iran back to the negotiating table to revive the nuclear deal that Donald Trump abandoned during his presidency.

Abdullah had a problematic relationship with Trump, who saw him as undermining any chance of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. 

For his part, Abdullah praised Biden for "setting the standard" internationally in the fight against COVID-19. The United States provided 500,000 vaccines to Jordan days before the King's visit. The King also appeared to clarify that he is looking to reset the US-Jordan relationship after four bumpy years with Trump.

The two presidents discussed the situation in Syria — more than a million Syrian refugees have fled the war-torn country to Jordan — and the dire security situation in Iraq, an administration official said. At least eight drone attacks have targeted the US military presence in Iraq since Biden took office in January, as well as 17 missile attacks.

Abdullah is scheduled to have a business breakfast on Tuesday with Vice President Kamala Harris and meet with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

The meeting with Biden was also an opportunity for King to highlight his closeness to Biden after the coup attempt.

Basem Awadallah, who held American citizenship and was previously an aide to King Abdullah II, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a royal family member, were convicted on charges of sedition and incitement. Both men denied the charges, and Awadallah's lawyer in the United States said his client had alleged that he was tortured in Jordanian custody and fears for his life.

They allegedly conspired with Prince Hamzah, the King's half-brother. Biden, who has known Abdullah for years, was quick to publicly express "strong American support for Jordan" and praise the King's leadership after the April coup attempt details were revealed.

It is not clear whether Biden has triggered a longstanding US call for the extradition of Ahlam Ahmed Al-Tamimi, a Palestinian woman living in Jordan who we want on charges of conspiring to use a destruction weapon against US nationals.

Last year, the Trump administration indicated that it was considering withholding aid to Jordan to secure Tamimi's extradition. In Israel, she was convicted of the 2001 bombing of a Tel Aviv restaurant that killed 15 people, including two US citizens. She has lived freely in Jordan since her release in a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel in 2011.

According to the administration official, Biden administration officials have previously made clear to Jordan that the extradition of Tamimi, who is on the FBI's Most Wanted list, is of "great interest" to the United States.

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