Has Jordan successfully managed the royal crisis?

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What matters more is not just the details but how they have been received abroad.

https://www.jpost.com/-By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

Jordan’s King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2018

(photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)

The controversy in Jordan that unfolded over the weekend seems to have been successfully managed by the Kingdom. However, it may leave lasting questions about what took place and who was to blame. What began as accusations by Jordan’s deputy prime minister against King Abdullah II’s half-brother, naming him in a “malicious plot,” unfolded quickly from April 3 to 6.

Now the former crown prince at the center of the controversy has pledged allegiance to King Abdullah and family members are mediating. In a letter released by the palace on Monday, Prince Hamzah said: “I place myself in the hands of his majesty the king… I will remain committed to the constitution of the dear Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” according to the most recent reports.

According to reports on April 4 Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein had accused the kingdom’s “system” of being corrupt and used other harsh terminology that represented rare critique. Security forces arrested high profile figures. “Initial investigations showed these activities and movements had reached a stage that directly affected the security and stability of the country, but his majesty decided it was best to talk directly to Prince Hamzah, to deal with it within the family to prevent it from being exploited,” Jordan’s foreign minister said. There were talks of Hamzah reaching out to friends abroad, and even a flight for family members. The prince appeared to be under house arrest.

What matters more is not just the details but how they have been received abroad. No country in the region appears to have tried to fan the flames of the controversy or take advantage of it. From Qatar to Turkey, from Israel to the Gulf, from the US to the UK, everyone appears to be on the side of the king. This matters because in the past, especially when there was a Gulf crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, regional media would sometimes fan the flames of palace intrigue to try to encourage these types of crises in various monarchies. The region today is split between pro-Iranian groups, those countries linked to Riyadh and the Qatar-Turkey alliance which tends to be rooted more in the Muslim Brotherhood. However, as Qatar rejoined discussions with its Gulf neighbors and as Turkey sought normalization, there are reduced innuendos.

The Jordan crisis was watched closely in worldwide media. Most of the media, from the BBC to CNN and France24 felt the need to try to educate readers on the Kingdom’s importance. CNN said the controversy had sent shudders around the region. The focus on the controversy was on the homepage throughout April 4 and 5, unprecedented coverage for Jordan. Jordan would prefer more positive coverage, and has had to manage how this is being portrayed.

The main message that the Kingdom was able to get out and which most western media accepted, is that this is about stability. A plot was afoot to destabilize the Kingdom. The Kingdom is a western ally. It should not be destabilized. CNN reported that there was an “outpouring of support from international and regional partners. Powerful Arab Gulf states were quick to reiterate their support for the king, who later fielded a flurry of phone calls from those leaders. They seemed intent to distance themselves from the alleged foreign plot, but the endorsement of King Abdullah as a key partner appeared largely sincere. There was a clear recognition of what was at stake — destabilizing a country like Jordan can mean trouble for many other countries in the region.” France24 called Jordan a “linchpin” of stability. “Jordan has only 10 million people but outsized strategic importance in a turbulent region. It borders Israel and the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and is the formal custodian of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque,” said France 24.

The Kingdom’s ability to shore up support abroad was important in the hours after the controversy began. The former statements regarding the controversy, which included very strong accusations, will now have to be analyzed to see if the Kingdom follows through on claims of a foreign plot that emerged on April 4, or whether this is quietly forgotten. Jordan’s other crises, such as the economy and COVID-19 would likely mean it is in the interests of Amman for this to quietly go away. Mediation and less talk of foreign plots could make that happen, and it appears to be in the making.

The region thrives on rumors and likes to make news of plots more complex, potentially undermining other relationships. That is why once the rumors began on April 4, it fed a series of discussions across the region that were in contrast to the clear narrative of stability and mediation that are now coming from Amman and major media.

 

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