The Washington Post has generally shared the near-universal American unwillingness to criticize anything about King Abdullah's Jordan, even as it scathingly criticizes Hosni Mubarak's Egypt. Jim Hoagland breaks with this tradition today in an inflammatory op-ed equating Abdullah with Yasser Arafat and leveling a series of incendiary insinuations/accusations:
Abdullah emulates Arafat in possessing special, drop-in-anytime visiting rights to the White House and in merchandising that access to puff up his influence at home and with other Arab leaders. The Jordanian monarch seizes every opportunity to see and be seen with the U.S. president and his senior aides. Rather than attend an Arab summit to support his unconvincing, warmed-over version of a "peace plan" with Israel, Abdullah was again stateside last week, basking in the glow of meetings with Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
And, as Arafat did, Abdullah works against U.S. interests in Iraq and elsewhere while pretending otherwise. The youthful Jordanian autocrat pulls the wool over the eyes of a Republican president as the deceased Palestinian revolutionary did with Bush's Democratic predecessor.
I stipulate the obvious: Bush is obliged by realpolitik to work with Abdullah and with Jordan. One of only two Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel, Jordan has long been an important link in the Middle East peace process as well as a platform for U.S. covert and military activities.
But a few senior U.S. officials, less impressed with Abdullah's Special Operations background and his deep connections to the CIA, fear that the president's lavish embrace is overdone. They point to the nasty public row between Iraq and Jordan over a suicide bombing and to the apparently protected presence in Jordan of key operatives in the Iraqi insurgency. These are troubling signs being ignored by Bush.
Iraqis have not forgotten that Jordan supported Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War in 1990 and afterward. Iraqi resources were drained by the massive breaking of sanctions and other corrupt dealings that enriched the Jordanian establishment at the expense of the Iraqi people.
Abdullah's meddling in Iraqi affairs since the overthrow of the Baathists has rekindled those resentments. The king has exacerbated tensions with his aggressive championing of his co-religionists, Iraq's Sunni minority, who provided the base of past Baathist power and of the present insurgency.
Hoagland is channeling Ahmed Chalabi here, as he has so often done in the past ("Hoagland went on to write nearly 20 columns since July 2000 about Iraq that mentioned Chalabi and often advocated his positions.") Chalabi, as everyone knows, has a long-running, nasty, on-going spat with the Jordanians. Chalabi's line on Jordan is Hoagland's: they supported Saddam in the past, they are meddling in Iraq now, they are tacitly or actively fueling the insurgency, they champion groups which are not Ahmed Chalabi.
Many Jordanians (including senior regime officials in al Hayat and in Jordanian newspapers last week) have pointed to Chalabi as the instigator fanning the flames of Shia anger over that "Jordanians celebrating a suicide bombing" story from al Ghad. Here's Hoagland doing the same, exaggerating the story's significance and using it to score points against Jordan. The fact that Hoagland's doing it as part of his Chalabi ventriloquist act is almost enough to suggest that there might be something to it.
Hoagland doesn't say a word about Abdullah's anti-democratic domestic policies. I criticize Jordan a lot here, but I have no use for this kind of transparent Chalabi crap.