After 18 years on the Jordanian throne Jordan’s King Abdullah II, aged 55, finds himself isolated in the Arab world and internationally – and broke. Until not long ago, Jordan was a key US ally who played an important intelligence role in the war on the Islamic State, preserved good – albeit tense – relations with the royal houses of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi and maintained strong security ties with Israel. DEBKA Weekly’s Middle East sources say it is hard to pin down exactly how Abdullah’s robust foreign ties came to be so thoroughly derailed by the end of 2017. Some of those il effects were no doubt due to the king’s wrong decisions in the past year, and the way he kept on losing his more experienced diplomatic and military advisers.
His relations with Donald Trump were warm at the outset of is presidency, but cooled when the king saw he was sidelined in Washington’s plans for Syria and Iraq and not consulted on events on Jordan’s borders with those two neighbors. Trump tried to reassure him by giving Jordan a formal role in the US-Russian de-escalation zones program on its border with Syria, but the King’s resentment only rankled further. He then proceeded to establish secret contacts with President Bashar Assad and Moscow through Jordanian officers, thereby practically burning his boats with Washington.
The Jordanian king put up the back of Saudi Prince Muhammed bin Salman (MbS), another really important ally he could not afford to dispense with, by acting the experienced grown-up adviser to the 32-year old prince when the latter was elevated as heir to the throne. MbS soon lost patience with Abdullah, especially when he persisted in mentioning the Hashemite throne’s origin in the Saudi region of Hejaz. The Saudi prince stopped seeing Abdullah and cut off funds to Amman.
A similar scenario played out between King Abdullah and Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (MbZ), the young emir of the United Arab Emirates. Jordan lost two key purveyors of funds and oil gifts.
Instead of trying to get back into the two rulers’ good graces, the Jordanian king turned to their personal enemy, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, at a moment that the Saudi-UAE feud with Qatar was at its peak.
Then, on Dec. 5, a few hours before President Trump was due to deliver on his pledge to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, King Abdullah made tracks to Ankara to join forces with the Trump policy’s most outspoken critic, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. This further riled the princes in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
As for Egyptian President, the Jordanian king resented Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi’s initiative for mending the rift in the Palestinian movement, which he had always regarded as his private domain. He also fell out with his neighbor, Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abbadi, over his efforts to drive the pro-Iranian Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) away from Jordan’s border by lobbying for US and Russian intervention and even threatening to send Jordanian troops across the border.
Finally, Abdullah put his relations with Israel into deep freeze by two actions: In the Temple Mount crisis between Israel and the Palestinians last summer, he took the part of the Palestinians and forced Israel to back down on boosting security at the holy site. He then used a dispute over an Israeli embassy guard who shot two Jordanians to promote a dispute with the Netanyahu government. This Israeli embassy in Amman is still empty and dark due to the unresolved dispute.