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Between Rational and Strange: Jordanian Analysts Take on the King's Interview With The Atlantic

Jeffery Goldberg's famous last month interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan in The Atlantic, "Monarch in the Middle" was the subject of intrigue and analysis by Jordanian analysts and journalists. This is because the King's statements in Goldberg's article, although not new, have rattled many entrenched power centers within the kingdom.

The Jordanian press went into shock and a frenzy of analysis that ranged from rational and sober takes on the story to the bizarre in order to discover the "hidden messages" the King used the interview to send to his friends and enemies alike.

The King did not actually reveal any new policy positions with regards to his neighbors or toward the U.S. or even domestically, asserts Mousa Barhouma former editor of Jordanian daily Al Ghad.

Barhouma, who currently runs an online newspaper, "Filmirsad," told me that the King has criticized his own, "General Intelligence Department (GID) or the secret police known in Arabic as the" Mukhabarat in public meetings on several occasion in the past few years. Barhouma who attended some of those meetings also said that the King told his audience that the "Mukhabarat" has conspired against him and opposed his efforts to reform the political and economic systems in Jordan. The King also accused the Mukhabarat of even conspiring against his father the late king Hussein in 1989. Barhouma's "Filmirsad" newspaper reported as far back as 2011 that the King described the anti-reform forces within his government as "dinosaurs."

Nahed Hattar, a self-proclaimed "leftist intellectual" whose views are actually extreme right wing and anti-Palestinian, wrote in the Jordanian site Ammoun last month that Goldberg was "hateful" and "vindictive" and his article was "anti- Jordan." He also wrote that the article was actually "trap that was set up by staff of the Royal court" to entrap the King, and that the royal court "should be purged of those anti-Jordanian- state staffers.

Hattar also defended the Jordanian "Mukhabarat "and stated that "it should have never answered to the King or to government just like any other agency in the world." He believes that the Mukhabrat should be a sort of sovereign entity that should run the state and the government from its "strategic position."

It is worth noting however that Hattar admitted in writing and on video of being a secret operative of the Mukhabarat when it was led by its disgraced chief Mohamad althabi. Hattar also admitted of conspiring with the agency against the King and his former chief of the Royal Court Basem Awadallh in exchange of money.

Al thahabi was indicted last year for embezzlement, money laundering, bribes and fraud. He justified the $50 million found in his bank accounts as "gifts" from foreign governments. He also admitted of selling Jordanian citizenships to Iraqi citizens.

Former chief of the Royal court Basem Awadallah was the subject of an intense smear campaign spearheaded by the Mukhabarat and an army of Jordanian Journalists on its payroll accusing him of corruption among other things. Awadallah who grew up and Washington D.C area is an American as well as Jordanian citizen represented a new breed of Jordanian political and economic reformers whose views and economic programs threatened the entrenched anachronistic elites.

So when the King stated to Goldberg that he wants to introduce comprehensive reform within the Jordanian political system, which is badly needed, his calls have raised alarm in different levers of power in the country especially the Mukhbarat and its backers.

Osama al Rantisi one of Jordan's top political columnists and an Influential journalist writing for Al Arab alyoum daily last march called for " calm" and defended the King statements as being true and being not new. Rantisi also said that the King has said many of things mentioned in the article in the presence of Jordanian writers and Journalists. He also said that "lack of openness, transparency and democracy contributed to creating this unnecessary storm over a magazine article.'

But the King's position here can be misleading according to Barhouma who thinks that "the King wanted to send several messages to his backers in Washington and elsewhere that he is a reformer but in reality he might not be the reformer he claims to be. Barhouma was a victim of the Mukhabrat when they forced the publisher of privately owned Al Ghad newspaper to fire him as its Chief Editor.

Toujan Faisal, a former Jordanian MP went even further than Hatter in her analysis of Goldberg's article. Faisal faulted Jordanian analysts for neglecting to pick up on the King references especially when liking himself to Tom Hanks character Forest Gump in the 1994 movie named after Hanks character. In her column on Al Jazeera Arabic website, Faisal described several scenes from the movie that took up three fourths of her article in trying to draw analogies between Forest Gump and the King's persona criticizing in the process the American education system ( for accepting a mentally disabled Gump) and the American foreign policy in Vietnam. Faisal believes therefore that the movie should be treated as code-breaking map through which one should use in order to decipher the King of Jordan.

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