Jordan’s King’s Clock Is Ticking. What Should America Do?


As these lines are written, Jordanian rebels are marching towards the king’s palace in downtown Amman.  These protests have been regular since February and aren’t major…yet.

Nonetheless, the protesters, and the public in general, are unprecedently angry with the king.  Calling him by name, they chant obscenities against him and his family, not to mention scream the word “Irhal,” which means “step down” in Arabic.  Meanwhile, the country has been engulfed in unrest and violence.  Jordanian are hungry and angry, and the king is out of touch.

The status quo was described best by a former senior Jordanian diplomat and writer, Fouad Batinah.  Writing for a London-based newspaper, Ray Aloyoum, he said:

Jordan is in transition to a new state[.] … The existence of the king is just technical[.] … The king has no power nor the ability to make decisions, and actually lives in a state of disengagement from the people[.] … Both, the absence of the king on long leave or his stay in Jordan, are the same; he makes no difference and does not affect the course of events[.] … The regime has dissolved its alliance with the tribes and all the East Jordanians.  Today, the tribes are disintegrated and without weight, you [the tribes] are oppressed, while your Palestinian brethren are enduring a state of ongoing injustice by the Arabs even more than the non-Arabs[.]

With this testimony from one of the king’s inner circle staring us in the face, it is safe to say the king is dancing at the end of his rope, trying to do anything he can to stay in power.

What makes this situation intolerable is this: the Jordanian Opposition Coalition has positively confirmed that the methods the king is using to buy more time vary, and some have been suggested by his allies, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, the P.A., Fatah, and Hamas.  All are designed to keep him in power at any cost, as well as stall, hinder, and drag on the peace talks for as long as possible — with years being the goal.

The king’s problems are clear: the U.S. has done everything to save him, and frankly, there’s not much more the U.S. could do.  In fact, the U.S. administration has kept, and even enhanced, America’s commitment to Jordan’s security and stability.  U.S. aid has been sustained at its highest level in a decade, and military cooperation remains at a peak.

Nonetheless, this is not helping the king who has dug an economic and political hole that is clearly just too deep for anyone to pull him out.  As a result, the king is powerless, confused, intimidated, and deeply hated by the Jordanian public.

Still, despite anti-regime protests, mass detentions, unrest, violence, and regional rejection having all taken a toll on the ailing regime, the U.S. is less likely to make any extra moves to push the king out, playing it safe.

While this policy is wise, there is a problem: the longer the king stays in power, the larger the mess becomes, thus more for the U.S. to clean up later.

As the world has seen from the king’s very own speeches on his own state TV, the king has become a ruthless adversary of the Deal of the Century peace plan.  As made clear in the Bahrain economic workshop, the plan is based on empowering the Palestinians economically, extending their freedom of movement, and settling Palestinian refugees in host countries.  The king’s apartheid policies revolve around banning the Palestinians in Jordan from having access to civil rights and all stable livelihoods.  These combined actions will mean the demise of the Hashemite regime.  Therefore, we can positively state that the longer the king stays in power, the more the king will dig in, and the harder it will be for the administration to push the peace process forward and eventually execute the complete peace plan.

Additionally, the king has been personally inciting the Jordanian public against the United States and Jews by fueling the fires of anti-Semitism.  What is not helping the king at all is the dilemma he found himself in.  On one hand, he has been making massive arrests and detaining those who speak out about the Hashemite throne, while on the other hand, each person arrested becomes a hero who fuels the hatred and public resentment against the king and his family.  Hence, it is clear that sooner or later, Jordan will explode in the king’s face.

The real problem is this: later means that the peace process is stalled until he is gone and there is a larger bill for the USA to pick up after he leaves.  This says nothing of the detainments, deaths, and destruction the king and his forces impose on his people.

Also, Israel is not shy in declaring its intentions of annexing Area C of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinian Authority with Areas A and B and Gaza.  Those areas will need a geographic, demographic, economic, and political outlet.  That outlet could be only Jordan.  But the king would never allow this to happen as long as he stays in power.

So what’s the most viable option?  The most viable option on the table is this: the next Jordanian leader, must be a Jordanian Palestinian who possesses the personal charisma to lead the Palestinians and Jordanians into a confederacy between the West Bank’s Areas A and B and Jordan.  This will allow Israel to annex Area C and even declare sovereignty on all West Bank soil, while Palestinian areas remain under joint Palestinian-Jordanian civil administration.

King Abdullah knows that the confederacy between Jordan and the Palestinian territories is on the table, and he has been looking for ways to destroy or stall the process, hopefully for years.  Therefore, he has been avidly pushing for a third Intifada, which could abort such plan.

For most, it is true that the US must remain neutral to all this, and for everyone involved, it must not appear to be interfering at all in the affairs of Jordan.  Nonetheless, the U.S. has vital regional interests, with Jordan being strategic to military operations in the Middle East.  As a result, Washington must prepare a plan B alternative for when the king is toppled, and this includes options to push the king out the door at the earliest opportunity.

Failure to do so allows the other options to become reality: a civil war in Jordan; unrest in the West Bank; and Iran pulling a Syria II in Jordan, which holds Israel’s longest borders.  The worst reality is this: the king has already swung the Jordanian friendship doors wide open to Iran and his most loyal ally, the Muslim Brotherhood terror group.

The region needs peace, and a stumbling block to peace needs to be removed.  Jordan needs new leadership, and now, before the mess in the region gets worse.

The clock is ticking, and the rope is tightening.

Mudar Zahran is the secretary general of the Jordanian Opposition Coalition.

July 21, 2019 | 1 Comment »

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  1. An important and extremly informative article from Zahran.

    Note he admits that the Trump administration is pouring large amounts of money into to prop up the Hashemite regime. He makes no claim that his organization is receiving any support from the Trump administration.

    Note also that while he predicts that Abdullah will inevitably be overthrown, he does not predict exactly when this will happen. In fact, he admits that it is possible that the king may cling to power, or at least his office, for several years.

    Zahran also reports that there are mass arrests of political dissidents in progress, and many dissidents are now in jail. This also indicates that at least for the moment, the king is still in charge.

    It is possible that Trump is continuing to prop up Abdullah’s government on the advice of Netanyahu. The Israelis seem to be convinced that the most likely alternative to Abdullah is a Muslim Brotherhood dominated government. THe Israeli authorities prefer “the devil you know,” Abdullah, to “the devil you don’t know,” meaning a possible future Jordanian government controlled by Islamists.
    Or is Shakespeare’s phrase, “we would rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that he know not of.”