11 people, institutions and countries insulted by Jordan’s King Abdullah in The Atlantic


The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg writes that he spent "months" with Jordan's "semi-absolute monarch," King Abdullah II, for the lengthy profile out Tuesday. It's worth reading in full. As The New York Times's David Kirkpatrick points out, though, Abdullah seems to have some tough words for just about everybody everywhere.

I could not possibly compile all of Abdullah's criticisms in a single post, but I've tried to collect some of the choicer quotes here. Below, I've listed Abdullah's targets and what he had to say about them. Please alert me to anything I've missed.

1) His own family: "No, members of my family don’t get it. ... They’re not involved day-to-day. The further away you’re removed from this chair, the more of a prince or a princess you are. That happens in all royal families, I think. The further you are from this chair, the more you believe in absolute monarchy."

2) His own secret police: "Institutions I had trusted were just not on board. ... It was the mukhabarat [secret police, also known as General Intelligence Department] and the others, and the old guard. ... The GID was always problematic."

3) His critics: “In good times, people are more generous with giving you the benefit of the doubt. In difficult times, you know that people are going to cast doubt even when you are saying the truth. People are not generous. They don’t give you the benefit of the doubt.”

4) Even more family members: "Look at some of my brothers. They believe that they’re princes, but my cousins are more princes than my brothers, and their in‑laws are like—oh my God. ... I’m always having to stop members of my family from putting lights on their guard cars. I arrest members of my family and take their cars away from them and cut off their fuel rations and make them stop at traffic lights. I’m trying to be that example."

5) Israel, in its commitment to a two-state solution: “It could be too late already for the two-state solution,” he said. “I don’t know. Part of me is worried that is already past us.”

If Israel doesn’t agree to a Palestinian state quickly, Abdullah said, “apartheid or democracy” will be its choice. “The practical question is, can Israel exert permanent control over Palestinians who are disenfranchised ad infinitum, or does it eventually become a South Africa, which couldn’t survive as a pariah state?”

6) Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad: "There was a dinner with me and him and the king of Morocco, at the king’s residence in Cairo. And so Bashar at dinner turns to us and says, ‘Can you guys explain to me what jet lag is?’ He never heard of jet lag.”

7) The Muslim Brotherhood: "They won’t swear on the constitution. They will only swear on the constitution of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their allegiance is to the murshid [Brotherhood leader]." There are many more examples, but here's a pointed one:

His job, he says, is to point out that the Brotherhood is run by "wolves in sheep’s clothing" and wants to impose its retrograde vision of society and its anti-Western politics on the Muslim Middle East. This, he said, is "our major fight."

8) Devout Muslim men who leave their foreheads marked as a sign of devoutness: “You see that black mark on the forehead—to show off that you pray five times a day? Why do that? That’s complete nonsense. I feel like having a black magic marker just to annoy people, to put a mark on my head.”

9) Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “Erdogan once said that democracy for him is a bus ride. ‘Once I get to my stop, I’m getting off.’”

10) Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi: “There’s no depth to the guy."

“There is no depth there,” Abdullah told me. “I was trying to explain to him how to deal with Hamas, how to get the peace process moving, and he was like, ‘The Israelis will not move.’ I said, ‘Listen, whether the Israelis move or don’t move, it’s how we get Fatah and Hamas”—the two rival Palestinian factions—“together.” When Morsi remained fixated on the Israelis (“He’s like, ‘The Israelis, the Israelis’ ”), Abdullah said, he tried to reiterate the importance of sorting out “the mess” on the Palestinian side.

11) The influential National Current Party, whose economic and political plan he said "didn’t have anything. It was slogans. There was no program. Nothing. ... It’s all about ‘I’ll vote for this guy because I’m in his tribe.’ I want this guy to develop a program that at least people will begin to understand."

For the sake of completeness, here's a list of the people and institutions that Abdullah discusses positively: His wife and son; Deerfield Academy, the Massachusetts prep school where he boarded in the 1970s; and riding motorcycles in Alaska. That's about it.

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Max Fisher · March 19, 2013