Riots in the palace, wave of arrests in Jordan over plan to “destabilize” the kingdom

Jordan said on Sunday it had annihilated a conspiracy against the kingdom that involved a half-brother of King Abdullah II and arrested at least 16 suspects they accused of “insurrection” and alleged foreign involvement.

Hamzah bin Hussein – a former crown prince whose title Abdullah fired in 2004 – and the others had worked with foreign parties to “undermine Jordan’s security,” said Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi.

Washington, the Gulf Alliance and the Arab League were quick to emphasize their support for Abdullah’s pro-Western government, seen as an anchor for stability in the Middle East.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on the monarch to reaffirm Cairo’s “full solidarity” with Jordan and to express “full support for the latest decisions (he) has taken to ensure the stability and security of the kingdom”, according to a presidency statement.

Hamzah, 41, had on Saturday released a video message via the BBC in which he accused Jordan’s ruler of nepotism and corruption and accused that he had been placed under house arrest.

He lashed out at Jordan’s “ruling system” and said several of his friends had been arrested, his security details removed and his internet and telephone lines cut off.

He denied that he was part of “any conspiracy or smelly organization”, but said that the country with 10 million people had “been stigmatized in corruption, nepotism and malice” and that no one was allowed to criticize the authorities.

The state news agency Petra said that among those arrested for “security reasons” were former relatives of the royal family Bassem Awadallah, head of the royal court in 2007-08, and Sheriff Hassan bin Zaid.

Safadi, who is also foreign minister, said another 14 to 16 suspects had been arrested.

Security services monitored “contacts with foreign parties aimed at destabilizing Jordan’s security,” including an alleged offer to exhale Hamzah’s wife out of the country, he said.

Safadi refused to identify the alleged foreign parties or say what the allegations were, but said authorities acted because the alleged conspirators “talked about timing”.

“This uprising was stuck in the bud,” Safadi said.

The United States is watching closely

Hamzah’s mother, American-born Queen Noor, defended her son and the others, tweeting that she “prayed that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this evil slander.”

Hamzah is the eldest son of Queen Noor and the late King Hussein.

Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this evil slander. God bless and protect them.

– Noor Al Hussein (@QueenNoor) April 4, 2021

Abdullah had appointed Hamzah, a popular figure close to the tribal leader, as Crown Prince in 1999 in line with Hussein’s dying wishes, but deprived him of the title in 2004 and gave it to his eldest son Hussein.

A Jordanian analyst, who declined to be named, said Hamzah recently “reinforced his criticism of what he described as corruption within the government in front of his circle of friends.”

“There is really resentment on his part, because he has never melted away to lose his title as Crown Prince.”

Jordan’s joint chief of staff, Major General Yousef Huneiti, said Hamzah had not been detained, but “asked to stop certain activities that could be used to shake up stability and security in Jordan.”

The Washington Post had first reported that the former Crown Prince was “placed under restraint” as part of a probe into an alleged conspiracy to remove the king.

It “included at least one other Jordanian royal as well as tribal leaders and members of the country’s security establishment.”

Upcoming centenary

Parliament Speaker Abdul Monem Odat said “Jordan has resolutely and resolutely stopped any attempt to undermine its security and stability and sent a clear message to those whom King Abdullah II describes as an opponent of Jordanian policy”.

The US State Department said Washington was “closely following” the events and stressed that key partner Abdullah “has our full support”.

We are closely following the reports from Jordan and we have been in contact with Jordanian officials. King Abdullah is a key partner in the United States and he has our full support.

– Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) April 3, 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman both called the Jordanian king to express their support, Saudi state media said.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, “Jordan is a neighbor and strategic ally with whom we have peaceful relations. We must do everything necessary to maintain the alliance.”

Awadallah, a former US-educated finance and planning minister, was close to the king but has also been a controversial figure in Jordan. Before becoming royal court chief in 2007, he was head of the king’s cabinet.

He played a key role in pushing for economic reforms before resigning in 2008 amid criticism for alleged involvement in sensitive political and economic issues.

The EU is closely following the recent events in Jordan. 🇪🇺 and 🇯🇴 have a strong and solid partnership. We will continue to support Jordan and its people. The EU fully supports King Abdullah II and his moderating role in the region.

– Nabila Massrali (@NabilaEUspox) April 4, 2021

Saturday’s security sweep came as Jordan prepares to celebrate 100 years since the new kingdom, then called Transjordan, was founded with Palestine under British rule. It declared independence in 1946.

But Barah Mikail, an academic at Saint Louis University in Madrid and head of the consulting firm Stractegia, said the country “would look good in the face of a plot hatched against it, especially as the kingdom’s anniversary approaches”.

Jordan “is very well-structured in terms of intelligence services and national networks, and strict control, especially those suspected of harming the monarchy, is a fact,” he said.