After spending days in the Jordanian capital, I leave with three distinct impressions.
The first is that Jordan's military and intelligence services are strong and that there are no external threats that pose existential dangers to the kingdom.
The second is that Jordan's economy is in a severe crisis and if the situation is not remedied, and fast, social unrest could explode. As I wrote earlier this week, 50% of all young people are unemployed. This is a recipe for disaster, and one that worries me a great deal.
The third is that Jordan's monarch — King Abdullah II — remains firmly in control.
Despite severe domestic challenges, there are no apparent risks of a coup.
But the king and his Royal Court must remain highly vigilant and pro-active against internal threats as they simultaneously redouble their efforts to attract far more foreign direct investment and create far more better-paying private sector jobs for Jordanian citizens and Syrian refugees.
Crushing a serious coup plot
Just one year ago, the king and his intelligence services discovered a very serious coup plot against the throne.
The plot was being hatched by Prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein, the king's half-brother, son of the late King Hussein and his last wife, Queen Noor.
In 1999, King Hussein died of cancer.
Abdullah II ascended to the throne and named Hamzah as crown prince, heir to the throne.
But a few years later, King Abdullah II removed Hamzah from the line of succession and named his own son as crown prince.
High-level sources in Jordan tell ALL ARAB NEWS that Hamzah became deeply angry and bitter, and has been looking for ways to regain power.
In April 2021, Hamzah was accused of organizing a coup d'etat.
Jordanian officials said they had conclusive evidence that Hamzah was seeking the assistance of foreign governments to help him remove Abdullah from the throne.
"Hamzah was placed under house arrest," noted a report by a Middle East think tank that analyzed the international implications of such a serious breach in the royal family. "Sixteen Jordanian figures were detained but not charged; and two high-ranking figures — Bassem Awadallah, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a cousin of the king — were put on trial" and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
"Tensions between Jordan's King Abdullah II and his half-brother, formerly the Crown Prince, could potentially destabilize a key actor and U.S. ally in the Middle East," the report concluded.
Apologetic, or still plotting?
In March of this year, the Royal Court released a letter that Hamzah wrote on March 6, apologizing to the king for his actions and asking for forgiveness.
"I write to Your Majesty with my deepest respect and appreciation…I will follow in the footsteps of our forefathers, and remain loyal to their legacy, devoted to their path of service to the people of Jordan, and committed to our constitution, under Your Majesty's wise leadership," he began.
"I have erred, Your Majesty, and to err is human. I, therefore, bear responsibility for the stances I have taken and the offenses I have committed against Your Majesty and our country," Hamzah continued. "I seek Your Majesty's forgiveness, knowing that you have always been very forgiving."
That seemed hopeful, suggesting the bizarre and bitter saga might finally be put to rest.
But in April, Hamzah, now 42, reversed course.
He went on Twitter to publicly renounce his title as prince, saying he no longer wanted to be part of the Royal family, and he blasted the king and his approach to governance.
"I have come to a conclusion that my personal conviction and principles my father [the late King Hussein] instilled in me are not in line with the path, directives and modern methods of our institutions," Hamzah wrote.
The king fires back
On May 19, King Abdullah II couldn't take it anymore and fired back.
He issued a five-page letter to the entire nation, laying out the situation for all to understand and evaluate.
I write to you in the hopes of turning the page on a dark chapter in the history of our country and our family.
As you know, when the details of the sedition case were revealed last year, I chose to deal with my brother Prince Hamzah within the confines of our family, hopeful that he would realize the error of his ways, repent, and become an engaged member of our Hashemite family.
But after more than a year during which he exhausted all opportunities to restore himself on the right path, in line with the legacy of our family, I have come to the disappointing conclusion that he will not change.
This conviction grew deeper with everything my young brother, whom I have always treated as a son, has said and done.
And now, I am certain that he is living in a state of self-deception, where he sees himself as the sole guardian of our Hashemite legacy, and the target of a systematic campaign by our institutions.
His frequent letters have reflected the state of denial in which he is living, and his refusal to take any responsibility for his actions…..
I have tried, as have members of our family, to free Hamzah from his self-induced illusions so that he could become an active member of our family in our service to Jordan and Jordanians. I have presented him with many assignments and roles in service of the country, which were only ever met with suspicion and skepticism. He has never offered anything of substance beyond complaints and populist slogans, and he has not once come to me with a solution or a practical proposal to deal with any of the problems facing our beloved nation. The only proposal that Prince Hamzah ever presented was to unify the intelligence arms of our Armed Forces under his command, despite the irrationality of this suggestion and the fact that it completely contradicts with the way our Armed Forces operate…..
My brother violated every tradition of our family, as well as our Jordanian values. He demeaned his stature as a Hashemite Prince when he violated the most basic principles of moral conduct by secretly recording his meeting with the Chairman of the Army's Joint Chiefs of Staff and, immediately after, sending the recording to Bassem Awadallah.
He was also quick to send a recorded video to foreign media, in an act ill-befitting of our nation and our family. Not for a moment did he consider the consequences of such an action on our country and people. He could have reached out to me or whomever he wanted from our family to discuss what had taken place without jeopardizing his reputation or that of the family, but he chose instead to vilify and defame Jordan as a means to win popularity and manipulate emotions.
Never, in our family's history, or in the history of other royal families, has a family member sent recorded video messages to foreign entities, attacking the very national institutions from which he himself benefits and calling their integrity into question…..
Considering the Prince's damaging actions, I will not be surprised if he releases offensive messages that attack the nation and its institutions. But I, and our people, will not waste time responding to him. I am convinced he will continue to spread this false narrative, but we do not have the luxury of time to deal with it. We have many national priorities and challenges before us that we must address swiftly and boldly.
We will provide Hamzah with all that he requires to live a comfortable life, but he will not have the space he once abused to offend the nation, its institutions, and his family, nor to undermine Jordan's stability. Jordan is greater than all of us, and its people's interests come above those of any individual. I will never allow our country to be held hostage to the whims of someone who has done nothing to serve his country. As such, Hamzah will remain at his palace, in line with the decision of the Ruling Family Council, and in order to prevent a repeat of any of his irresponsible actions, which would be dealt with accordingly.
The road ahead
For the time being, the crisis has been handled.
But given the severe economic crisis Jordan is facing, no one should be under the illusion that other threats to the throne won't emerge.
The Muslim Brotherhood would like nothing better than to use the crisis to turn public frustration about the lack of jobs and hope into anger directed at the King.
And the fact that Hamzah was once the crown prince, and has an extensive network of contacts and sympathizers — as does his mother, Queen Noor — means that the Royal Court needs to stay vigilant.
Right now, I believe His Majesty's grip on power is secure — and that's good because he is the very essence of a moderate, peace-making, problem-solving monarch that Jordan and the region needs.
But his greatest test will be in growing Jordan's economy and creating a pro-growth oasis in the desert.
I pray he is up to the task.
The whole region is watching.
This article originally appeared on ALL ARAB NEWS and is reposted with permission.