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Jordan May Be Next
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 26, 2011


Jordan is next in line.

The feeling of unrest is palpable on the Jordanian street and in the Middle East, unrest is followed by revolution. King Abdullah of
Jordan knows with utmost certainty that his future and the future of his Hashemite Kingdom are hanging in the balance. He knows that he must navigate the balance beam between brutal crackdown and overthrow.

As a rule even, in more liberal thugocracies there is unrest. There are always groups, be they political, religious or cultural, wanting to oust the dictator. In all cases, again, even in the most liberal of thugocracies, these groups are monitored and then punished.

Often, the way in which the ruler manages these groups is through public humiliation and intimidation. The hope is that the mainstream population will realize how marginal these groups are and how much better it is to keep the dictator in power.

The message to the people is pretty straight forward: these groups are radicals, see what happens to radicals.

In Jordan radicals groups have traditionally been a loose web of religious extremists. This is not dissimilar to Egypt. Religious radicals, many with ties to al Qaeda, are real dangers not only to Jordan and the Arab world but also to the greater world. Now added to the mix is a growing group of disenfranchised radicals - highly educated, technically adroit, Facebook savvy friends and students and unemployed graduates.

And Jordan has begun to respond.

As the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt began, King Abdullah of Jordan was at the very beginning stages of reforming his economy. The King was removing subsidies on necessities like milk, cheese, bread and eggs. This economic reform was planned to get Jordan on its feet and enable it to compete in international markets. But there is an iron clad rule in the Middle East: when people are hungry they are impassioned and they join the cause.

As soon as the unrest began elsewhere, the King put an immediate stop to the reforms, put subsidies back on food and ran to the United States asking for $100 million to defray the cost of these subsidies. Abdullah got his money - but protests began anyway. His next step was to shake up the Jordanian cabinet and introduce a more liberal cadre of policy and law makers. King Abdullah made a promise to the people of Jordan, he promised them reforms.

But small protests continued. And now, the protests are getting bigger and the response of the police is getting even harsher.
Jordan is no stranger to attempted coups. Yasser Arafat attempted to take over Jordan in September 1970. That resulted in a mini war when King Hussein, Abdullah's father, declared martial law and massacred 10,000 to 20,000 Palestinians. Arafat's objective was to oust the Jordanian monarchy and establish a Palestinian state in its place.
King Hussein, a mere young thirty-five year old at the time, did not flinch. He swept down and began a rampage against Arafat's supporters and men. The massacre lasted eleven days and it served to secure Hussein's kingship and protect his kingdom from Arafat who survived the massacre of his people in comfort and luxury in the Intercontinental Hotel.

King Abdullah II knows the history of his country and of his family well. At forty-nine years old, he has significant experience as the son of a king and as king. Now he needs to gather all that collective experience, all the wisdom he can find in the lessons of his forefathers, and decide how to balance the needs of his people against the need to reform while maintaining the ruling family line and his own eminent position as Hashemite King of the Jordanian Empire.

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4 June 2017 12:13 PM in Columns

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