The “Pandora Papers” is a trove of “private” financial information on 14 current heads of state, including those of the Czech Republic, Kenya, Ecuador, Azerbaijan, Russia and Jordan. According to The Washington Post, “The files detail more than 29,000 offshore accounts. … Among the account owners are more than 130 people listed as billionaires by Forbes magazine, and more than 330 public officials in more than 90 countries and territories … .”
In general, shining light on international finance is a good thing. But one of the oddities of the press coverage on this is that it is focused largely on King Abdullah II of Jordan. While it’s always useful for journalists to find a single spot in a large mass of information to keep readers focused, why Abdullah? Why not Vladimir Putin, for example?
Jordan is in a tight spot. It always is in a tight spot—it was born in a tight spot—and pundits love to remind us that the king is lucky to hold onto his throne, between Transjordanians (East Bank Jordanian Arabs), Palestinian citizens inside the country and non-citizen Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel. But Jordan’s troubles have increased exponentially since the Biden administration took office. A Sunni country, Jordan is inside the arc of the “Shi’ite Crescent” (Iraq, Syria and Lebanon), all occupied and managed by Iran and its proxies. There is also the Iranian proxy Houthi force at the Bab el Mandeb Straits at the bottom of the Red Sea, Jordan’s only direct outlet anywhere.
The Biden administration’s bid to engage Iran has had two immediate, negative outcomes for Jordan: more money for Iran to spend on its proxies and the withdrawal of American air-defense systems from the Kingdom.