King Abdullah II of Jordan: Leader Profile

Today we look at King Abdullah II of Jordan. Jordan is important to look at because:

  • Jordan is seen as a significant US partner in the Middle East
  • Jordan is Israel’s eastern neighbour
  • Jordan currently houses millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian/Israeli territories
  • Jordan doesn’t have oil
  • Jordan is involved in the coalition against Islamic State
  • Jordan assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2014-15 term

King Abdullah II

Jordan  is a country that could easily be forgotten among the squabbling of Sunni, Shiite, Persians, Arabs, Jews and Muslims, however the country of 7 million manages to find itself in the news and corridors of power far more than counties many times larger and richer. Jordan has been noted as a significant ally of the United States, playing significant roles in modernising, liberalising, intelligence gathering, war fighting and deal brokering. This is due to the actions of the royal family which takes a very active and public role in shaping, not only the fate of the bedouin tribes and former refugees that live in Jordan, but of the wider Middle East.

Background of Jordan

The Leader Profile

  • Name: Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein
  • Born: January 1962
  • Religion: Islam
  • Family: Wife, 4 Children
  • Languages: Arabic, English,

Education:

  • Islamic Educational College, Amman, Jordan
  • St Edmunds, Surrey England
  • Eaglebrook School MA, USA
  • Deerfield Academy MA, USA
  • Sandhurst, UK
  • Pembroke College
  • Georgetown University

Career:

  • 1980- Second Lieutenant in British Army
  • 1986- Captain in Jordanian Army
  • 1998-Major General Jordan special forces
  • 1999- King of Jordan

Extra Curricular:

  • Football (Soccer)
  • Skydiving
  • Scuba diving
  • Boating
  • Cars and motorcycles
  • Rally racing
  • Scifi (Startrek)
  • Film and cinema
  • Military Artefacts

Opponents:

  • Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Bashar Al Assad
  • Toujan al-Faisal
  • Human Rights Groups

Allies:

  • Barak Obama
  • Sabah al-Sabah (Kuwait)
  • Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani(Qatar)
  • Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Abu Dhabi)
  • Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi
  • Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Dubai)
  • Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi (Fujairah)
  • Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi (Ras al Khaimah)
  • Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi (Sharjah)
  • Saud bin Rashid Al Mu’alla (Umm al-Quwain)
  • Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (Bahrain)

King Abdullah II

King Abdullah describes himself as “a man of action”. His military achievements and vibrant extra curricular activities confirm this. He is described as suave, erudite and charming; a man who acts, speaks and carries himself like royalty. When his father, King Hussein ruled Jordan, the then king was very concerned about naming a more statesman like ruler as his successor, but Abdullah was selected in 1999 because it may have been deemed that a military mind was still needed in a very demanding security environment. From a very young age, Abdullah and his younger brother wanted to be like their father, Hussein. They got involved in the military and became very hands on and tactile in their youth and adolescence. They insisted on military training from a very young age and Abdullah has had a military career his whole life. He has been very hands on in his running of the state as well, donning disguises to “walk among the people”. He told CNN reporters in 2000 that, “The greatest fear I have, as time goes on, you can very easily become isolated”.

King Abdullah speaks in simple and clear English language and actively mirrors people that he is speaking to using visual cues such as nodding of the head to encourage their speech. He has a squint, which may be irritation from his contact lenses. His vocal pace, tone and body gesticulations indicate his western education and military training. He presents a restrained and confident range of body movements with his hands usually within the frame of his body. King Abdullah is not tall. He stands a quite a few centimetres shorter than Prince Charles of the UK who is himself about 176 cm (5 foot 10 inches). When sitting, his feet tend to only just touch the ground. He is, however, large and well built. His military training and active lifestyle would make him a significant physical presence.

King Abdullah sits in a very rigid way. His hands tends to be folded in from of him left over right or at his thighs in a very military way. Both feet are usually completely flat to the ground and he displays very restrained movements. Many of his speech patterns; “Have a go”, “bloody” are quintessentially British in their origin. His mother was English and from the military, the daughter of a British serviceman and his father was educated and trained in the UK  so Military and English mannerisms permeate his psychology.

King Abdullah experimented with a moustache in his role as king. This was very reminiscent of the moustache that his father wore as king.

King Abdullah and old King Hussain

King Abdullah and old King Hussain

Despite his “man of the people” image, King Abdullah is almost an Englishman among his Hashemite, Jordanian and Palestinian subjects. His mannerisms and Arabic are imperfect and always contain a certain formality that doesn’t fit with the local chieftains. King Abdullah uses a lot of religious references in his language. While this is very traditional, he has very modern or liberal values especially in regards to the role of women. His wife is an ultra modern Palestinian lady with a very active role in advocacy, and empowerment. She is rarely seen with traditional Islamic hijab.

 

Myers Briggs

King Abdullah presents as an Extraverted Sensing Thinker who tends to use Judgment to plan their activities and make decisions early. He derives control through building institutions and maintaining predictability. This would Make him an ESTJ.

If this is the case then King Abdullah is a logical, earnest traditionalist who enjoys order and regulation. He is a serious individual who is thorough and dependable. He is extraverted in his sensing, seeing situations and reacting to them quickly and vigorously. Tradition and symbolism plays a great part in King Abdullah’s mind, as he works on concrete steps to fulfill visions of the future. He will be exceedingly polite and accommodating, pushing himself to fulfill needs before asking for assistance. King Abdullah, like his father before him values personal connections and friendships. King Hussein became a firm friend of President Clinton and Similarly, King Abdullah has formed a close personal friendship with President Obama. He is a realistic, matter-of –fact leader who will tell it like it is and is exceedingly competent at statecraft and the art of war. He is a strong believer in rules and procedures ad still carries a lot of psychological artifacts from his boarding school and military life. As a defender of the status quo, he is in no hurry to oppose American hegemony, or the institutions of monarchy. He is action oriented and can sometimes forget to consider the niceties of international diplomacy.

Themes and Quotes:

Israel and Palestine

Jordan is the rarely mentioned third party in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinians. Throughout the history of these areas, Jordan has battled with both the Israeli military and the PLO and has had tense relations with other neighbours.

King Abdullah’s father achieved an historic settlement with Israel in 1994 recognising the state of Israel and formalising relations with their neigbour. Along with Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, King Hussein had made significant progress towards brining peace to the long disputed area between the Mediterranean sea and Iraq. Since that time, the inheritors of this significant peace accord have been unable to turn this into a permanent and peaceful resolution for the Israeli and Palestinian people.

King Abdullah firmly believes that the resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict will lead to peace in the middle east.

“We need leaders with courage to take the tough decisions”

“The core reason for instability in the region is the Israeli Palestinian problem.”

“We need the undivided attention on the United States (to fix the problem)”

“Jordan doesn’t want the West Bank.”

“The only credible, viable solution is the two state solution”

“The challenge is to reach the Israeli people”

“It is the injustice felt towards the Palestinian people that allow other state and non state actors to take the role of being defenders of the Palestinian People”.

Syria

The crisis in Syria has lead to over 1.4 million refugees and displaced people. This adds to the displaced Iraqis and displaced Palestinians that have been welcomed into the Arab state. Jordan is used to nomadic and refugee populations and has granted education, rights and even citizenship to the populations that it hosts. King Abdullah was quick to distance himself even more from Bashar Al Assad, at first pleading with him to be reach out to his people and then joining in calls for a regime change. Jordan will not take part in any military action in Syria.

“I think Bashar needs to reach out.”(2012)

“Keep as close to the people as possible” (this is what King Abdullah learned from his father)

“If I was him, I would leave office.”

“There is no coming back from the abyss [of civil war].”

“This is the last chance that they have [to leave].”

ISIS 

In 2012: “there are pockets of Al-qaida like elements in Syria.”

“Truly a global fight against terrorism.”

‘The reaction to ISIS has got to be quick…and we have not been quick.”

“They are cross border in Syria and Iraq.”

“Baghdadi (ISIS leader) is a heretic.”

“I was always against the de-baathification…I said it would create tremendous instability in the country”

“We have let down the Iraqis”

US relations

Abdullah has a strong and personal relationship with Barak Obama. This is highly reminiscent of King Hussein’s relationship with Bill Clinton. He has gone as far as to removed his tie to mirror and complement Obama, who was not in a tie during a press conference. An interesting limiter on the relationship with the US is the relationship with Vladimir Putin. Abdullah continues to maintain a close friendship with the Russian President and may quote him on occasion.

“The US and Jordan are on the same page.”

“I’m always impressed with how [Obama] looks at things”

“We have a personal relationship”

“I tend to be more on the aggressive side”

“[Obama] tend to be the sensible one.”

“We have tremendous chemistry.”

“I’m very comfortable with the relationship that we have.”

Democracy

Abdullah has no motive to make his Country into a democracy. He understands what sounds to make, speaking of “fairness” and “equality” but despite there being some sort of elections, there is no significant power outside of the throne. Abdullah embraces and seeks modernity but his cultural, royal and military background would have imbued him with a strong instinct against devolving power. Many Western commentators consider him to be a benign dictator and much less of an issue than the other regional monarchs and strong-men. In Jordanian society, tribal affiliation and the bedouin culture still permeates strongly. Even if Abdullah was to drive his country towards democracy, it would literally remain a foreign concept to the people living there.

“[Al-Sisi] is bringing strength to his country, he is bringing stability to his country.”

“the Hashemite throne, and perhaps Jordan itself, will not survive the coming decades if he does not move his country briskly toward modernity”

King Abdullah II is as much an inheritor of TE Lawrence as he is his father and grandfather. His country is the ear to the ground and regional force that the West can depend on. Jordan is resource poor, compared to its neighbours and as such has to rely on relationships rather than resources for creating value. This is the reason why Jordan was a willing member of the attack on Israel in 1948 and then decades later the second country to accept it’s neighbours legitimacy. The country and its leaders need friends more than it needs enemies. This may also have why King Hussain initially considered a statesman as his heir rather than his military son. Abdullah has none the less sought out and secured powerful alliances with the United States and the Emirates, forming coalitions with them against agreed threats. Abdullah has also maintained relations with Israel and with Saudi Arabia while at the same time leaving room for Iraqi and Iranian relationships. King Abdullah II seems to be a collector of titles and awards from foreign countries furthering the evidence of his affinity for political networking.

Jordan’s leader is perpetually punching above his weight militarily and politically to remain relevant and recognised as a constructive partner in the Middle East. In the past the kings of Jordan have switched alliances whenever it suited them and this will be true for Abdullah II. Conversely, Abdullah is keen to maintain relationships with everyone. This means that Russia, China, Syria, Iraq and Iran will find approaching the King to be easier than other world leaders. Cracks will show when Abdullah has to make a hard choice between “friends” with equal benefits. King Abdullah’s media image is carefully crafted. He likes the camera and has even been an extra in an episode of Star Trek.

 

References:

CIA World Fact Book

Fitch Ratings Agency

World Bank

NATO

SIPRI

WTO

Media:

ABC interview

February 2014 Bilateral talks at White House

Reaction to death of Pilot 2015

CBS and ISIS

Davos 2010

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