The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The coming fall of King PS2?

Finally, someone does a decent article on Jordan! The LA Times' great Borzu Daragahi makes an unconvincing parallel between the Shah of Iran and King Abdullah "PS2", but his article his shock full of interesting tidbits:

Numerous parallels exist between the shah's rule and that of Abdullah. Like the shah's SAVAK security and intelligence service, Jordan's General Intelligence Department, now in a new hilltop complex in an Amman suburb, operates as a "subdivision" of the CIA, said Alexis Debat, a former French Defense Ministry official who is a counter-terrorism consultant and a senior fellow at the Nixon Center in Washington.

By Debat's estimates, the Jordanian intelligence agency receives at least $20 million a year in U.S. funding for operations and liaison work. "They're doing all the legwork for the CIA," he said.

The Jordanians have become one of Washington's closest allies in the intelligence-gathering business, second only to Britain's MI6, counter-intelligence experts say. They are closer to the CIA than the Mossad, Israel's much-touted intelligence agency, which is considered to have too much of an agenda of its own to be completely reliable, Debat said.

Like the Iran of the 1970s, Jordan has become a receptacle of U.S. interests and trade. American aid to the kingdom has totaled $3.59 billion over the last five years, compared with $1.36 billion during the previous five years, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Like the shah's regime, the Jordanian monarchy has surrounded itself with American hardware. Just before Hussein's death, Amman took delivery of 16 advanced F-16 fighter jets. "That was a sort of threshold that Jordan crossed," said Michael R. Fischbach, a professor of history at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. "They got truly advanced weaponry. It made Jordan have aircraft on par with Israel."

U.S.-made military hardware abounds on Jordan's streets. Jordanian soldiers carrying American-made M-16 assault rifles and riding in olive-green U.S.-made Humvees watch over sensitive military and political sites in Amman, the capital. Convoys of U.S. military transport trucks move in and out of the country.

Perhaps most controversially, say Amnesty International and other human rights groups, Jordan has become an important nexus in U.S. intelligence's subterranean "renditions" network, in which terrorism suspects are secretly detained and interrogated in countries with blemished human rights records. Jordanian officials deny participation in the program.

Many worry that bolstering Jordanian security forces amid widespread reports of abuses against detainees has hampered the country's baby steps toward democratization.
Sure, King PS2 is one of the most contemptible Arab rulers -- even if Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is an unusually addictive Playstation game. But raising the specter of a Jordanian Khomeini is really scare-mongering (there is no one in Jordan with the stature Khomeini had even 20 years before he came to power to Iran.) If Abdullah went, he would probably be replaced by a more intelligent relative. Anyway, I'm no expert on Jordanian domestic politics so just read the whole thing.