The Guardian February 17, 1999

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 

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 

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 

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" 

* * *
With acknowledgements to Mid East Realities for some of the data used in this article.

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