Hashemite King Calls on Arab Leaders To Unite Against a Common Enemy — but Shies Away From Naming the Foe

Abdullah II puts in a word for ‘our brothers in Gaza,’ yet he seems to have bigger fish to fry.

Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images
King Abdullah of Jordan arrives for a meeting with the Austrian chancellor at the chancellery on October 25, 2021, at Vienna, Austria. Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images

King Abdullah II of Jordan is calling on Arab leaders to unite against a common enemy — and though he will not say so publicly, that foe is the Islamic Republic of Iran and its ideological partners. Speaking at an Arab League summit at Bahrain on Thursday, the Hashemite king dedicated much of his address to “our brothers in Gaza.”

Most important to mark, though, is that King Abdullah has bigger fish to fry. As Reuters reported Wednesday, Amman intercepted a “suspected Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons into the kingdom to help opponents of the ruling monarchy carry out acts of sabotage.” Relying on two unidentified Amman officials, Reuters identified the “opponents” as a Muslim Brotherhood cell with ties to Hamas. 

Speaking on the record, though, Amman underplayed the role of Iran and the Brotherhood in the plot. “Jordanian security services thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons into the Kingdom sent by militias supported by one of the countries to a cell in Jordan,” a spokeswoman for the country’s embassy at Washington, Dana Zureikat Daoud, wrote on X. 

The king, in his speech Thursday, was even more vague, calling on fellow Mideast rulers to “ensure respect for the policy of good neighborliness and non-intervention in the affairs of Arab states.” He called on the Arab League to “counter armed outlaw groups that defy state sovereignty,  as well as the actions of these criminal groups, especially drug and arms smuggling.”

Jordan has been countering such smuggling for years, Abdullah said, “to protect our youth from this external danger.” In reality, Amman security arrested in March several Palestinian-Jordanians who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood with ties to Hamas. Iran, through an allied Syria-based militia, attempted to supply the cell with arms.

Such weapons included Claymore mines, C4 and Semtex explosives, Kalashnikov rifles, and 107mm Katyusha rockets, Reuters reported. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has long eyed Jordan as a target, United Against Nuclear Iran’s policy director, Jason Brodsky, tells the Sun.

“Since October 7, the IRGC renewed its desire to create in Jordan another front in its ‘ring of fire’ strategy,” he says, referring to Tehran’s efforts to surround Israel with countries and militias that wish to destroy it. Pressure on Jordan “is not going away,” Mr. Brodsky said. 

For the record, both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood Jordanian branch denied the Reuters reporting, which relied on unidentified sources and didn’t bother “to confirm the veracity of the allegations, but rather treated them as facts,” a Brotherhood spokesman, Moaz Al-Khawaldeh, said in a statement. Hamas has “no ties to any acts targeting Jordan,” its spokesman said. 

Perhaps that is why Amman is walking on eggshells to avoid naming the culprits. “The king is very concerned about stability in the kingdom,” Mr. Brodsky says. The Hashemites are a minority sect in a majority-Palestinian country. To avoid unrest, representatives from Queen Rania to the foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, have become some of the harshest critics of Israel in the Arab world. 

“Instead of hedging away from Israel, now is the time for Jordan to double down on deepening ties with the Jewish state to counter Iran’s proxy threat,” a Foundation for Defense of Democracy senior fellow, Behnam Ben Taleblu, writes.

Amman has long relied on Israel for supplying most of its water and electricity needs, as well as critical military intelligence. To keep its population restive, though, Jordan foments rather than calms anti-Israel feelings. Most recently, Mr. Safadi announced that the country will join South Africa’s accusation at the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. 

Meanwhile King Abdullah is a welcome guest at Washington, where he often visits to coordinate policy. No wonder, then, that Jordan, “the last pro-Western and pro-status quo nation in the northern tier of the Middle East, is in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s crosshairs,” Mr. Ben Taleblu writes. 

In the months since October 7, “anti-Israel rhetoric from Jordanian officials and mass protests in Amman against Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel have made the kingdom an attractive target for Iran,” another FDD Mideast watcher, Joe Truzman, adds. Jordan needs to better coordinate with “allied countries,” he writes. 

In his Thursday speech, King Abdullah indirectly appealed to Arab countries to unite against the Islamic Republic’s threat. That he spoke in Bahrain, a Shiite-majority country where Tehran attempted to overthrow the Sunni-led kingdom in 1981, added poignancy to his plea. 

Now, the Shiite Tehran mullahs are uniting with Sunni groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and its Hamas offshoot, which, like the Islamic Republic, are ideologically opposed to the West and the Jewish state. Jordan’s stability might benefit more from deepening ties with America and Israel than from appeals to fellow Arab leaders who are increasingly hedging their regional bets.

The New York Sun

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