Foreign Policy

Jordan’s Royal Rift Goes Public

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Jordan is rocked by a royal scandal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumes, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov heads to India.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

The kingdom of Jordan, a relatively drama-free country in a volatile neighborhood, entered a period of turbulence over the weekend as simmering tensions within the country’s royal family appeared to boil over.

Prince Hamzah, a younger half-brother of King Abdullah II and a former heir to the throne, was placed under house arrest on Saturday for allegedly undermining “the security and stability of Jordan” as rumors of a coup plot swirled.

On Sunday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi made more specific charges against Prince Hamzah, accusing him of conspiring with Bassem Awadallah, a former finance minister, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, another royal family member and former envoy to Saudi Arabia, as well as “foreign entities,” to “mobilize citizens against the state in a manner that threatens national security.”

The arrest of both Awadallah and Prince Hamzah may be a case of killing two birds with one stone. “The two names don’t usually appear in the same sentence,” Curtis R. Ryan, a professor at Appalachian State University and author of two books on Jordanian politics, told Foreign Policy. The two come from different worlds, Ryan said, with Awadallah an unpopular member of the new technocratic elite, whereas Prince Hamzah’s power base is associated with Jordan’s tribal leaders and traditionalists.

From his apparent house arrest Prince Hamzah added his own voice to proceedings, releasing two videos, one in English and one in Arabic, denouncing his captors (while being careful not to name any names).

Seated before a portrait of his late father, King Hussein (with whom he bears a striking resemblance), Prince Hamzah produced a strongly worded political message. “I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse…And I am not responsible for the lack of faith people have in their institutions,” he said.

Delicate timing. The turmoil comes at a delicate time for Jordan’s ruling class as public demonstrations in cities across the country over coronavirus restrictions have tested the authorities. Jordan’s economy had been battered over the past year, with unemployment approaching 24 percent. After successfully managing the spread of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, cases reached their highest daily peak in March with roughly 8,000 new cases per day in a population of 10 million.

The international reaction. Saudi Arabia has been quick to reiterate its support for King Abdullah. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who, like Jordan’s leader, derives his status as heir from a late change in the line of succession, spoke with King Abdullah on Sunday amid rumors that he had a hand in the plot.

Senior Jordanian officials reportedly played down the situation to their Israeli counterparts, according to the New York Times, telling their neighbor that there was no coup attempt and that the story was being exaggerated by the media. Publicly, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, referring to Jordan as a “strategic ally,” called the dispute “an internal Jordanian matter.”

On Tuesday, April 6, the International Monetary Fund launches its biannual World Economic Outlook.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel travel to Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Voters in Greenland head to the polls in snap elections, the outcome of which will likely decide the future of a proposed rare-earth mine.

 On Wednesday, April 7, mayoral elections, seen as early indicators of political support ahead of next year’s presidential contest, take place in South Korea’s two largest cities, Seoul and Busan.

G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors gather for a virtual meeting.

Thursday, April 8, is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah).

On Friday, April 9, Samoa holds elections for its national assembly.

On Saturday April 10, European Medicines Agency experts are scheduled to arrive in Russia as part of their analysis of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

On Sunday, April 11, Peru holds presidential and parliamentary elections. The vote seeks to put an end the turmoil experienced in November, when the country had three presidents in the space of a week.

Ecuador holds a presidential runoff with left-wing economist Andres Arauz, the first-round winner, facing conservative banker Guillermo Lasso.

Chad holds its presidential election. Incumbent Idriss Deby is running for a sixth consecutive term.

Benin also holds a presidential election, with incumbent Patrice Talon seeking a second term.

What We’re Following Today 

Netanyahu’s trial. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumes today in Jerusalem, with the court expected hear evidence for the first time. The prosecution is expected to begin by calling witnesses in a case involving bribery, the most serious of the three charges. The trial comes the same week that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is to nominate a party leader to begin forming a government, although no clear path to a coalition is yet in sight.

Lavrov in South Asia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in New Delhi for a two-day visit. He is due to meet his counterpart, S. Jaishankar, as the two prepare for a high-level India-Russia summit later in the year. Lavrov then heads to Pakistan from April 6-7, where he is likely to discuss the Afghan peace process.

IMF and World Bank meetings. The spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank begin today in a virtual format. The IMF will release its World Economic Outlook on Tuesday, and Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has already said the group will raise its global growth forecast from 4.2 percent to 5.5 percent on the back of increased stimulus spending in the United States and the ongoing vaccine rollout in advanced economies.

Violence in Chhattisgarh. At least 22 members of the Indian security forces were killed by Maoist fighters, known as Naxals, in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Saturday, the heaviest death toll inflicted by the group since 2017. Home Minister Amit Shah has vowed a “befitting response” following the attacks. Kuldiep Singh, the director-general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), said the that 25-30 Naxals were also killed in Saturday’s fighting.

Rutte’s ructions. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s grip on power may be loosening as a key prospective coalition partner ruled out joining a government led by him. The leader of ChristenUnie, one of Rutte’s four coalition partners up until last March’s election, said they “cannot be part of a fourth Rutte government” in an interview with a Dutch newspaper over the weekend. It adds more pressure on Rutte to step aside, after two other allied parties filed a motion of no confidence in him last Friday. The Dutch parliament is to appoint an independent coordinator to jump start the process of forming a government this week.

Ghani’s plan. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is set to propose a three-phase peace roadmap for Afghanistan during U.N.-backed talks in Turkey, expected some time within the next two weeks. Ghani’s plan would see a cease-fire agreement precede a presidential election, with a new constitutional framework decided afterward. The plan differs from Washington’s, which would see Ghani sidelined by an interim administration that would include Taliban representatives. The plan comes as the Taliban has threatened to resume attacking foreign troops if the United States does not withdraw its military personnel before a May 1 deadline.

Authorities in Seoul have ruled the vandalism of a $440,000 painting as unintentional, after a young couple painted over part of the artwork as it hung on display in a local gallery. “Untitled” by artist JonOne, a 23-foot wide graffiti-style art piece, comes with paint brushes and open paint bottles as part of the exhibit. The Korean couple apparently believed the props and artwork to be part of a communal display (it was the only unframed piece in the exhibition) and added their own dark green daubs.

Gallery officials have added extra surveillance around the work following the incident. Kang Wook, the head of the gallery exhibition, said the news of the vandalism had coincided with a boost in public interest in the show. 

That’s it for today.

Related Articles