The throne of Jordan’s King Abdullah II is still firm, but the royal Hashemite family is the target of mounting popular protest. It is only a matter of time before disaffected elements turn their ire on the king in person.
The bulk of the protesters are Muslim Brotherhood radicals joined by Bedouin tribesmen and Palestinians, some of them bitter about the lack of jobs.
The demonstrators don’t yet dare target the king, but focus instead on Queen Rania and her brother Mahmoud Yasin, who are Palestinian by descent and have become popular symbols of the corruption spreading through the Kingdom of Jordan.
They accuse the queen of channeling her corrupt business transactions through her brother whom they charge she made a multimillionaire at the expense of the Jordanian taxpayer.
So long as the protesters confined themselves to shouting slogans, speechifying and marching, the king was not unduly worried.
But now they have started marching with life-like guillotines and gallows depicting the queen and her brother, some professionally constructed, through the streets of Amman and other cities. They are holding mock trials of the queen and her brother, ruling them guilty of corruption, issuing death sentences and conducting mock executions, evidence of the deteriorating royal reputation in public eyes.
The most ominous sign for the throne is the reluctance of security forces to raise a hand against the protesters.
The Muslim Brotherhood is whipping up the protest
A frequent Western visitor to Amman on business describes what he sees these days in Jordan’s main cities. He told DEBKA-Net-Weekly that the Muslim Brotherhood is mainly responsible for whipping up the street protests. They are still small – rarely numbering more than 1,000-1,500 protesters. But he gained the impression that the Brothers were moving in stages and, if they wished, could rally larger numbers, getting 10,000 demonstrators out on the street.
“The situation is tense and dangerous,” he said. “But it’s hard to find anyone in Jordan willing to say this out loud.”
On Friday, July 6, around 1,500 Jordanian protesters, mostly Islamists, turned out in support of a demand to withdraw a controversial electoral law and promote a Muslim Brotherhood decision to boycott the early election expected later this year.
“We demand a democratic electoral law,” they shouted. “We want the constitution reformed and a real fight against corruption,” read a banner carried by the protesters in central Amman.
“The people want change. Revolution is the solution,” they chanted, hoisting a large national flag.
Salem Falahat, a leading Brotherhood light saluted “tribes and political parties willing to boycott the vote.” Other pro-reform demonstrations were held in southern and northern Jordan.
To stay on in a reduced capacity, the king must negotiate
The pro-reform platform is one rallying slogan for street protest; the anti-corruption campaign against the queen is another. But our sources note that the same demonstrators often turn up in both types of rally and warn, that at some point, the two issues may merge into a single, sharp-pointed dagger pointed at the royal house. For now the threat is still over the horizon.
Earlier this month, King Abdullah authorized a second visit to Amman of the Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in the hope that he would meet local Muslim Brotherhood leaders and prevail on them to stop demonstrating against Queen Rania and lift their boycott of the election, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report.
The Brothers agreed to meet him and listened politely to what he had to say before sending him off with the recommendation that he stop meddling in their business and leave the kingdom sooner rather than later.
Some were less polite, reminding Meshaal that he and his faction were dead ducks in their own movement after failing in elections to the Hamas Shura council. He was told that his title of Hamas Political Bureau chief no longer carried power or influence.
That the Jordanian King, who must have known about Meshaal’s fall from grace, turned to him for help in toning down local Muslim Brotherhood protest, was a sign of his desperation.
Many Middle East watchers fear that if Abdullah continues to stand against the protest movement, the Hashemite dynasty’s turn to be removed from power by the Brothers will come after the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria finishes Bashar Assad.
He still has a chance of negotiating a deal that will leave him on the throne as a figurehead or a constitutional monarch if he is ready to take a leaf out of the book of King Mohammed VI of Morocco.