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Digital Archive International History Declassified

1954

THE ECONOMIC RIVALRY BETWEEN BRITAIN AND AMERICA

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    Economic rivalry between Britain and the US over Jordan intensifies through economic means and the press, with the outcome unknown.
    "The Economic Rivalry between Britain and America," 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 15, File 65A/15, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/176145
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65A/15

The economic rivalry between Britain and America

Political observers have lately noticed the existence of a strong rivalry between British and American influence in the Kingdom of Jordan, as evidenced by the economic activities undertaken by institutions belonging to one side or the other. Observers have also noted that this rivalry has produced a cold warlike situation from which Jordan could draw a number of advantages and benefits. No one knows what the ultimate outcome will be, but the American Government is paying more attention to Jordan than to any other Arab country.

It is well known that the British Army has the largest number of economic activities in Jordan (in conjunction with the Jordanian Army). Construction work is going on in earnest in Aqaba, Zarka, Amman, Khao, Mafraq, Irbid, and in some areas of the Jordan Valley, excessive sums of money are spent, and the Jordanian labour force is put to work... These construction activities include military buildings and installations in the above-mentioned areas, as well as a number of large airports, including in Mafraq where the largest airport in the Middle East is to be built …

There is also the British-financed Council for Construction which is working with the Jordanian authorities to erect several building and economic projects. Chief among these projects are: a petroleum refinery at a cost of two million dinars; a network of roads at a cost of 20 million dinars; revitalising Jordanian farmers and local industries by granting them large loans; expanding the Port of Aqaba, Jordan's only seaport; and a railroad system that links the stations of al-Naqab and Aqaba, and continues on to Amman. A Jordanian official delegation, which comprises the Ministers of Finance and the Economy, is now in London discussing these issues with British officials and is expected to return home having had a successful mission and having achieved satisfactory results.

American institutions had to come to grips with this state of affairs and are trying, in their turn, to win Jordan's favour with a variety of economic projects currently being implemented in the country. A huge army of educated young men and workers was hired by Point Four to work on these projects and is receiving large salaries which its members would not have received had they been employed by their own government. Point Four has focussed most of its attention on enhancing the country's agricultural sector through revitalising local industries, exploiting land, planting trees on mountain tops, paving roads, and organising the country's transportation system. Most important among these projects is the Yarmouk Project, expected to cost tens of millions of dinars; 300,000 dollars were earmarked for its feasibility study alone.

In addition to these economic institutions, there are various other American religious, political, and cultural institutions; there is the American Information Centre which is very active and attracts Jordanian youths by holding various activities in its clubs, such as reading, teaching, and entertainment, as well as by providing free magazines and books… There are also educational missions that send Jordanian young people to continue their studies in America, free of charge, at the expense of Point Four.

Also, the Arabic language Voice of America magazine, distributed free of charge to individuals and all sectors of the population, can be found in almost every home and department ...

There is also the Arab-American Friendship Society which is trying, through envoys and representatives who go to Jordan every now and then, to attract the sympathy of the educated classes and convince them of the United States' good intentions and its desire to forge good relations with the Arabs.

There are also prominent Jordanian personalities who seek to cooperate with America either for personal benefit or to offset British policies; among this group are: Hazza' al-Majali (a current Jordanian minister), Mohammad Ali Pacha al-'Ajlouni (a senator), and Sheikh ‘Akef al-Fayez (a former deputy). These three were invited to the United States last year to visit local cities, sites, and institutions, at the expense of the American Government …

Messrs Tewfiq Qattan (a current deputy) and Ahmad al-Khalil (a prominent lawyer) are also part of this group.

Excessive amounts of money are being spent on behalf of charitable societies, chief among which is the Christian Rapprochement Society established in Bethlehem by an American missionary by the name of Dr Ralf Beeny. Through this society, he succeeded in attracting the support of a large number of prominent leaders in the country and in building a school for Arab orphans capable of accommodating 300 students. Jordanian authorities, however, felt that this missionary was undertaking dangerous political activities and learned that he was in contact with pro-Jewish institutions, and, in early 1953, ordered his expulsion from the country.

There is also the Voice of America radio station that provides Arab listeners with strong and compelling programmes to which most Jordanians tune in.

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