Weakness in Cairo and Riyadh Reflected in Amman

Riyadh’s passivity in the inter-Arab arena and Cairo’s weakness are reflected in the unsteadiness of the Hashemite throne in Amman since Saudi Arabia and Egypt are Abdullah’s two mainstays. This vulnerability threatens to drive the king onto extreme paths not of his choosing. He must either put all his eggs in the Israeli basket, relying on his western neighbor and peace partner to guard the integrity of his kingdom, as his father did. This, however must be done discreetly, given that 56 percent of his subjects are Palestinian. His other course is to throw his lot in with his eastern neighbor, Iraq, which means joining the radical bloc at war with Israel. Abdullah has so far not opted for either and is attempting to maneuver between them. Israel has guaranteed him an air umbrella if he is invaded by outside forces or suffers a Palestinian uprising. Israeli intelligence services work closely with Jordanian military intelligence. But Arafat’s intifada, Saddam’s advance to center stage of Arab politics and Bashar Assad’s radical proclivities have added to the disquiet and insecurity in the palace in Amman. Abdullah’s father Hussein survived similar pressures, but he usually did so by resorting to the war option or aligning himself with the most radical Arab elements. In 1967, Hussein lost historic Jerusalem and half his kingdom by going to war against Israel alongside Egypt’s Gemal Abdel Nasser; in the 1991 Gulf war, Hussein distanced himself from the moderate Saudis, Egyptians and Kuwaitis and supported Saddam Hussein.

Abdullah may well feel forced to walk in his father’s footsteps in order to survive.

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