The Jordanian monarchy is going through one of its most difficult periods ever. The present crisis is certainly the most trying phase of King Abdullah’s reign, which began fourteen years ago upon the death of his father, King Hussein, in February 1999. But one should not rush with predictions of doom and gloom with respect to the Hashemites in Jordan.
Too many have done so for decades past, only to be proven wrong time and again.
This Brief argues that the situation in Jordan, though tenuous, remains
manageable, at least for the time being. The Arab Spring has emboldened
the opposition by eroding the deterrent effect of the notorious “fear of
government” (haybat al-sulta) in the Arab world in general and in Jordan
in particular. For over two years, Jordan has experienced almost weekly
demonstrations, led primarily by the Muslim Brethren but also by other
less substantial opponents of the regime. They demand political reform and
decry the pervasive corruption in the country, which they argue is the major
cause for the depletion of the state’s resources and the steadily declining
living standards of the masses. At the same time, while the demonstrations
continuing for more than two years reflects the perseverance of the opposition and the depth of popular disaffection, it also indicates the staying power of the regime and the relative ineffectiveness of its fractious rivals.
Three constants have contributed to the extraordinary stability and longevity
of the Jordanian monarchy. First, Jordan is not a one-man show. Over the
years, a staunchly loyal and cohesive East Banker1 Jordanian political elite
has developed. Jordan is their political patrimony; they have no other, and
they will fight to defend it against all comers. In addition, the monarchy
as well as the East Banker elite are buttressed by a loyal and professional
security establishment, which is far more powerful than any coalition of potential domestic opponents. And finally, owing to the kingdom’s geopolitical centrality, the regime and the state have been constantly supported by an array of external allies, for whom the kingdom’s. destabilization would be a nightmare. Those regional and international powers have always been willing to assist in bailing out the regime in times of need.
The Arab monarchies, for the most part, are wealthy oil-producing states. Though Jordan is not one, the others who are—Saudi Arabia in particular—have a vested interest in the Hashemites’ survival. The fall of a neighboring monarchy would alarm them, especially in the midst of the revolutionary fervor inspired by the Arab Spring. Great powers, like Britain in the past and the United States today, have a similar interest in Jordanian stability, as does Israel across the river.
Consequently, of all the states in the Fertile Crescent established in the early 1920s, the Jordanian monarchy is the only regime that still remains in power.