The Jordanian king is fuming. He vented his anger this week by sacking all 11 of his personal court advisers, headed by national security director General Said Kheir, one of his closest aides.
This clean sweep is unprecedented.
Abdullah is hopping mad over the fact that the al Qaeda bombing of three luxury hotels in Amman was allowed to take place on November 9, at the cost of 57 lives and more than 300 victims injured.
Jordanian intelligence’s tight reporting procedures on terrorist alerts ought to have been watertight. Yet they sprang a leak.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources describe Jordanian intelligence as the only Arab cloak-and-dagger service closely aligned with the American CIA which has succeeded in penetrating al Qaeda and even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s ranks. So fragile is the security situation in the Hashemite kingdom that sensitive intelligence, especially about al Qaeda, does not go through regular channels – and never to the relevant government departments, because they are not deemed sufficiently secure.
It goes straight to the king.
He then summons his national security director and the advisers in charge of activating the relevant military and security outfits for foiling terrorist operations. They go into action, fully briefing the monarch on what is happening on the ground. The royal team of advisers is thus a sort of supra-government.
But this time, the system went awry because the king was away.
The intelligence chiefs in Amman did receive advance warning of the approaching strike against the three hotels, with full details of the four Iraqi bombers – three males and a woman – and their targets.
It did not reach King Abdullah who was on a state visit to Uzbekistan.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly sources reveal that the tip-off was handed to General Kheir but he laid it aside for a reason that is still unknown. The warning was not relayed to the king, although General Kheir gave him several briefings that day.
Military intelligence Chief General Hassan Asfoura, who inquired what had happened to the terror alert and how it should be handled, received no answer.
As soon as Abdullah learned of the hotel bombings in his capital, he interrupted his trip and was back home the same night.
His decision to clear out his entire staff of royal advisers is tantamount to an admission of failed governance and the bankruptcy of his efforts to rejuvenate the administration he inherited from his father with younger, more modern figures.
When he ascended the throne, Abdullah deliberately avoided appointing King Hussein’s men to his close circle of advisers. He believed the kingdom needed more modern and efficient hands at the helm. Younger people though less experienced would bring vigor and fresh ideas to government.
But the team he brought in let him down over Zarqawi’s assault on Amman.
Abdullah lost no time this week in filling the new vacancies with stalwarts who served his father. To the post of chief of court, which supersedes the prime minister, he appointed Field Marshal Salem al Turq, former deputy chief of staff and governor of the key Aqaba region in the days of King Hussein. The new head of national security in place of Gen. Kheir is Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, Maaruf al-Bakhit, an army general in the previous reign.
These new appointments boost the authority of General Hassan Asfoura, as one of the strongest men in the Hashemite kingdom.