Tuesday, September 12, 2006

News from Jordan: While the king is busy playing with his Playstation.: A source in Amman tells me of important developments in Jordan. According to several sources, Queen Rania wields an important political role, and seems to be the "brains" behind the Hashemite operation. She often complains--especially to some American officials--that her husband
spends far too much time playing with his Playstation. (She also insists that her brother Majdi Yasin, who has few qualifications, beyond being her brother, play a role (reviewing development reports among other tasks), and he now has wide business interests and projects in the country --both small and large scale). `Abdullah of course, like his father before him, wants to build a fortune (in his father's case mostly from commissions on arms deals and Gulf and US aid). Queen Nur took most of the treasury with her, leaving Abdullah destitute upon assuming the throne. The new king found at least two ways to make money: 1) he registers state lands in his name, and then sells them at high prices and pockets the money; 2) he has entered into business with Baha' Hariri in Aqabah and in Amman (sources say the Hariris paid His Majesty anywhere between 75-400 million Jordanian Dinars but the figure may be inflated. The intelligence apparatus, the feared Mukhabarat, and the Americans are running the show completely with no consultation with anyone--they inform Abdullah of their actions usually but that is about it. When the Jordanian government concocted the story of Hamas arms smuggling into Jordan, the prime minister Bakhit (famed for his love of dogs and dog shows and of having limited intelligence and experience heard the news on TV like everyone else in the country. He was not even told about the concoction. Hamzah (the former crown prince) is out of the picture although he is not as disliked as the king. The Americans are keeping him as a spare card should a change in the guard be required. People have nothing nice to say about the king--East Jordanians, flooded as they had been by a major propaganda effort by King Husayn and Queen Nur when they were in power praising the young prince, say that at least Hamzah bothered to learn the language and to partake of people's traditions --He used to eat with people during his military service,etc. When the king designated `Abdullah as his successor, he requested in the presence of Nur that Hamzah take over after five years (Former Prince Hasan rejected that request which cost him his future kingship, `Abdullah accepted. `Abdullah was never close to his father who upon Nur's influence marginalized all his children from prior marriages. Once `Abdullah solidified his rule and realized that the Americans might still use the Hamza card, he got rid of him. Old timers--even those who were critical of him--now look fondly on King Husayn's rule. `Abdullah and his advisors, especially the American neocon Basim `Awadallah, a close confidant of Queen Rania and hated by most Jordanians for his economic impoverishment of most Jordanians and enrichment of the few (also, he is hated by East Jordanians for his Palestinian origins, but not for his American nationality) is out of touch, and does not listen to alternative views. Indeed, 'Abdullah is so uncouth in his manner that sources tell me that after he became king, he requested a meeting with Layth Shubaylat and told him " I am not like my father. I would kick your ass, or more literally--batraffash bi-batnak. (Shubaylat may have believed the threats as he became far less active in my opinion but I have not verified this account with Shubaylat, but if he is reading this I hope that he can verify). Hamzah's brother Hashim has turned to Sufist Islamism, grew his beard and even banned alcohol (available at plenty at other royal family weddings) at his wedding reception. IT-based economic development has failed to transform Amman into Silicon Valley (not even Mansaf valley), and the only money coming into the country is American security and "assistance" money (NGOs and the like) and the money of the Iraqi bourgeoisie (mostly money laundering) who is increasingly resented, having flooded Amman's affluent neighborhoods and entertainment venues. The king is hoping to substitute his failed IT development policy make with a new "security" role for the country, rendering it the only business for the kingdom, and its only export. The Shi`ite "crescent" or "arc" theme should be seen in that context, as should the fabricated story about Hamas arms-smuggling, although the notion that he will lead a Sunni movement against Shi`ites is as credible as my leading southern Baptists in the US.