AMMAN -- In the international war of words that is now enveloping the Middle East, Jordan has taken a terrific pummeling from uninformed -- even naive -- critics. We have been accused of appeasement and worse. We have been charged with cravenly massaging the ego of Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein. Jordan has been accused of being an apologist for a brutal regime. Some influential American columnists have gone well beyond the bounds of decency by characterizing the Hashemite Dynasty as ''toadies'' of Iraq.
Our initial instincts were to ignore such foolish broadsides. But these charges seem to have taken on a life of their own, so that there now seems to be a thickening chorus of criticism concerning our role in the world's newest passion play, "Iraq Versus the World."
Unfortunately, the shrieks of important media pundits have all too often a distressing way of shaping public perceptions -- particularly in the United States, a country that Jordan has always felt close to because of shared democratic and cultural values.
We do not wish to lose the friendship and goodwill of Americans, and especially not on account of impressions sustained by malevolent editorializing.
Let me make it explicitly clear that Jordan does not recognize or condone the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq. There can be no dispute that Iraq's actions violate the prohibition in the United Nations Charter on the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of sovereign states.
Jordan considers it inadmissible to acquire territory by war and believes that peace will not be restored to the region until Iraqi forces have withdrawn from Kuwait. In the meantime, the United Nations network must accelerate cooperation with the Arab League in fashioning an Arab initiative to resolve the Gulf crisis.
Escalation of rhetoric and military muscle-flexing clearly cannot produce stability and peace in the Middle East. Jordan certainly intends to abide by various Security Council resolutions of recent days. Indeed, Jordan has always implemented with complete loyalty mandatory decisions of the council taken under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
But Jordan, as is its right, is consulting the Security Council about the special economic difficulties with which it is confronted in carrying out the measures that the Security Council has ordered. Moreover, Jordan is seeking clarification as to the precise intent of the humanitarian exceptions to the trade embargo imposed by Resolution 661. It would be irresponsible for Jordanians to dismiss widespread regional suspicions concerning the massive buildup of non-Arab and non-Moslem armies in the heartland of Arabia and Islam.
The world community must also pay attention to this:
Jordan's already fragile economy has been heavily dependent on trade with Iraq. Recent events threaten to dry up the flow of remittances from the Gulf. Jordan cannot survive in the new situation without the help of the international community. Moreover, the situation is urgent: solutions are needed immediately, not in a year's time.
My older brother, His Majesty King Hussein ibn Talal, has been unremitting in his efforts to find a peaceful solution consistent with the principles of the charters of the United Nations and the Arab League. While the king understands the international concern about recent events, he believes that the primary responsibility for finding a peaceful solution lies with the Arab states themselves. No useful purpose would be served by severing contact with, or completely isolating, Baghdad.
When peace is threatened, as it is now in our region, people in positions of responsibility must explore every avenue for solving problems and reducing tension. King Hussein is not blind to the wrongs that have been committed by and against Arabs, but he believes that now is a time for conciliatory initiatives rather than speeches of condemnation or threats of force.
In view of the difficulty of enforcing mandatory United Nations sanctions in the case of Southern Rhodesia more than a decade ago, it is understandable that the international community should wish to deploy naval and air forces in the region to ensure that decisions of the Security Council are fully implemented.
However, these operations should be under the strict control of the Security Council or its military staff committee.
Of course, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are fully entitled to seek the military assistance of friendly powers in preserving their sovereignty and independence and in exercising the right of collective self-defense.
But Jordan would have preferred that this assistance should have been limited to Arab sources. The military buildup to the south of Iraq and Kuwait has added to regional tension: in such circumstances, mistakes and misunderstandings are possible, with disastrous consequences for the region and the world.
Jordan hopes that the present crisis will lead to international efforts to rid the whole region of weapons of mass destruction.
The presence in the region of chemical and nuclear weapons adds to the existing dangers of expansionism. Jordan would like the Middle East to be completely free of weapons of mass destruction, whether owned and controlled locally or introduced by external powers.
Until a few weeks ago, it seemed as if the world was entering a new era of peace and cooperation, in which human resources would be used for the benefit of the human family rather than to kill, injure or destroy. How premature our hopes proved to be.
The Middle East, like every region, needs a process to ensure security and stability and to advance human rights: Arab and non-Arab states of the region must share in such an enterprise. The initiative for such an arrangement should come from within the region, but the solution of underlying problems will require the goodwill and cooperation of external powers.
Recent events have severely damaged the Palestinian cause, for the Palestinians have alienated many of those whose support is important if the peace process is to move forward.
Jordan considers that peace in the area urgently requires a solution of the Palestinian problem. In spite of occasional criticism from Arab militants, Jordan has always advocated the same legal and political principles for these issues as we now favor for Kuwait.
Our region desperately needs a period of peaceful initiatives rather than harsh words. It desperately needs, and indeed seeks, deescalation rather than stepped-up threats.
Arabs of all persuasions need more than ever conciliation rather than confrontation.
We appeal to our friends in the United States, and internationally, to give peace a chance. The writer is crown prince of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.