Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jordan's 'moderate' regime

Jordan's 'moderate' regime

David Keyes

One hundred Jewish leaders met with Jordanian King Abdullah II on Tuesday to “commend him for Jordan’s role – and his in particular – in supporting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and seeking to be a source of stability in a region in turmoil.”

King Abdullah has a lot to answer for these days and one hopes that the Jewish leaders were not too timid to raise difficult issues. Weeks ago, the king ended a 13-year policy of isolating Hamas and welcomed arch-terrorist Khaled Mashaal to Amman. Jordanian Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh called for a return of Hamas leaders to the Hashemite Kingdom.

What sort of ally welcomes, with open arms, the leaders of one of the most brutal terrorist organizations in the world? What kind of moderate regime rolls out the red carpet for those who threaten genocide of Jews?

The king’s decision to welcome Mashaal to Jordan is a sign of desperation and coming instability. Who can deny the ascent of Islamists in Tunisia, Egypt and Gaza? If the king thinks he can outrun this wind by accommodating Hamas, he is wrong.

The 10th-century poet Al Muttanabi warned, “If you see the teeth of a lion, do not think he is smiling at you.” Hamas is smiling at Jordan, but the world should see the teeth of a lion.

Instead, many are cowed by ignorance, fear or naivete. But one reality is unassailable: Jordan cannot simultaneously be an ally in peace and also a host to the greatest enemies of peace. The world is quick to excuse everything Abdullah does because he is better than Assad, Saddam and Gadhafi.
True enough, but he is not above profound strategic miscalculation. The West should take a much firmer stance given Jordan’s recent accommodation of Hamas.

Simmering beneath the surface in Jordan is tremendous discontent, fear and inequality. On my last trip to the Hashemite kingdom, I was astounded by the contrast between crushing poverty in the slums of Amman and the king’s Royal Automobile Museum. It boasts hundreds of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porches, Mercedes Benzs and Aston Martins once driven by the king or his father. Few people living in a fear society will admit it, but imagine the latent outrage many Jordanians must feel seeing such conspicuous consumption by an unelected, hereditary leader with a lifetime appointment.

One controversial former Jordanian parliamentarian said recently, “The monarchic regime has become a thing of the past, which does not reflect the will of the people. The king does not rise to power by the will of the people, but by his own will, and he therefore treats the people as a herd of subjects.”

The world would do well to remember that the stability of autocracies is always illusory. Or have the lessons of the past year been forgotten so quickly?

David Keyes is the executive director of Advancing Human Rights and co-founder of He can be reached at or on Twitter@DavidMKeyes.