Jordan's King Abdullah II was warned in Washington this week that he had better start introducing political reforms without delay because a revolt against his throne was knocking at his door from neighboring Syria, debkafile's Washington sources report.
The king was handed intelligence updates at the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council, informing him that the threat to destabilize the kingdom did not emanate from a deliberate plot by the Assad regime or the Syrian opposition. It came from the potential spillover of the tumult rocking Syria and two sources in particular:.
One: Many Syrian opposition factions had tribal and familial connections in Jordan from which they have been drawing much of their funding and arms. The Jordanian branches of these tribes are asking themselves if an uprising can be organized against Bashar Assad in Syria, why not against the Jordanian king?
US officials warned Abdullah that the Jordanian groups helping their brethren rise up in Syria are getting organized for armed revolt against him too and have begun collecting arms and explosives.
Two: The Muslim Brotherhood is on the ascendant in the Arab world after partially hijacking the revolts in Syria and Egypt. The Brotherhood has worldwide Islamic religious and political pretensions. The Syrian chapter senses it is on the brink of success, thanks partly to assistance from the Jordanian branch. So, they say, why not help our Jordanian brothers just as they helped us?
The US scenario for Jordan if it plays out would affect Israeli security in vital areas: The Netanyahu government would have to decide whether to step in to save the Hashemite throne and if so, whether to conduct its intervention overtly or covertly. Israel must get down to preparations for the seepage of a potential uprising in Jordan across the border to the Palestinians on the West Bank and Israeli Arab communities.
For weeks, the IDF and Israel's security services have been drilling scenarios for mass disorders to erupt in September when the Palestinians plan to seek UN recognition of their statehood. Have they taken into account that the disorders could flare up on both sides of the border?
In Washington, Abdullah was advised to move fast with the following steps to pre-empt the flare-up of rebellion in his kingdom:
1. He must not wait for the demonstrations and bloody riots to erupt and force him to disperse them with live bullets, but introduce a series of political reforms before the clamor rises from the street.
2. He must lead the kingdom's transition to a democratically elected multi-party system of government – not the façade which exists today, but a government appointed by parliament instead of the monarch. This would require Abdullah to cede many of his prerogatives.
3. Voting constituencies would have to be redrawn. At present, they are designed geographically to keep down the numbers of Muslim Brotherhood members and Palestinians gaining seats in parliament. The constituency plan proposed by Washington would give the Palestinians more representation in the legislature and other Jordanian political institutions.
4. Obama administration officials advised the king to lose no time in accepting the Gulf Cooperation Council-GCC's invitation to join the organization.
Although Jordan has accepted the offer in principle, membership has been delayed by dickering over conditions. Our military sources say that while the GCC states seek greater Jordanian military participation in securing their borders and internal security, King Abdullah is holding out for guarantees of a GCC military umbrella for the royal family should his throne come under domestic threat.
He wants the same assurances as those which led to military intervention by Saudi Arabia and the emirates on March 14 to save the Bahraini throne.
debkafile's sources report that King Abdullah replied to the advice he received in Washington with two comments:
Political reform would have to be implemented slowly and with the utmost caution else the royal family would lose its authority to the opposition.
Secondly, if the Obama administration wants more Palestinian representation in elected Jordanian institutions, it must, at least for appearances' sake, push forward negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The king said it was unacceptable for the Hashemite royal family to make concessions to the Palestinians in Jordan without Israel also making concessions to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
debkafile's sources say that Washington officials who spoke with King Abdullah were worried by the slowness of his responses and actions: One senior American official remarked: "By the time King Abdullah moves, the Arab Revolt will be upon him in the cities, and it will be too late to institute political reforms."