The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan faces an existential crisis. The Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan has brought its two-year long dispute with the throne to a head, demanding that by the end of this month, in just two weeks, King Abdullah II must either agree to establishing a constitutional monarchy or abdicate.
His refusal to make a choice, would place him in jeopardy of an Arab Spring uprising and the same fate as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.
Events in Jordan are being watched with great anxiety, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and Middle East sources report, from Washington, Riyadh and Jerusalem. None are interfering at this point to help the king survive the crisis – mainly because the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood’s ruling council is an arcane entity inaccessible to outsiders. Even its membership is kept secret.
Indeed, a bid by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood mediators to broker a compromise deal got nowhere.
Abdullah can’t be sure of popular support
For years, the Brotherhood has been arguing back and forth with the king and staging street demonstrations on such issues as electoral reform, the high cost of living and corruption in high places – but never about royal privilege. But since late August, as they watched the unfolding of the Arab revolt in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, the Islamists are out for the ultimate prize, a figurehead king and a democratically-elected parliament that would choose the government, hitherto the king’s prerogative.
The Brothers are confident of coming to power on the wings of a parliamentary majority.
An Arab Spring-like insurrection in Jordan threatens three regional repercussions:
1. Jordanian politics is a complex patchwork. The factions in opposition to the king may not necessarily back a Muslim Brotherhood revolution. It remains to be seen which side Jordanian intelligence and security services decide to back; the same applies to the Palestinians, who makes up 60 percent of the population, and are deeply factionalized between Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups. Neither is it clear how far the Bedouin tribes who were loyal to Abdullah’s father King Hussein and now collaborate with the Brotherhood will go.
It is therefore hard to calculate how much support the king can count on. But for sure, a protracted crisis could sink the kingdom into anarchy and civil war.
Obama may decide to ditch Abdullah like Mubarak
2. The Obama administration faces an awkward balancing act. On the one hand, the Jordanian king has always been a staunch American ally and friend. On the other, President Barack Obama regards the Muslim Brotherhood as the linchpin of his external policy of outreach to the Muslim world.
It is widely expected that if he is reelected in November, Obama will ditch King Abdullah just as he sacrificed Mubarak to the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square.
3. For Israel, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman would tighten the Islamist noose around its borders and could spell the end of its peace pact with Jordan.
4. Saudi Arabia and its royal rulers would be sharply jolted by the coming of the Arab Spring to its northern borders and the downfall of an Arab king. The oil kingdom would then be menaced on three hands, by a nuclear Iran, an intensifying guerilla uprising in its oil-rich Eastern Province and the popular unrest knocking on the palace gates in Riyadh.