The Jordanian Monarch Isn’t Going Anywhere, but Neither Are the Problems Underlying the Recent “Coup”

April 6, 2021 | Ghaith al-Omari and Robert Satloff
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Over the past few days, a series of contradictory reports emerged from Jordan of an attempt by Prince Hamzah to stage a coup against his half-brother, King Abdullah—followed swiftly by a report that the prince had pledged allegiance to the king, and rumors that former senior officials were arrested. All this comes just a few weeks after a public spat between the kingdom and Israel—which depend on one another for their respective security. Ghaith al-Omari and Robert Satloff comment:

Prince Hamzah is half-brother to the current monarch and the eldest son from King Hussein’s marriage to his fourth wife, Queen Noor. Upon ascending to the throne in 1999, Abdullah appointed Hamzah as crown prince pursuant to their father’s dying wish. . . . Five years later, Abdullah relieved Hamzah of this title in favor of his own eldest son, Hussein—not an unusual act given that the late King Hussein named three different crown princes during his reign. Hamzah did not publicly object to the decision at the time, yet he subsequently positioned himself as a sympathetic figure and avatar of reform among Jordanians discontented with the country’s socioeconomic situation, especially disaffected tribal elements.

[T]he underlying sources of dissatisfaction that Hamzah tapped into are real and will inevitably manifest themselves again in the future if Amman does not address them. These include emergency issues like the pandemic, as well as more structural issues like broader economic, political, and governance reform. As in the past, the immediate aftermath of the Hamzah affair will probably see a strengthening of the security sector at the expense of reform. . . . Even before this weekend’s crisis, the government had already shut down the popular chat platform Clubhouse to prevent unwelcome online criticism.

In this context, Amman needs to tread delicately with its so-far-unsubstantiated accusations of significant foreign connections to the alleged conspiracy. Among the countries whose names have been bandied about—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel—none have an interest in stoking instability in Jordan or could have believed that an amateurish plot built around a disaffected prince and a handful of acolytes might possibly have overthrown the well-entrenched Abdullah.

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