Photo by Jason Ransom/Prime Minister's Office
During the pomp and circumstance of Jordanian King Abdullah II's visit to Ottawa on Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled a huge package of spending for one of Canada's favorite Arab nations.The funding will see upgrades to the Hashemite Kingdom's military and border security, cash for the increasingly-overpopulated refugee camps, money to try and cut off financing of the Islamic State (or ISIS), and basic humanitarian and economic development projects.
Jordan is a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State, and Canada is kicking in $25 million specifically to combat the growing caliphate whose trajectory has it heading straight towards the tiny nation.Included in that package is money to repair 200 Jordanian military vehicles and to improve the country's maritime counterterrorism strategy.The vast majority of the total $125 million announced on Wednesday will go toward Jordanian economic and social development, with $40-million specifically earmarked towards trying to improve education, bridge the gender gap, and tackle poverty.The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding regarding cooperation between the two states.Before the announcement, Abdullah — who was on his third state visit to Canada — met with Harper, Defense Minister Jason Kenney, Chief of the Defense Staff Tom Lawson and a bevy of brass from the Canadian Forces.The Harper government has put a high value on its relationship with Abdullah's regime, lauding it in Wednesday's press release as "a moderate, tolerant and constructive influence in the Middle East and beyond."The majority of Canada's contribution to improve security in Jordan is focused around securing the country's borders.Millions are going towards "containing ISIS-related terrorism spillover" which specifically develops response strategies for car bombs or IEDs at its borders with Syria.Jordan's sizeable commitment to the fight against ISIS has the government in Amman worried that it will be targeted by the militants. There's a good chance that Canada's training on how to diffuse homemade explosives — which it has ample experience with, thanks to its mission in Afghanistan — and combat terror plots will go a long way.
With an obvious eye to what the future might hold for the Assad Regime, the money is also going towards preventing chemical, radiological,and nuclear material from crossing the border."This project will provide fixed radiation detection monitoring equipment at currently unsecured border crossings, in order to mitigate the risk of illicit trafficking of nuclear or radiological materials through the region," a Canadian government background document reads.The release does not detail whether the new security measures will apply just to the border the country shares with Syria, or whether the Canadian cash will be used to beef up Jordan's land borders with the West Bank.Under the security package, Canada is also looking to help Jordan go after ISIS's finances and propaganda campaigns.ISIS has thus far managed to acquire weapons and resources through private financiers and by selling captured oil on the black market. To stifle ISIS's money flow in the Middle East and North Africa, Ottawa is contributing $2.5 million to help Jordan detect and prosecute offenders. Jordan, as a regional financial hub, is no stranger to terrorist financiers taking root in their economy.Related: Jordan Has Started Deporting Medical Workers and Wounded Syrian RefugeesAnother pot of money will go to combating radicalization inside Jordan and nearby, especially inside the country's ever-growing refugee camps. The UN opened its second mass refugee camp, Azraq, a year ago in a remote desert locale.
The Canadian government has earmarked $2 million specifically for the Za'tari refugee camp to provide "accommodations, dining and office facilities" and to improve policing and security nearby.Za'tari opened in 2012 and houses over 80,000 refugees. It is now Jordan's fourth-largest city and likely the world's largest refugee camp. Conditions have deteriorated amid protests and fighting, while anti-Assad rebels have targeted the camp to recruit young fighters.With operation costs at the camp totaling $500,000 per day, Canada's contribution is just a drop in the bucket for the exponentially-growing site, however.Part of the frustration for international partners has been difficulty getting aid into Syria, as fighting escalates between rebels, Islamists and ISIS. While Canada had previously sent in aid aimed at building capacity of opposition groups like the Syrian National Council, that funding has ceased as moderate opposition groups have floundered, fled, or merged with more radical elements.The Canadian government has come under fire from domestic opponents for not doing enough for the humanitarian crisis in Syria and surrounding countries. While aid targeted at the crisis topped out at $180 million in 2013, only a fraction of that funding was still active in early 2015."Canada is proud to stand alongside Jordan and our other Coalition allies in the fight against ISIS, and to work together at mitigating the suffering this barbaric terrorist group is causing innocent civilians in the region," Harper said in a statement announcing the new money.
The opposition parties in Canada have been critical of Ottawa's efforts thus far."The government should be doing a lot more to help with the refugee crisis," said Paul Dewar, foreign affairs critic for the opposition New Democratic Party, before Wednesday's announcement. "They've been dragging their heels on that."Dominic LeBlanc, speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party, said the government should be doing more to help Syrian refugees come to Canada.Ottawa's announcement made no mention of opening the door for more displaced persons to come to Canada.The opposition has also opposed the bombing campaign against ISIS. Canada recently expanded that mission into Syria.Most of Wednesday's funding commitments are for one year, yet some carry until 2018 and 2019. The funding is on top of $100 million that Jordan received from the Canadian government this time last year.Canada signed a free trade agreement with Jordan in 2012, the first and only such agreement it has inked with an Arab country.Canada is just one stop on the king's travels as he has been hitting up allies for cash to deal with the growing problems in the Hashemite Kingdom.In February, Abdullah secured a huge $340 million increase in military support from the Obama administration.Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @Justin_Ling