Abdullah’s Woes

A severe crisis of confidence with Amman’s political leaders and Jordan’s Bedouin chiefs, traditional mainstay of the Hashemite throne, catches King Abdullah II in the middle of reshuffling Jordan’s top intelligence officers.

Both groups are harshly critical of his management of state affairs and complain bitterly about the grave economic crisis afflicting the kingdom, notwithstanding the reforms he instituted last year. Most of all, they are profoundly disenchanted with Jordan’s poor rewards for its staunch support of the American war in Iraq. In the view of tribal leaders, the king’s pro-Washington course in Iraq brought the kingdom into danger for no gain at all.

Another complaint muttered quietly refers to Abdullah’s long overseas absences to the point, it is said, of losing touch with his own kingdom.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Amman sources trace the crisis to the moment in early July, when the king informed the two strongmen of Jordanian intelligence, military intelligence chief General Saad Kheir and deputy general intelligence director General Hassan Asfoura, that they were dismissed. Some sources say that he had lost confidence in the two generals and wanted to install a new favorite, General Muhammed Shaubeiki, to one of the vacant jobs. Other sources believe that the prime minister Faisal al Faeez is on his way out and General Kheir has been tapped for the post. Those sources hint that Faeez must go because he represents the Bedouin tribes and failed to rally them around the throne.

The crisis at the royal court in Amman shows no sign of abating. In fact, new problems are cropping up. At the beginning of this week, our sources in Amman reveal, Abdullah lost his temper with foreign minister Marwan Mouasher, who is highly regarded as the king’s key conduit to Washington and Jerusalem. The royal tantrum erupted over a difference of opinion on the crises in Sudan’s Darfur region and among the Palestinians.

Mouasher was appalled by the king’s pronouncements in interviews to Arab media. Abdullah condemned outright the Arab militias’ atrocities against the Blacks of Darfur. Addressing the Palestinians, the king told Arafat it was time to put an end to the corruption and anarchy in the Palestinian Authority.

Feeling the need to modify the effect of Abdullah’s strong words, the foreign minister invited correspondents to his office for an attempt to frame the disputed policies in more diplomatic terms.

The palace, hearing of this initiative, took it as direct criticism of the king by the foreign minister. Abdullah empowered his advisers to take three steps:

1. The palace stopped all communication with the foreign minister. 2. Jordan’s media and press were ordered to boycott him. 3. The foreign minister was denied permission to attend the Arab foreign ministers Cairo session to discuss the Sudan crisis.

Mouasher, who belongs to a rich Christian banking family in the southern Jordanian town of Medba, never had much of a relationship with prime minister Faeez. He thus finds himself pushed out of the decision-making loop in the Jordanian capital.

A new name is meanwhile bruited in Amman as candidate for prime minister, Abdullah’s economic adviser, Bassem Awdallah.

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