Divided Kingdom: Jordan Shaken by Cut up Between King and Ex-Crown Prince

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AMMAN, Jordan — The dominion of Jordan has lengthy been thought of an oasis of relative stability within the Center East. Whereas wars and insurgencies flared in neighboring Syria and Iraq, Jordan was for many years thought of a safe and reliable ally of the US, a buffer in opposition to assaults on Israel, and a key interlocutor with Palestinians.

However this weekend, that placid picture was upended as a long-simmering rift between the king, Abdullah II, and a former crown prince, Hamzah bin Hussein, burst into the general public eye.

On Sunday the federal government accused Prince Hamzah, the king’s youthful half-brother, of “destabilizing Jordan’s safety,” making way more specific claims about his alleged involvement than it did the night earlier than, when it first divulged the supposed conspiracy.

In a speech Sunday afternoon, the Jordanian overseas minister, Ayman Safadi, immediately accused Prince Hamzah of working with a former finance minister, Bassem Awadallah, and a junior member of the royal household, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, to focus on “the safety and stability of the nation.”

Mr. Safadi hinted that every one three had been concerned in a failed palace coup that had overseas backing. He provided particulars about intercepted communications between the prince and Mr. Awadallah, and he introduced the arrest of at the very least 14 different folks.

Mr. Safadi alleged that Prince Hamzah had liaised with Mr. Awadallah all through the course of the day Saturday, accusing him of “incitement and efforts to mobilize residents in opposition to the state in a fashion that threatens nationwide safety.”

The accusations adopted makes an attempt by Prince Hamzah, 41, to clear his identify on Saturday evening, when he launched a video during which he mentioned he had been positioned beneath home arrest. The prince denied involvement in any plot in opposition to King Abdullah, although he did condemn the federal government as corrupt, incompetent and authoritarian.

By Sunday, his mom had stepped into the fray. Queen Noor, the mom of Prince Hamzah — and stepmother of the king — issued a combative assertion in protection of her son, saying he was the sufferer of “depraved slander.”

For a royal home that normally retains disagreements non-public, it was a showdown of surprising and weird depth.

“The best way it unfolded, with arrests and movies, was stunning,” Jawad Anani, a former Jordanian overseas minister and economist, mentioned in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Regardless of the tensions, the royal household all the time introduced the picture of a united entrance. However yesterday’s occasions shattered that picture, and the rifts erupted in broad daylight.”

Throughout King Hussein’s lifetime, his sons and his 4 wives typically jockeyed for affect. However since King Abdullah succeeded Hussein in 1999, his management has by no means been so publicly contested.

King Abdullah and Prince Hamzah had related upbringings, and had been educated at elite British and American faculties and navy faculties. However in his youth, Prince Hamzah was thought of extra educational — he graduated from Harvard in 2006 — and was lengthy seen because the likelier future monarch. Prince Abdullah was appointed Hussein’s successor solely within the ultimate weeks of the king’s reign.

The 2 males additionally characterize totally different branches of King Hussein’s household. Abdullah is the son of Hussein’s second spouse, Princess Muna; Hamzah’s mom, the American-born Queen Noor, was Hussein’s fourth spouse.

A brigadier-general within the Jordanian military, based on his web site, Prince Hamzah presents himself as an anti-corruption campaigner who would take the nation in a extra dynamic and impartial path.

The disaster over the weekend prompted a number of Jordanian allies, which view King Abdullah as a vital companion in countering terrorism within the Center East, to precise assist for King Abdullah.

As a result of Jordan borders Syria, Iraq, Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution, the nation is a thought of a linchpin of regional safety. And because the house of thousands and thousands of exiled Palestinians, and the formal custodian of the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, it is very important any future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The USA stations troops and plane within the nation, retains shut ties with Jordanian intelligence, and final yr supplied greater than $1.5 billion in assist to the Jordanian authorities, based on the State Division.

The rift gave the impression to be taking part in out not just for the Jordanian viewers, however as a public relation conflict directed at Washington as properly. Prince Hamzah made a video in Arabic, but additionally took care to launch one in English.

To many worldwide observers, the confrontation between king and prince underscored the fragility of the social buildings that lie beneath Jordan’s calm facade.

The nation is in the course of a very brutal wave of the coronavirus. Its economic system is struggling. And with 600,000 refugees from Syria, it is without doubt one of the nations most affected by the fallout from the Syrian conflict.

A big proportion of Jordan’s 9 million residents are descended from Palestinians who fled to the nation after the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967. The remainder are native Jordanians, whose tribes have been absorbed into the construction of the state, and whose assist is essential to King Abdullah’s legitimacy, analysts say. This weekend’s imbroglio got here in opposition to a backdrop of current and really public makes an attempt by Prince Hamzah to construct nearer ties with these tribes.

King Abdullah, who’s 59, named Hamzah crown prince in 1999, however he stripped him of the title in 2004 and transferred it to his son, Prince Hussein, now 26.

Lately, Prince Hamzah gave the impression to be making an attempt to rebuild his affect, and his model.

He brought on a stir within the kingdom with current conferences with Jordanian tribal leaders. And he raised eyebrows by publicly criticizing the federal government in 2018, when he known as for “actual motion in opposition to the rife corruption happening, for the corrupt to be accountable and to construct again belief between the state and the folks.”

“Oh, my nation,” he lamented on the time.

However none of this ready Jordanians for the dramatic occasions of Saturday evening.

The royal household hardly ever, if ever, strikes publicly in opposition to its personal. However on Saturday, the federal government introduced that Prince Hamzah had been spoken to by Jordanian officers, amid hints of a foiled coup try.

Jordanians had been shocked, mentioned Mr. Anani, the previous minister. “Anybody that tells you they aren’t stunned by what occurred in Jordan the previous day might be not being truthful,” he mentioned.

Prince Hamzah later launched the self-filmed video during which he mentioned he had been forbidden to go away his house.

“Numerous the folks I do know — or my associates — have been arrested, my safety has been eliminated, and the web and telephone strains have been minimize,” he mentioned. “That is my final type of communication, satellite tv for pc web, that I’ve, and I’ve been knowledgeable by the corporate that they’re instructed to chop it so it might be the final time I’m able to talk.”

Prince Hamzah mentioned he was not “a part of any conspiracy or nefarious group or foreign-backed group” and harshly criticized the Jordanian authorities, which he described as corrupt and illiberal of criticism.

“Even to criticize a small side of a coverage results in arrest and abuse by the safety providers,” he mentioned, “and it’s reached the purpose the place nobody is ready to converse or categorical an opinion on something with out being bullied, arrested, harassed and threatened.”

Jordan continuously cracks down on main political opposition. In 2020, it arrested a whole lot of academics who organized protests to demand higher advantages. Insulting the king is forbidden.

Freedom Home, an American rights watchdog that publishes an annual report on the state of world rights, not too long ago mentioned that Jordan was not a free society, having beforehand labeled it as “partly free.” Amongst current measures in opposition to free expression, Jordan not too long ago banned Clubhouse, the brand new social media community, and barred demonstrators from gathering final month to protest Jordan’s coronavirus technique.

Among the many folks arrested on Saturday had been Mr. Awadallah, the previous finance minister and a adviser to the Saudi crown prince; and Mr. Zaid, the royal member of the family, who’s a former envoy to Saudi Arabia.

To dispel hypothesis over whether or not it might need had a task in any conspiracy, Saudi Arabia shortly launched a robust assertion of assist for King Abdullah. And on Sunday, state-run Saudi information media introduced that Prince Mohammed bin Salman had spoken with King Abdullah by telephone to point out assist.

On Sunday afternoon, the Jordanian authorities once more stoked the rumors of overseas involvement.

“A person with hyperlinks to overseas intelligence providers” provided to assist Prince Hamzah’s spouse escape Jordan by non-public aircraft, the overseas minister, Ayman Safadi, mentioned at a press briefing. An Israeli businessman dwelling in Europe, Roy Shaposhnik, later mentioned in a press release that he had been in contact with the prince, however that he by no means served in any intelligence company.

Over the weekend, totally different factions of the royal household made a collection of claims and counterclaims.

First, Queen Noor, mom of Prince Hamzah — and stepmother to King Abdullah — got here to the prince’s protection.

“Praying that reality and justice will prevail for all of the harmless victims of this depraved slander,” she wrote on Twitter. “God bless and preserve them secure.”

Then got here the riposte from one other wing of the household.

The “seemingly blind ambition” of “Queen Noor & her sons” is “delusional, futile, unmerited,” tweeted Princess Firyal, an aunt by marriage to each the king and his half-brother.

Earlier than deleting the tweet, she provided a phrase of recommendation: “Develop up Boys.”

Rana F. Sweis reported from Amman, and Adam Rasgon and Patrick Kingsley from Jerusalem.

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