Saudi officials have flatly denied allegations that the kingdom played a role in the coup attempt in Jordan.
On Saturday, Jordan’s popular former crown prince, Hamza, placed under house arrest after attending a tribal meeting and accused of undermining national security. Prince Hamza then released two videos to the BBC, calling his government corrupt and incompetent, saying people were afraid to speak out for fear of harassed by security forces.
Since then the crisis has eased by the king’s uncle, but there has been widespread speculation about Saudi Arabia’s role in the crisis.
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Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan led a delegation in the Jordanian capital Amman to “express full solidarity with Jordan’s King Abdullah and his government,” Saudi officials said, adding that it was an allied Saudi position and that any suggestion that Saudi Arabia was involved in trying to destabilize its much smaller neighbor was “far-fetched nonsense.”
What is the connection of Saudi Arabia?
At the height of the crisis over the weekend, Jordanian officials said their security agencies had been monitoring the activities of Prince Hamza and dozens of officials for some time. They spoke of the mysterious involvement of unnamed “foreign entities” in what they said was a plot to destabilize the country and its ruling Hashem family, which Prince Hamza denied.
It turned out those two separate problems here. One of them is Prince Hamza, the eldest son of the late King Hussein, who recently troubled Jordanian security chiefs by reaching out to disgruntled tribal figures. Other incident-involved officials who said to have had links to at least one other country.
One of the most prominent figures arrested on Saturday was Bassem Avadara, the former head of Jordan’s royal court and now an economic adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He holds dual Saudi and Jordanian citizenship and emerged as the director of the Saudi Future Investment Initiative Forum. Washington reported that the Saudi foreign minister’s delegation refused to leave Jordan and returned Bassem al-Awdra to Riyadh. Saudi officials say that is not true.
Bassem Awadullah has many strong international connections. In addition to his close ties to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, he has ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the ruler of Defacto, United Arab Emirates. He reported to have recently been involved in the purchase of UAE-backed Palestinian land around Jerusalem.
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At the same time, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, although very different economically, have a lot in common. Its deep historical ties date back centuries, and tribal ties span the borders of the United Desert. When I was 20 when I lived with bedouins from the Bani Huyta tribe in southern Jordan, they often wandered to Saudi Arabia and then returned to exchange for goods and news while caring for their sheep, goats and camels. As the surviving Sunni Arab monarchy has shaken its roots in some parts of the world with the Arab Spring riots, rulers of both countries have a built-in interest in supporting each other.
Of course, it is hard to see the logic behind Jordan’s most powerful neighbor, Saudi Arabia or Israel, who want to destabilize this relatively poor little kingdom. Under the leadership of the late King Hussein and now his son King Abdullah, the Jordanian monarchy has successfully resisted the winds of Middle East politics.
The 1994 peace treaty with Israel while unpopular at home has brought some regional stability. However, Jordan has little of its natural resources, and its overloaded infrastructure has already been plagued by an influx of refugees, first from Iraq and then from Syria. The Kavid-19 pandemic temporarily killed tourism and dealt another blow to a weak economy. There is growing dissatisfaction with government mismanagement.
However, governments in the region know that if the Jordanian monarchy collapses, it could trigger a series of dangerous events in the region. As a result, neighboring countries quickly and publicly expressed their support for King Abdullah. Waiting for Wings, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group will be overjoyed to see the country’s troubled government, which has so far been the key to stability in the Middle East.