Iran’s 'Free Oil' Proposal Bewilders Jordanians

Article Summary
Iran has made an “unusual” proposal to Jordan, promising to provide the kingdom with free oil and energy for the next 30 years in exchange for various trade deals and religious-tourism agreements, Tamer al-Samadi reports.

Yesterday [Nov. 22], Jordan expressed reservations about Iran’s “unusual” proposal, which claims it can “save” the kingdom’s from its financial distress, after its budget deficit reached nearly $21 billion.

Amid escalating protests against the government’s decision to raise oil prices — which have been sweeping across Jordanian cities for almost two weeks — the Iranian ambassador to Jordan, Mustafa Zadeh, made an unexpected offer on behalf of the Islamic Republic, pledging to supply Jordan with “free” oil.

“My country is ready to supply the kingdom with free oil and energy for the next 30 years, in return for trade deals and agreements regarding religious tourism between the two countries,” Zadeh said.

In a statement that was described as “unprecedented” in Amman, Zada said that Iranian-Jordanian relations are “on solid ground,” and that his country is seeking to develop diplomatic and trade relations with Jordan.

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“We have one common enemy and everybody knows that,” the senior Iranian official added, which was a clear reference to the United States and Israel.

This proposal sparked controversy in the Jordanian capital. Only few hours following the announcement, articles and analyses dominated newspapers, news websites and social networking sites. Some analysts saw the Iranian proposal as a “big risk” and an “unprecedented” shift in the nature of Jordanian strategy.

Spokesman for the Jordanian government Minister Samih al-Maaytah told Al-Hayat that “Jordan will study any proposal it receives as it deals positively with all nations.”

Meanwhile, other high-level sources affiliated with Jordanian decision-makers told Al-Hayat that the kingdom expressed “reservations” about the Iranian proposal, saying that “the proposal is not as simple as many expect.”

“Tehran is seeking things beyond trade deals and religious tourism. However, Jordan will not abandon its historic alliances, especially with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.” The sources added that “this proposal may be a message addressed to the kingdom’s allies.”

Following Zadeh’s “interesting” statement, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Sheikh Hammam Said made a scathing attack on the Iranian proposal. He told Al-Hayat that “the prerequisite laid by Iran to support Jordan is against the laws of God,” in reference to “religious tourism,” which is exclusive to the Shiite sect.

The relationship between the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and the Republic of Iran has seen growing tension over the past few months due to their diverging positions regarding the Syrian crisis.

It must be noted that thousands of Iranian Shiites visit religious shrines in southern Jordan, particularly in the southern city of Karak. However, the Jordanian authorities have set rules for these group visits, which are also monitored by security agencies.

In the meantime, protests continued in Jordan for the ninth consecutive day, following the government’s decision to raise prices of some types of hydrocarbons by 10% to 53%.

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour confirmed that raising oil prices “was an unavoidable decision to address the budget deficit.”

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