King Abdullah II of Jordan came to Ottawa with an endorsement for Canada's role in the Middle East, and left with a package of aid to bolster his country's security.
It was, for the Prime Minister who dispatched Canadian Forces into a mission to fight the Islamic State, a chance to highlight work with an appreciative ally in the region – King Abdullah has been vocal about the need to confront the Islamic State since the group burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot earlier this year.
Stephen Harper responded with pledges of security aid, including $25-million for military equipment, counterterrorism technology and training for Jordanian special forces.
It was a sign that the Islamic State mission has redoubled Mr. Harper's interest in bolstering Jordan, which the Prime Minister has long seen as a moderate ally in the turbulent Middle East.
Mr. Harper is in the midst of a heavy calendar of foreign-leader visits, but King Abdullah's stop was different. In the run-up to a fall election, the Prime Minister is welcoming several leaders, including India's Narendra Modi, who can highlight connections to a voting diaspora here in Canada. King Abdullah doesn't come with a Canadian constituency, but he is a geopolitical ally for Mr. Harper.
The King can help burnish the Prime Minister's leadership credentials on the world stage, especially over his high-profile support for international military action against the Islamic State.
At a state luncheon hosted by Governor-General David Johnston, King Abdullah said Canada's presence in the Middle East is needed "now more than ever" – a theme he repeated at a photo op before a meeting in Mr. Harper's Parliament Hill office. "The presence of Canada in our region combatting extremism is something that should really be taken to heart," the King said.
Mr. Harper highlighted that Jordan is now an ally in the mission against the Islamic State and expressed condolence for the Jordanian pilot, Lieutenant Muath al-Kaseasbeh, whose execution – he was burned alive in a cage – was filmed for a video circulated by the Islamic State.
"Also to express our outrage," Mr. Harper said, "… outrage that I think really helped to, unfortunately, underscore the terrible nature of this opponent and why it must be dealt with."
The visit served to underscore Mr. Harper's own vocal rhetoric about the need to combat the Islamic State – a position he has contrasted at home in Canada with that of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who both opposed the military mission in Iraq and Syria.
It also provided another opportunity for Mr. Harper to offer new aid for Jordan's security, as well as a five-year, $98-million package of development aid.
The security aid included $25-million over two years to fund counterterrorism projects in Jordan, notably to detect threats at its borders. The security package included $5-million for radiation-monitoring equipment for Jordan's border crossings, $4.5-million to monitor and detect potential terrorists crossing borders and $3-million for security against chemical and biological weapons, as well as money to maintain Jordanian army vehicles, among other items.
It also included $2.5-million for counterterrorism equipment and training, and an undisclosed contingent of special forces trainers will head to Jordan. Defence Minister Jason Kenney said detailed plans have not been made, but typically 15 to 30 special forces troops would conduct the training.
This wasn't the first time Mr. Harper's government responded to a crisis in the region by providing money for Jordan's security. After the Syrian civil war sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Jordan, Canada announced an aid package that included $6-million in military equipment. Last year, on his first visit to Jordan, Mr. Harper announced an aid package, including $5-million for security.
The Conservative government has been willing to provide those sums because it views Jordan – led by a Western-educated king, and an Arab regime with moderate political views and good relations with Israel – as a bulwark in the Middle East.