Wednesday, November 16, 2011

King Abdullah Just Said This

King Abdullah suggested today, very clearly, that Bashar Al-Assad should step down.

This is huge, unprecedented, and surprising, for two reasons, two very good reasons, in my opinion.

Correct if I'm wrong, but this is the first time a Jordanian king ever asks for any other leader to step down, let alone be an Arab leader, let lone be it the Syrian leader. Late King Hussein had hoped for many Arab leaders to vanish , in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Palestine...etc. These were not only posing a threat to the monarchy, but to the stability of Jordan itself. But he never went public, for several reasons, in claiming that these regimes had to go. He supported the Islamic opposition to Hafiz Assad but he didn't claim Assad must go for the better of the Syrian people.

So today, things changed. We have finally asked the leader of a "brotherly" country to step down.

if you read exactly what his majesty said about Syria,

"If it was me, I would step down and make sure whoever comes behind me has the ability to change the status quo that we're seeing,"

He said, "I would step down if......"

Correct me again if I'm wrong, but I don't think any Jordanian king has ever said "I would step down " for whatever reason. Never. I haven't heard every single speech or read every public letter for all the Jordanian monarchs, but I don't think such language was ever used before.

Certainly Jordan is not like Syria. People are not being killed in the streets and many of the most angry and the dissatisfied Jordanians are not calling for the King to step down. King Hussein faced heavier opposition with crowds screaming in the streets in many Jordanians cities for him to be removed during several rough times in the past, but he had never mentioned that he would step down if something happened.

Since its independence, King Hussein struggled to prove that he's a true Arab leader who was ready to lead an underdeveloped nation into security and prosperity and prove that it had many good reasonable for existence even when the entire world had many doubts about it. I think that to a great extent he was able to accomplish this. He tried to avoid any kind of confrontation and always took the side of neutrality unless his throne or the the future of the country were be in jeopardy.

The statement from his majesty today, in my opinion, reflects a major shift in our attitude toward the world.
We didn't have to stand against the Syrian regime regardless of how brutal it was. But King Abdullah felt it was necessary for him to be the first Arab leader to make that statement. We all know that Syria has threatened to invade Jordan and in fact did invade Jordan more than any other country besides Israel. For Jordan to take that strong position against Syria, there might be a big a price to pay, but I hope that our moral obligation towards taking the stand is completely worth it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Ronald Reagan vs. King Hussein

Ronald Reagan was the US president between 1981 to 1989. After the end of his term, in 1994, he announced that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. However there were some signs suggestive that he had some "concentration issues" , to say the least, while he was still in office. One of these incidents occurred during a meeting with King Hussein.

Richard Viets, the US ambassador to Jordan in 1981, gave an interview reporting a very interesting meeting between the two leaders. Avi Shleim reports:

"On that first visit the Reagans invited the king and Queen Noor to lunch in their private quarters. Viets was also invited. In the middle of this small affair, Reagan suddenly said, "I understand that the Dead Sea is so salty that no fish can survive in it." The comment was not germane to anything that went on before.

Hussein said, "That's correct. No fish can survive there."

Reagan said, "I think we can help you out. We have special fish in California that I think they would love to live in the Dead Sea."

Hussein's eyes went almost into the dome of his head; he could barely believe that this conversation was taking place.

After lunch, Reagan took Viets aside and said he was going to have members of his staff contacted him to arrange the shipment of the fish. The two of them, Reagan said, were going to sort out this problem for Jordan. Viets was embarrassed but the king was characteristically good-humoured. When they met on future occasions, he would often rib Viets by saying, "When are you going to bring the fish?!"