Jordan’s King Is Afraid. So He Purged His Government

King Abdullah cleared out the ranks among the senior officials in the royal court and removed senior intelligence officials. There’s a message to the U.S. here, and to Israel

Princess Basma bint Talal of Jordan, the sister of the late King Hussein and the aunt of the present king, Abdullah II, knew back in 2013 that the sword was hanging over her head.

At the time, as part of periodic campaigns to uproot corruption in the Hashemite Kingdom, a parliamentary anti-graft committee revealed that her husband, Walid al-Kurdi, had exploited his position as the CEO and chairman of the state-owned phosphate mines company to commit fraud amounting to tens of millions of dollars. A day before Kurdi was scheduled to testify before the committee, he left Jordan for self-exile in London, where he has lived ever since.

The same year, he was tried in absentia for corruption and sentenced to 37 and a half years of hard labor in prison and fined $378.8 million. Since then Jordan

But this group still can make trouble for the king. The Old Guard’s leadership comes from well-off and deeply entrenched families or the large Bedouin tribes in the country, members of the richest classes who for generations conducted mutually beneficial transactions with the royal court. Some of them still have the king’s ear, others only claim to have influence, and all of them hold old-style political salons in their homes or hotels in which the royal court is slaughtered and dismembered limb by limb.

These gatherings of the elite are nothing new. They served as a greenhouse for planning political and economic moves. It’s where the “political refugees” from senior government positions, including ministers and military officials, met; meanwhile, those who were waiting for their turn to return to the senior positions in the government left through a revolving door. The frequent government reshuffling that King Hussein carried out – a policy inherited by his son Abdullah – kept these refugees well nourished, and allowed for layers of impatience, frustration and bitterness to accumulate.

The constant threat is that the close ties between the senior officials who were removed from their posts and those still serving could, under the appropriate conditions, lead to a palace coup. The solution was usually another round of firings and appointments intended to break up these relationships and make it clear that the “plot,” whether true or imaginary, had been exposed.

has been unsuccessfully demanding his extradition from the United Kingdom – but now it looks as if a deal between the Jordanian government and Kurdi will allow him to return to his country and rejoin his family.

The details of the agreement are still unclear, but it will have to be one that preserves the honor of the kingdom – in other words, the honor of the king – but doesn’t tear the royal family apart.

This is a not simple task for Abdullah, who has faced harsh public criticism concerning the way he runs Jordan – so much so that he and his close relatives, including his wife Queen Rania, are also being accused of corruption and violating the constitution.

The latest round of troubles began in December 2018, when thousands of Jordanians started protesting the increase in gas prices, steep unemployment that has reached an average of 19 percent and a lack of economic prospects. In February 2019, former Labor Minister Amjad Hazza al-Majali wrote a searing letter, widely shared on social networks, demanding that the king “make practical and effective arrangements to tackle corruption and hunt corrupt individuals, including the corrupt circle that is close to you.”