King Abdullah of Jordan has given a frank interview in which he has criticised almost all of his fellow Middle East leaders, including his own family, while stating that his relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently been strengthened. Speaking to The Atlantic magazine, Jordan’s monarch was also highly critical of his country’s intelligence services for blocking his attempts to reform the political system.
In an interview to be published in full later this week, Abdullah told American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has “no depth”, describing the Muslim Brotherhood as a “Masonic cult; wolves in sheep’s clothing”. According to Goldberg, “Seldom has an Arab autocrat – America’s closest ally in the Arab world spoken so candidly in public.”
Likening himself to fictional character Forrest Gump, Abdullah said that he inherited his father’s monarchy but is trying to move Jordan closer to a British-style constitutional monarchy to undermine the effects of the Arab Spring on the country. His major focus, he told Goldberg, is to keep the Islamists out of power. “We have to convince the West that you don’t have to have the Muslim Brotherhood if you have democracy.”
His proposed changes include allowing Palestinians in Jordan to have greater representation in parliament. They constitute more than half of the population but, he complained, his own secret service agencies and tribal leaders blocked his attempts at reform.
“Institutions I had trusted were just not on board,” he said, naming by way of example the mukhabarat (secret police). “Conservative elements have become embedded in certain institutions like the mukhabarat,” said the king. “Two steps forward, one step back.”
Nevertheless, King Abdullah II vowed to push through his reforms. “The monarchy is going to change,” he said, insisting that his son will preside over “a Western-style democracy with a constitutional monarchy.”