Jordan Accuses King’s Half-brother of Plotting to Destabilize Country
Prince Hamzah, once crown prince, says he is under house arrest
One after another, Jordanian officials on Sunday repeated that the security and stability of their country is a “red line,” amid accusations from a half-brother of King Abdullah II who said he was under house arrest and amid reports of a coup plot.
The military has denied detaining Prince Hamzah bin Hussein.
Hamzah, 41, the elder son of King Hussein and his American-born fourth wife, Queen Noor, was named crown prince in 1999, a position he held until Abdullah rescinded it in 2004. The king’s eldest child, Hussein bin Abdullah, 26, is now crown prince.
The government said in a press conference that was postponed once on Sunday evening that between “14 and 16 people have been arrested on security charges,” while the prince and others had “undermined the security” of the country.
Ayman Safadi, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, said the security forces stopped a plot to “destabilize” the kingdom that involved Hamzah.
He added that the circle close to Hamzah was detained and “we are trying to deal with Prince Hamzah within the framework of the Hashemite family,” stressing that “the security operation is completely Jordanian” and that there is no truth to reports of the involvement of any Jordanian military leaders in the operation.
Safadi added that Hamzah had contacted community leaders to incite them to activities threatening the security of the country.
Safadi said foreign parties were involved in the suspicious plans of the prince, and these parties had contacted the prince’s wife, offering to secure a plane to leave Jordan to a foreign country.
“Our country is strong and able to protect its security,” the deputy prime minister said.
Jawad Anani, a former deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Jordan, told The Media Line from Amman that the kingdom’s role in east Jerusalem and its rejection of the so-called deal of the century diplomatic proposal made it and the king a target.
“I refer to some reports in the Israeli newspapers, including Israel Today [Israel Hayom] that supports [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, which published articles in which a kind of threat was made not only to Jordan but to the person of His Majesty,” Anani said.
Esmat Mansour, a Ramallah-based expert on Israeli affairs and Israel’s relations with the Arab world, told The Media Line that Jordan is being punished for its “principled and firm stance in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.”
He added that Jordan is a fundamental pillar of stability in the region.
“King Abdullah and Jordan, in general, stood very strongly against the deal of the century, against annexation, and against Judaizing Al-Aqsa, which brought him into a clash with the Trump administration, which was totally biased toward Israel, and also with the Israeli government,” Mansour said.
Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former ambassador to Jordan, told The Media Line that Israel has a direct interest in the kingdom’s stability.
“I would advise Israeli politicians to stay away from making comments on the situation in Jordan,” he said.
But Eran said the distressing economic situation in the kingdom may have something to do with the current events.
“Given the contracting economy as a result of various difficulties and challenges − certain branches of the economy were hard hit with the death of the tourist sector – there’s frustration and even pockets of recent protests against the government,” Eran said.
Hamzah, in videos passed to the media by his lawyer, accused Jordan’s leaders of corruption, incompetence and harassment.
He denied being part of an “outside agenda” and insisted there is no “conspiracy or nefarious organization,” adding that the country had “become stymied in corruption, in nepotism, and in misrule” and that no one was allowed to criticize the authorities.
Safadi called the two recordings by Hamzah an attempt to garner sympathy.
The official Petra news agency said an unspecified number of suspects had been arrested, among them former close aides to the royal family Bassem Awadallah, chief of the royal court in 2007-2008, and Sherif Hassan bin Zaid.
The pair was detained for “security reasons,” Petra said, quoting a security source.
Daoud Kuttab, a prominent, Amman-based Palestinian journalist, writer and analyst, told The Media Line that it was much ado about nothing.
“I think it was little more than a family feud that has gone wrong with disastrous results.”
Kuttab argues that all those who work and guard Hamzah were arrested for a reason.
“That is to be expected as a sign to him to be quiet, which he didn’t. The others, Awadallah and Sherif Hassan, were in my view added on to give an external version to a nonevent,” he said.
“This was not a plot or a coup, it was simply another attempt to silence Prince Hamzah which went wrong and had the opposite results because after the video he released he became the darling of all who are opposed to the government and he has become the anti-corruption opposition leader overnight,” Kuttab said.
“I’m not so sure that there’s a real attempt to replace King Abdullah. The army is the most powerful and organized among Jordan’s institutions.”
There is no “serious challenge to the regime, in spite of all of this, and I think it’s quite clear that in a place like Jordan, you can’t replace the regime without the direct involvement of the real power and that’s the army,” Eran insisted.
A Jordanian political analyst who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject told The Media Line that Hamzah has lately gone public with his criticism.
“He is on the record criticizing the government and top officials claiming rampant corruption,” the analyst said.
King Abdullah has undertaken several economic reforms, but not political reform, especially since the so-called Arab Spring. Jordan is plagued with nepotism and rampant corruption that has hampered economic reform, and despite recent shuffling in governments, the king has not been able to uproot these problems from the government institutions.
The Arab world, and Washington, quickly rallied behind Abdullah, stressing their support for the pro-Western government in Amman.
Hamzah’s mother, Queen Noor, tweeted on Sunday that she was “praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander. God bless and keep them safe.”