Saudi officials have categorically denied suggestions their country had any role within the alleged coup attempt in Jordan.
On Saturday Jordan’s popular former prince Hamzah was placed under de facto confinement and accused of undermining national security after attending tribal meetings where King Abdullah, his half-brother, was openly criticised. Prince Hamzah then released two videos, calling his country’s government corrupt and incompetent, and saying that people were afraid to speak out for fear of harassment by the security forces.
The crisis has since been de-escalated after mediation by the king’s uncle, but speculation is rife on what Saudi Arabia’s role has been during this crisis.
Saudi Arabia’s secretary of state, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, flew to the Jordanian capital Amman with a delegation so as, say Saudi officials, to “express complete solidarity with Jordan’s King Abdullah and his government”. This, they said, was the only, unified Saudi position and any suggestion that Saudi Arabia was involved in trying to destabilise its much smaller neighbour was “far-fetched nonsense”.
When the crisis was at its peak over the weekend, Jordanian officials said their security agencies had been monitoring the activities of Prince Hamzah and quite a dozen officials for some time. They spoke of mysterious, unnamed “foreign entities” as having been involved in what they said was a plot to destabilise the country and its ruling Hashemite family – something denied by Prince Hamzah.
It seems there are essentially two separate issues here. One is Prince Hamzah, the favored elder son of the late Hussein, who rattled Jordan’s security chiefs alongside his recent contacts with disgruntled tribal figures. The other involves variety of officials who are imagined to have had links to a minimum of one other country.
One of the foremost prominent figures arrested on Saturday was Bassem Awadallah, the previous head of Jordan’s Royal Court and now an economic adviser to Saudi Arabia’s prince Mohammed bin Salman. He holds dual Saudi-Jordanian citizenship and has appeared as a moderator at Saudi Arabia’s high-profile Future Investment Initiative forums. The Washington Post reported that the Saudi foreign minister’s delegation was refusing to go away Jordan without taking Bassem Awadallah back to Riyadh with them. This, say Saudi officials, is untrue.
Bassem Awadullah features a number of powerful international connections. As well as his position on the brink of Saudi Arabia’s prince, he has links to UAE’s de facto ruler, prince Mohammed bin Zayed. He has reportedly been involved in recent UAE-backed purchases of Palestinian land around Jerusalem.