Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

American eyes on Jordan

A controversial interview in a leading US magazine and Obama’s visit to Jordan put the spotlight on the beleaguered nation, reports Khetam Malkawi

Al-Ahram Weekly

Jordan and its ruler made headlines twice recently due to the king’s interview with the American magazine The Atlantic and the US president’s visit to the country.

Described as a “courageous” interview, King Abdullah II’s remarks to The Atlantic stirred the anger of the Muslim Brotherhood, whom he described as a “Masonic cult”. He referred to tribal elders as “old dinosaurs”, and said he could not trust the mukhabarat, Intelligence Agency.

According to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the king not only criticised some components of his monarchy, but Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, as having “no depth”, Bashar Al-Assad of Syria for not knowing the meaning of “jet lag”, and quoted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey as viewing democracy as a “bus ride” as in, “once I get to my stop, I am getting off.”

The issue was debated on all media outlets and social media tools, and even laymen were talking about the impact of these remarks, while turning into “analysts”. “Courageous remarks, but not surprising,” said Al-Ghad columnist Mohamed Abu Rumman, describing the interview.

Abu Rumman noted that the king made these remarks several times in meetings with prominent figures and journalists, but this is the first time that these remarks are being made publicly.

However, the columnist’s main concern was the criticism directed at the Muslim Brotherhood, saying that the Brotherhood is one of the country’s components.

Less than 12 hours after publishing the interview, the Royal Court issued a statement that described the interview as inaccurate and suggested that there was confusion between the king’s words and the journalist’s “personal analysis and opinions”. But, in a recorded interview with AmmanNet online radio, Goldberg argued that his quotations were from recorded conversations.

For his part, prominent columnist Batir Wordom criticised some Jordanians who are opponents to the monarch, whom he said misused the interview and used some word out of context to serve their own goals.

The country of six million people was lucky to be “saved by the bell”. The next day, attention turned to Barack Obama’s visit to the kingdom, which was seen as a reward for one of the most loyal of US Arab allies.

In a four-day visit to the region that started with Israel and Palestine, Obama headed on Friday to Jordan where he had bilateral talks with the king and spent the second day touring the archaeological site of Petra.

No clear-cut solutions were offered by Obama for the troubled kingdom’s main concerns: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Syrian conflict that is exhausting Jordan’s financial resources and infrastructure.

However, the visit was a boost. In a joint press conference with King Abdullah, Obama said that Jordan is an invaluable ally and a great friend of the US. “We’ve been working together since the early years of the kingdom under His Majesty’s great-grandfather, King Abdullah I, who gave his life in the name of peace,” Obama said.

The US president also assured his country’s support for Jordan in the Syrian crisis and the influx of Syrian refugees to its borders. Currently there are approximately 500,000 Syrian refugees in the financially-troubled country.

Obama announced that his administration would work with Congress to provide Jordan with an additional $200 million in budget support in 2013 to care for Syrian refugees and Jordanian communities affected by the crisis.

As Jordan is one of the few countries in the region that survived the so-called “Arab Spring”, Obama seemed admiring of the efforts of its king in implementing reforms away from the tumult spread across the region. He described the parliamentary elections as a positive step towards a more transparent, credible and inclusive political process.

Two months ago, Jordan had parliamentary elections, a step towards having a parliamentary government as promised by the king. However, it is still not obvious when the kingdom will have its first parliamentary government.

In a recent statement, the incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah Nsour, who is currently in a consultation process with the deputies regarding the formation of his upcoming government, said there will be a small government without parliamentarians this time.

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