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Middle East Research and Information Project

by Nicolas Pelham


When anti-monarchical revolution swept the Middle East in the 1950s, Jordan was one of the few populous Arab states to keep its king. King ‘Abdallah II, son of Hussein, the sole Hashemite royal to ride out the republican wave, has all the credentials to perform a similar balancing act. Aged 49, he has been in charge for a dozen years, unlike his father, who was just 17 and only a few months into his reign when the Egyptian potentate abdicated in 1952. And the son has grown accustomed to weathering storms on the borders, whether the Palestinian intifada to the west or the US invasion of Iraq to the east. Why is it, then, that the Jordanian monarchy seems so alarmed amidst the revolution sweeping the Middle East today? In part, the king knows he is out of touch with the times. By regional standards, he remains young, but he is still twice the age of the youth marching in the streets from Rabat, Morocco to Manama, Bahrain. The population that he rules has begun to tire of his performance: For over a decade, he has mouthed the platitudes of reform but failed to deliver. And unlike in the 1950s, when Western powers backed his fellow rulers, he may feel than he can no longer fully rely on the support of his main external patron, the United States, which seems to have nudged Husni Mubarak of Egypt toward the exit.

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