Jordan's oasis of stability withers amid family feuds | International

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Those who have come to Jordan in search of a new season of Game of Thrones, after the palatial “sedition” imputed to a prince of the Hashemite royal house, have found a country in decline due to the economic consequences of the wars in Iraq and Syria, relegated to the Middle East by the new regional order dictated by Israel and the Gulf monarchies against Iran, and mercilessly hit by the pandemic. "In a state of unstable stability", defines it a European diplomatic source.

Jordan's oasis of calm and security emerged amid the turmoil of the Middle East – better known as an exotic tourist destination and for the glamor of its royalty – has long been withering with a 25% unemployment rate (40% among those under 30 years of age). ) and with up to 1.3 million Syrian refugees in their care, among 10 million inhabitants. The raid unleashed by the intelligence services on March 3, in which members of the royal house were arrested, including the half-brother of King Hamzah bin Hussein; a former minister, and Bedouin tribal chiefs, was described by the government as an "attempted coup" in connection with foreign forces.

“There has been no attempted coup involving the Army, but there has been an attempted mutiny that could have led to the uprising of the herak, Bedouin tribal groups, ”says the director of the Al Quds Center for Political Studies, Oraib al Rantawi, in his Amman office. “Jordan has lost a decade without undertaking democratic reforms as the division within the royal family is growing. And that the dynastic disputes have transcended in public is not the usual thing, ”says this expert.

The herak They were originally brotherhoods of Transjordans, inhabitants of the Hashemite kingdom founded a century ago under British tutelage. From constituting the social base that sustained the power of the monarch, some of these groups have turned into conciliations of dissidents who capitalize on popular discontent over the economic, political and health crises.

“The 1921 social contract between the king and the Bedouin tribes, in which in exchange for loyalty they were guaranteed positions in the state and the security forces, has lost its validity in Jordanian society, which is increasingly diverse and contrary to privilege. ”, Says Rana Sabbagh, former editor of the newspaper The Jordan Times. "The original contract must be revised because society changes at all levels: cultural, economic and social." Sabbagh believes that Jordan needs a more inclusive policy. "The current concentration of power in a few hands threatens to marginalize and exclude part of society," he adds.

"The logic of the provider state for only a part of the more traditional population is being questioned also by enlightened urban youth and middle-aged professionals," points out a European diplomat stationed in Amman. At the headquarters of the professional associations in the Jordanian capital, one of the few organized sectors of civil society, the president of the Association of Engineers, Ahmad Alzoubi, notes that the strike affects a quarter of the 175,000 technicians that it groups, while half are covered by ERTE financed by Social Security.

“Faced with the crisis and political instability, the professional associations are leading the citizen demand for more democracy, especially after the civil rights restrictions that have been imposed by the Government under the pretext of the pandemic. We need a government elected by the people ”, claims Alzoubi, who claims to be at the forefront of the organization of engineers with the largest presence in the Middle East. "In 2010 we sent 35,000 professionals to Saudi Arabia, but now there are less than 10,000 due to covid," he details.

“King Abdullah has paid the price for his opposition to the deal of the century, sponsored by (former US President) Donald Trump with the intention of sealing peace in the Middle East without counting on the Palestinians, who are also a very important part of Jordan, ”argues analyst Al Rantawi.

Collaborators of Mohamed Bin Salmán

"Both (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and (Saudi Crown Prince) Mohamed Bin Salmán have not forgiven him yet," emphasizes the director of the Al Quds Center. Two of the main arrested in the raid against the alleged coup plot – Sharif Hasan bin Zaid, a member of the Hasan royalty, and Bassem Awadallah, a former head of the Royal House and a former Minister of Finance – are also Saudi nationals and are considered close collaborators. by Mohamed Bin Salmán when we have the information.

The veteran journalist Sabbagh, who currently works for an international NGO, believes that "this has been the latest alarm that has sounded in Jordan to awaken civil society once and for all in the absence of structured political parties."

The only tolerated opposition force with a presence in Parliament, the Islamic Front (a local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), shows its disappointment after the last legislative elections, held in the autumn of last year. "In 2016, when we ran again after boycotting the House, we won 14 of the 130 seats," explains Musa al Wash, leader of the Islamist party at its headquarters in Amman. "In 2020, despite having more supporters and voting intention, we achieved only eight, and I myself lost the act of deputy after denouncing fraud at the polls."

Western diplomatic sources attribute the emerging instability in Jordan to the "Gatopardista" strategy of the monarch and his entourage, who have for years promised democratizing reforms and modernization of the economy to every shock in the Arab country's image of stability – be it in the form of popular uprisings , as in 2018, or the palace conspiracy of the last few days – without the changes in real policies yet being reflected.

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