Although the world’s attention was focused on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s revelations about royal divisions in the House of Windsor, another royal drama was unfolding.
King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan said his half brother, Prince Hamza bin Hussein, was hatching a seditious plot from across the globe.
On Saturday, the former crown prince was put under house arrest, and authorities declared that they had foiled a plot in which he was planning to “destabilize” Jordan with the help of unidentified foreign organizations.
Up to 18 others were detained in connection with a “malicious attack,” according to authorities.
The arrests, according to the 41-year-old prince, were made in an attempt to silence growing criticism of government corruption.
Foreign governments have mobilized to support King Abdullah, 59, a key Western ally in a volatile area.
However, the crisis has thrown Jordan, one of the most prosperous countries in the Middle East, into an unprecedented royal crisis.
So far, What has Happened?
Jordanian authorities initially denied Prince Hamza’s detention, but the prince later released a video in which he said he was being held in his home and cut off from communications, which was passed to the BBC by his lawyer.
He said in the scathing video that Jordanians’ well-being was “placed second” by a ruling system that “decided that its personal interests, financial interests, and corruption are more important than the lives, integrity, and future of the 10 million people who live here.”
Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, told reporters on Sunday that a conspiracy had been foiled at “zero hour,” and that Prince Hamza had declined to stop “activities and movements that threaten Jordan’s stability.”
Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Awadallah, the former head of King Abdullah’s royal court, were among those detained on Saturday evening, according to authorities.
According to Mr Sharif, Mr Awadallah, who is also an adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was attempting to secure a plane for Prince Hamza’s wife to escape.
“The plot is totally contained. Our security and stability are not shaken,” he said.
Australia, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries in the Middle East have all expressed strong support for King Abdullah.
Prince Hamza vowed loyalty to the King in a letter published on Tuesday.
The prince, who has not been seen or heard from in days, was “with his family at his palace, under my protection,” King Abdullah said in a statement on Wednesday.
What is Prince Hamza’s Name?
King Hussein’s sons, King Abdullah and Prince Hamza, ruled Jordan for nearly half a century until his death in 1999.
King Hussein was married four times and had twelve children.
He chose his eldest son, Abdullah, as his successor on his deathbed.
Hamza was elected crown prince when he was 17 years old.
In 2004, King Abdullah deposed Prince Hamza as heir to the throne, and five years later elected his uncle, Prince Hussein, as his replacement.
On Wednesday, King Abdullah expressed his dissatisfaction with recent events.
“The challenge over the past few days was not the most difficult or dangerous to the stability of our nation, but to me, it was the most painful,” he said adding that “sedition” had come from both inside and outside “our house”.
“Nothing comes close to what I felt – shock, pain and anger – as a brother and guardian of the Hashemite family and a leader of this dear people.”
Over the years, King Abdullah and Prince Hamza have shown no open competition or animosity, and the prince did not explicitly accuse the king in his video.
Dr Karima Laachir, director of the Australian National University’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, told the ABC that Prince Hamza was influential among Jordan’s citizens, military, and tribal leaders, and could be seen as a “threat” to the current monarch.
“He is a very ambitious, active, young prince with clear political ambitions,” she told ABC radio’s Religion and Ethics Report.
“He is seen also as someone who is very close to the people and aspirations of people in Jordan.”
Governments From Around the World Have Come out in Support of the King
Many foreign countries quickly issued statements in support of King Abdullah.
Over the years, he has established strong ties with US and other Western leaders, and Jordan has been a crucial ally in the fight against the Islamic State.
President Joe Biden spoke with King Abdullah on Wednesday, the White House said, to express strong US support for Jordan and to emphasize the importance of the king’s leadership to the US, the region, and the peace process.
Later, when asked if he was concerned about the situation in Jordan, Mr Biden said: “No, I’m not one of them. I just called to remind him he has a friend in the United States. Maintain your fortitude.”
“The EU is ready to continue its long-term partnership and contribute to growth and stability,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted after meeting with King Abdullah on Wednesday.
King Abdullah “enjoys Australia’s full support,” according to a statement released by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Twitter on Sunday.
Despite years of tense Jordanian-Saudi relations, Riyadh was swift to express public support for King Abdullah.
Despite recent events, Ambassador James Jeffrey, Chair of The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, said Jordan “remains a strong player in the field.”
On events in Jordan:— DFAT🇦🇺 (@dfat) April 4, 2021
Australia is a steadfast friend of the people of Jordan and of His Majesty King Abdullah II. His Majesty enjoys Australia’s full support.
“We do not anticipate either a serious international incident nor any sustained risk to Jordan’s stability.”
Internal Strife is Intensifying
Even if the current crisis is resolved, the monarchy faces significant challenges as it deals with increasing internal opposition.
Authorities have issued a blanket ban on any discussion of the royal feud.
Family members of those detained in connection with the suspected plot say they haven’t heard from officials or the detainees.
Bessma Momani, an international relations professor at Waterloo University in Ontario, said the crisis boosted Hamza’s popularity, causing government opponents and new supporters to rally behind him.
She believes the king’s reiteration of ambiguous plot allegations would cause problems in the future.
Prosecuting those who have been arrested, including members of a powerful tribe, may lead to unrest.
If they are published, further concerns about whether there was ever a plot will arise.
Jordan was still dealing with an economic downturn compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, with one out of every four people out of jobs.
Protests have erupted in recent months as a result of long-standing concerns about corruption and misrule.
At the same time, the geopolitical landscape in the region is shifting as influential Gulf states seek stronger relations with Israel, potentially jeopardizing Jordan’s position in the Middle East peace process.
Jordan shares borders with Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. In 1994, Jordan and Israel reached an agreement.
More than 600,000 Syrian refugees live in the country, which has a population of around 10 million people.
Source: ABC World News