Imperialism mourns its man in Amman
With great weeping and wailing, imperialism has buried its man in Amman, Hussein II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Bill Clinton was there, "paying tribute to Jordan's close and usually friendly relationship with the US that dates back to the Eisenhower years" as the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour put it. Over 40 kings and presidents attended the funeral, for Jordan is a strategically important country in the Middle East. And imperialism is anxious to retain Jordan's allegiance for the future. Accordingly, US client monarchies in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, hastened to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into Jordan's Central Bank to alleviate some of the more deleterious effects on the Jordanian economy of the (US-inspired) blockade of Iraq and especially of its ports. The US also pledged to the new King Abdullah II additional monies, arms, intelligence co-operation and security guarantees. Western imperialism's relationship with Jordan dates back to its intrigues during the First World War. As early as 1916 — in the secret Sykes-Pecot agreement — Britain and France carved up the Middle East (including what is now Jordan) into post-war spheres of influence. At the same time the imperialists were promising the Arabs unity and independence after the War. At the 1918 Paris Peace Conference the imperialist powers outmanoeuvred the Arabs: large chunks of the former Ottoman Empire were awarded not to "Arabia" but to Britain and France as League Of Nations "mandates". One of Britain's mandates covered the area later known as Palestine and Jordan. The British also received a mandate over Mesopotamia, which they subsequently carved into the kingdoms of Kuwait and Iraq. France took control of the Levant (Syria and Lebanon), in the process expelling the Arab King Hussein the First's son Feisal from Damascus where he had gone in pursuit of broad Arab independence. The British, however, still had a use for the Hashemite royal family of Hussein the First. After all, the feudal Hashemite "royals" had worked closely with the British since before WW1. In 1922, the British split their Palestine mandate into two territories: Palestine, on the west bank of the River Jordan, and Transjordan ("Across the Jordan") on the river's east bank. The year before, in 1921, they had made Hussein's son Abdullah the nominal ruler (emir) of what would shortly become Transjordan. In 1926, the British made Abdullah King of Transjordan, under their protection. At the same time, they installed another of Hussein's sons, Feisal, in Baghdad, as King of Iraq. That wily imperialist Winston Churchill played a hand in engineering this happy situation. Abdullah, however, wanted to be ruler of more than just Transjordan, and beginning in the 1930s he intrigued with the Zionists to co-operate in the establishment of a "Jewish State" on the territory of Palestine in return for agreement to his annexing the remaining Arab areas of Palestine to Transjordan. The British Government relinquished its mandate over Transjordan on March 22, 1946. The same day, Britain concluded a military and mutual-assistance alliance with the newly independent state's monarch. Britain secured military bases and other installations in the country as well as an agreement to train and equip — and lead — a Transjordanian army, the ironically-titled Arab Legion. In May 1948, immediately after the creation of Israel, Abdullah, pressured by other Arab countries, sent his British-trained army against the new state. The Jordanians captured a large area of the West Bank which they retained after the armistice in 1949. On April 24, 1950, despite strong opposition from other Arab League members, Abdullah formally merged all of Arab-held Palestine with Transjordan and graciously granted Jordanian citizenship to West Bank Palestinians. The prefix trans was dropped and the kingdom known henceforth as Jordan. Abdullah was violently opposed by the Palestinians, who rightly suspected him of collusion with Israel. He was assassinated by one of them in Jerusalem on July 20, 1951.A year later, as a result of British intrigue, his son Tallal was removed from the throne by the Jordanian parliament (on the grounds that he was "mentally disturbed") in favour of Tallal's teenage son Hussein, who was thought to be more compliant toward Western interests. (It was this Hussein who was buried last week.) At this point, in the 1950s, the USA begins its "close relationship" with Jordan. Secret CIA contacts with Hussein were begun and also payments to him which continued until they were exposed in 1977. Palestinian sources claim that in the 1960s Hussein began secret contacts with Israeli leaders, providing them with considerable intelligence information about other Arab parties, especially at the time of the 1967 and 1973 wars. Although the Israelis seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war, Hussein still attacked the Palestinian resistance and in 1970 crushed the Palestinians in Jordan in a civil war when the US and Israel rallied to Hussein's side. In the 1980s, Hussein seems to have been chiefly concerned with getting the Israelis to drop the idea that "Jordan is Palestine" — and hence part of "Greater Israel" — while making himself a major diplomatic player in the area. To this end he gave Jordan a pretence of democracy, at the same time finally abandoning Jordanian claims to the Palestinian territory now called the "West Bank". In the 1990s, feeling threatened from within, he was unable to join the US war against Iraq, but continued to work closely with the US and the Israelis. At the beginning of 1999, a combination of CIA-manipulation, palace intrigue, and pressure from Hussein's American wife, Queen Noor, resulted in long-time Crown Prince Hassan being dumped in favour of Abdullah, son of Hussein's British wife and commander of Jordan's Special Forces. And so Abdullah II becomes King of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Don't be fooled by the images of distraught, grief-stricken Jordanian royalists that flooded the television screens at the time of Hussein's death. For Palestinian refugees or Jordanian trade unionists and progressives, Hussein's regime was repressive and bloody. Imperialism set him over the people of Jordan as their "king" and imperialism kept him there. His position and the interests of the Arab ruling class in Jordan were his primary concerns, not the welfare of "his" people.
* * *With acknowledgements to Mid East Realities for some of the data used in this article.