AMMAN - Jordan's Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi says that King Abdullah's half-brother and former crown prince, Prince Hamza, liaised with foreign parties over a plot to destabilize the country. Hamzah, an outspoken critic of corruption in Jordan, had called for holding those responsible to account. Analysts believe the opposition is not to the government, but to economic, political and social policies adopted by the king.
Division in Jordan’s ruling royal family erupted into the open late Saturday when Prince Hamzah, King Abdullah’s younger half-brother, announced he could not leave his home and state media reported that senior officials had been detained in a security probe. Hamzah sent a video recording to the BBC saying he was being silenced and lashed out at authorities saying the country had become “stymied in corruption, nepotism and misrule.”
Jordan’s military told Hamzah to stop activities targeting the country’s “stability and security.” While those actions were not publicly spelled out, Army chief Yousef Huneiti denied reports that Hamzah had been arrested. Jordanian analyst Labib Kamhawi explains what may have led to actions taken against Hamzah.
“His latest campaign in visiting various tribes which the king believes is the base of his power, the source of all the security personnel, the army, the intelligence," he said. "He looked at Hamzah’s attempt to penetrate these tribes as a direct threat to his power base. What the king did is to pre-empt things and simply put an end to Hamzah’s campaign. At the same time, he gave a clear signal to all the opposition in Jordan that my tolerance has a limit. Even my brother had to pay for opposing me and my policies.”
Hamzah is the eldest son of American-born Queen Noor and the late King Hussein. After Hussein’s death in 1999, Abdullah ascended to the throne and named Hamzah as crown prince. Five years later, Abdullah stripped him of the title. The position would have put Hamzah next in line for the throne. Abdullah named his eldest son, Hussein, as crown prince.
Jordanian analyst Amer al-Sabaileh says the country’s security apparatus, along with the United States and regional powers, all expressed firm support for King Abdullah, but that the incident points to unprecedented public fractures within the royal family.
“Politically, the real danger is in softening the door for competition within the throne itself. This criticism among the family itself. This never happened in Jordan. But other than that, I can’t see any threat that would make me feel concerned,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted the economy of Jordan, a resource-poor nation dependent on foreign aid which also shelters more than 1.5 million refugees from neighboring conflicts. Kamhawi and other observers say they believe that Abdullah’s tolerance of overtures by Hamzah and his associates to dissident tribesmen and opposition figures had worn thin, so the king decided to act, signaling, “Be careful; there should be a limit to what you do.”