On Saturday night Jordanian authorities reportedly foiled a coup plot against King Abdullah II, resulting in multiple arrests, yet despite confirmation that the plot to destabilize the country was organized with foreign powers, we have yet to hear any clarification.
The string of arrests made by Jordanian security services was first reported by The Washington Post, which alleged that 20 people including Jordan’s former Crown Prince, Hamzah Bin Hussein, had been detained. The former Crown Prince also sent two videos, first in English and then in Arabic, to be broadcasted on the BBC, explaining that he had been placed under house arrest. In the video Prince Hamzah claims he did nothing wrong, going on to attack the government over corruption and incompetence, calling on the people to stand up together.
Jordanian authorities later disputed the claims that Prince Hamzah was detained or under house arrest. The Chairman of the Jordanian Joint Chiefs of Staff, Yusef Al-Huneiti, said yesterday: “There is no truth to what was published about the arrest of Prince Hamzah, but he was asked to stop the movements and activities used to target Jordan’s security, as part of a comprehensive joint security investigation”.
Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Ayman Safadi, claimed that the Prince was working with “foreign entities” in order to mobilize “clan leaders” and destabilize the country. Safadi also claimed that a “foreign intelligence agency” – which he failed to name – had been in communication with Prince Hamzah’s wife at 3:55PM (Saturday) and had offered a plane out of the country.
According to Israel’s Yediot Aharonot – quoting unnamed high-ranking Jordanian sources – Saudi Arabia as well as another Arab Gulf State were involved in the coup plot, which was coordinated largely through former Jordanian Finance Minister, Bassem Awdallah. Awdallah was amongst those reportedly detained and as a businessman is known to be close with Gulf Arab States, especially Saudi Arabia.
It has been speculated that perhaps Saudi Arabia was working on this operation alone, however this seems highly unlikely. If the Israeli media reports alleging the involvement of another Gulf State in the plot are true, it is more than likely to be the United Arab Emirates. All of this is now, however, simply speculation.
Another angle to this that has been adopted by some, is to allege that the attempted coup plot was in fact something in the making during the Trump era, whilst ties between Riyadh and Amman were at a low point. Saudi Arabia and Jordan, became relatively disgruntled as a result of the sides they took in the Qatar-Saudi dispute.
Amman had refused to cut ties with Doha during the blockade of Qatar and remained in communication with Iran, much to the dismay of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Jordan also made it clear its support for the ending of the Saudi-UAE war on Yemen, demonstrating this by hosting peace talks during May, 2019. It also opposed the pro-Israel block (Saudi, UAE, Egypt), in 2019, which had rejected a joint statement from the Union of Arab Parliaments which called for stopping Arab-Israeli normalisation agreements in the wake of Trump’s role out of his ‘Deal of the Century’.
Some feel that due to the seemingly tense diplomatic relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, prior to the resolution of the Qatar-Saudi dispute, it was more likely that the plot was ongoing during this time. This could also work to justify why Jordan is shy to name the countries involved in the alleged plot, meaning they would rather deal with those who may in the future be utilized against the King, without having to start a dispute with a foreign country over the issue.
There is also the theory that what is going on is a developing threat to the Hashemite Kingdom. With people speculating over whether Prince Hamzah will be used like Russia’s Alexei Navalny or even Venezuela’s Juan Guaido. However this could not work without US backing, which doesn’t seem to be there, on the contrary it seems like the US Biden administration is backing King Abdullah II.
Professor Asad Abu Khalil, of California State University, commented the following on Twitter: “What is happening in Jordan. It was a UAE-Saudi-Israeli coup. But Muhammad bin Salman rules by miscalculations. He miscalculated when he invaded Yemen; he miscalculated when he killed Khashoggi; he miscalculated by not ascending to the throne when Trump was president…”, yet Prof. Abu Khalil does not believe the United States supports the coup plot. He also says that it may be possible that the US notified the Jordanian authorities, in order to avert the coming coup from being followed through with.
Unlike the case in other Arab countries, the Hashemite rulers of Jordan were originally installed by the British and have since maintained strong ties to the West. Jordan is a key ally of the West inside of the Middle East and with the majority of the population being comprised of Palestinian refugees, a destabilized Jordan would be bad news for American government.
The King of Jordan currently manages to keep political opposition in check, whilst enabling the West to come and get the most out of his country when it is needed. If the country was to change hands, it would have to be done quickly and swiftly to suit both Israeli and US aims.
The last thing Israel wants is a civil war inside of the country. The reason why this would be a catastrophe for Israel at this time, is because it could birth the opportunity for us to see Palestinian armed groups grow inside the country. Also, this would mess up trade relations and could affect the general stability of Israel, especially if the West’s intended puppets do not succeed.
Whatever the specifics of this planned coup, one thing is for certain here: If this was truly, in part, Saudi Arabia’s doing – which is most likely – then Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has demonstrated just how reckless and lacking of strategic thinking he is.