Observers have been struck by Jordanian King Abdullah’s fatigued and stressed look of late. He obviously feels the weight of his small but strategic kingdom’s precarious economic and security straits and is girding up for what he has described to his close associates as a White House visit in early April “of paramount strategic importance.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report the ruler will implore President George W. Bush to approve his kingdom’s swift and full membership of NATO. While relieved of the threat Iraq’s Saddam once posed the Hashemite kingdom from the east, he is worried about two possible scenarios.
First, the possible collapse of the House of Saud on his southern border and the seizure of power by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. Officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East suggest the king is exaggerating, but Abdullah has repeatedly told foreign visitors and close aides that the danger is very real.
Second, the final breakdown of the Palestinian Authority and death of Yasser Arafat.
The king fears that Arafat’s demise will shake the entire Middle East, setting off military movements that will lead to a limited war between Israel and the Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanon’s Hizballah and other parties.
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s is building a security fence in the West Bank, King Abdullah believes, more as a barrier in case of a general war than as a means of staving off suicide bombers’ incursions. In an all-out conflict, the fence will keep Palestinians from fleeing the battlefield west into Israel. Their only remaining path of flight will be east into Jordan. This calamitous exodus can only be stemmed by Jordan if it enjoys full membership of NATO, the monarch argues, for Amman could then call on alliance forces to help defend the realm and its ruling Hashemite minority.
The king will also press hard for Washington to increase its economic aid allowance to Jordan from $200 million a year to $500 million. According to our sources in Amman, Abdullah has prepared a thick tome of statistics covering Jordan’s post-Iraq war economic situation. The numbers attest to a 30 percent rise in Jordanian-Iraqi trade since the war ended, but it is still short of the pre-US invasion levels of 2002.