Most of the Arab media response to the sudden removal of Hamza from his position as Crown Prince of Jordan has been confused and tentative. There's no consensus yet on whether it is significant, what caused it, or what it portends.
Except in Jordan, of course, where the assembled commentariat - if they dare to venture an opinion at all, which most don't - have concluded that Abdullah's move was a great decision. A perfect decision! The only decision! All hail the wisdom of his greatness!
(if you wonder about whether I'm exaggerating the closure of the Jordanian political system over the last few years, consider the findings of the most recent annual survey of "Democracy in Jordan" by the Center of Strategic Studies in Amman, as reported by al Jazeera a few weeks ago: 80.6% of Jordanians said that they were not able to openly criticize the government or participate in oppositional political activities without fearing retribution or harassment from state security)
Most Arab newspapers and television stations have reproduced the text of the royal decree, alongside a brief recap of the transition from Hussein to Abdullah, and an overview of the various candidates to replace Hamza. One 'reliable source' told al Hayat that the Jordanian constitution would only allow Abdullah to appoint his eight year old son Hussein to the position, which I assume is what Abdullah wants to do. This source points out that Abdullah could also name his older brother Prince Faisal to the position, since he already acts as regent during Abdullah's frequent trips out of the country; but this seems unlikely to me since it would only create a new potential rivalry.
Elaph reports that further changes may be coming before Abdullah travels to Washington next week, including the designation of Hussein as the new crown prince and a restructuring of the senior military leadership. It notes, as I did above, the near complete absence of any reporting or discussion of the succession change in the local Jordanian press. This is unsurprising, given the extremely stringent penalties in the current Jordanian press law for any coverage of the royal family - the reddest of the red lines.
The Elaph story also reports that the decision took almost everyone by surprise, from well-connected journalists to pillars of the regime, which I can roughly confirm on the basis of a few of my own inquiries. The absence of any real information has, predictably, generated an explosion of rumours and conspiracy theories on the Jordanian "street" and in its salons. Among the most popular rumours are conflicts between Abdullah and former Crown Prince Hassan, whose role in the kingdom's politics has been highly ambivalent since his sudden removal from that position in 1999. Another is that it was a strike against Queen Nur, whose relationship with the current King was strained. Another juicy rumour is that Abdullah wanted Hamza to cut back on his rather excessive spending habits, which provoked a conflict within the family. Yet another rumour is that Abdullah wanted to take any political function out of the Crown Prince role, and that as Hamza graduated and aged he might become impatient to exercise real influence.
The Kuwaiti paper al Rai al Aam also reports that the move surprised the Jordanian political elite, and that rumours are spreading like wildfire through the salons (see what happens when you don't have a credible local media?). The paper quotes one source as describing the change as a 'revolution before its time'. It points to Rania's determination to set the affairs of the Hashemite family in order, and in her children's favor; and to the conflict between Rania and Nur over the family's finances and lines of authority within the family. The story emphasizes, as did I yesterday, the significance of Abdullah's breaking his express promise to his dying father, and noted that having Hamza as Crown Prince was actually a condition for Abdullah's being elevated the kingship. Have to follow up on that.
Al Jazeera runs a piece on Jordan's troubled experience with the crown prince position over the years, noting that this isn't the first time the issue has roiled Jordan's waters. Their story claims that it was Nur, not the dying Hussein, who insisted on the succession going to Hamza - a version which would greatly benefit Abdullah, since most Jordanians revere Hussein but have mixed feelings about Nur.
The Al Quds Al Arabi story describes the decision as a 'murky' one which surprised political circles, and described the complete news and opinion blackout surrounding it as unprecedented even by Jordanian standards: the text of the royal decree was sent to the television station with no prior warning, without it being circulated to the press, and the press was (according to QA) given explicit orders to not highlight the news the following day. It predicted - like most others - that Abdullah would soon appoint his son (although oddly they report his age as 9 years old rather than 8, like everyone else. If I were a real journalist, I'd check, but I just can't bring myself to care.) QA reports that Jordanians have generally received the news calmly, and as not an unusual thing in the local context, even if it took them by surprise in its timing. The story quotes yet another 'reliable source' saying that the move was aimed at centralizing the family's internal structure in anticipation of Hamza's possible return home from his studies. And it also points out that Hamza has basically been out of the country the entire time he was crown prince and has held no real political positions.
As for the jihadi message boards, the general disinterest continues to prevail. On al Qala'a, the overall sentiment is summed up by one commenter: Hamza, Faisal, Abdullah, blah blah blah.. they are all American agents."
But one of the comments on al Qala'a is worth noting: it argues that this was actually quite significant - that it signaled the beginning of the end of the reign of 'Abdullah The Traitor The Second'. According to this poster, Hamza's decision to marry a Hashemite was a very smart move, and greatly raised his stock among ethnic Jordanian chauvinists and the tribes who make up the bedrock of the regime (in this poster's opinion) - in contrast to the disdain which such Jordanian chauvinists have for Abdullah's Palestinian wife Rania. And so, this poster argues, this marks the beginning of the end for Abdullah - "you will be hearing big surprises soon on the Jordanian arena" (never the sort of thing you want to see on a jihadist message board).