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November 02, 2006



AA: Actually, he has not been charged. Yet. I doubt that they would do such a stupid thing, but you never know.

The case of the Islamist parliamentarians was not the first, as you suggest. One of my posts highlighted the fact that the Islamists have egged on the government to prosecute free speech that they themselves didn't like. Their own case was different, in my view. They were inciting violence and terror.

As for Abu Odeh, I am sure what he is saying in public is what many people are saying in private. There is certainly no incitement there, and I hope that the government will come to it's senses.


This is disturbing and upsetting.

To underscore AA's point, Abu Odeh is not your typical senior ex-regime figure--he was a core royalist who was present at all the "big bang" moments in Jordanian history after the late 1960s, in particular the military bunker meetings of Black September and the palace debates during and after the April 1989 riots. There is not much he says in the interview (just going by the Arabic transcripts online from the links above) that is new outside of his 1999 book, so I agree with AA's key point that it is not so much the content of his claim (though that too is irksome) but rather the fact that his argument has percolated into a public forum accessible to all, far outside the typical elite-level talks that happen behind closed doors in Amman, that is relevant here.

Another relevant factor to consider beneath the media attacks from the semi-official newspapers: Abu Odeh is old school. That is, he's part of the royalist core whose influence peaked in the 1980s and early 1990s, and so his political currency has been fast depleting the last couple of years. After the controversy caused by his book, which public policy elites in Amman still discuss (though in hushed tones, and never with journalists), it became clear that Abu Odeh was not jumping aboard the train of new political and economic figures that came to occupy ministerial spots, diwan offices, and other positions under the current King (this was the "generational change" of the elite guard about which some of the more astute sociologists of Arab politics have been warning). Of course, some of the old guard made it (no need for names here, but a glance at the Senate and diwan rosters the last couple years will indicate who and why), but not him.

A rather unscientific sweep of the elite discussions that take place in quasi-governmental and private forums in Amman right now would reveal mixed opinions. An unspoken number of East Bank political veterans who saw him at work hold heaps of praise for his decades of service to the throne, and younger gentlemen eager to jump into politics perceive his veteran record with a mixture of awe and envy. The Anglo-American embassy crowd, in particular, have enjoyed his company--and his advice. But many are also puzzled by what has amounted to an about-face during the 1990s in his views about the state of politics in Jordan. And the heat of his argument about discrimination have steadily pushed away many respectable figures who otherwise hold his character in high regard.

It is also surprising that the state security court would call him up so shortly after the damning Human Rights Watch report that generated so much furious debate. Abu Odeh has considerable prominence, thanks to his generosity for talking to the legion of Western journalists and social scientists who frequent his house, as well as his involvement with the ICG and other groups. Even if no criminal charge is filed, it's clear that there is a very stern message being sent here, and this is important for those of us who write about, and care deeply for, politics, reform, and democracy in Jordan.

Tom Scudder

Al Jazeera has an english story up now. Says there that he's been charged with slander.

Nur al-cubicle

OMG! 21st century lèse majesté! To the gallies!

btw, Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal shut down.


may I advise against excessive speed-reading ? In the left-thumbnail, it isn't AlQueda that set up the political council, but the domestic resistance. The very important point is that Maliki is expressing his unhappiness with progress toward direct US talks with this common-front group.

the aardvark

Badger - ah, you're right, my mistake. The factions announced the council, while the Iraqi Islamic State announced the ministry of information (al-Hayat gave the "al-Qaeda state" label in its headline, that's what the thumbnail referred to).

the aardvark

Khalaf - a bunch of newspapers said he had been charged, but it's possible they are all being sloppy and it was just the interrogation at this point. I sure hope they come to their senses..

Sean - one of the most interesting aspects of this is something I didn't have time to mention last night.. al-Quds reported (and largely reprinted) a letter written under a pseudonym by (allegedly) a former PM and circulated online which blasts Abu Odeh as far more complicit in the things he describes than he lets on.


The public prosecuter has decided not to try Abu Odeh, and to close the case.



As many people expected--the usual monitors picked up the story. Human Rights Watch just made it into their latest briefing on Jordan.


Not exactly the most "inside" of narratives, and I'm sure many in Jordan will be rolling their eyes. But anyway, this is more negative publicity for the government at a time when it could do without it. I wouldn't be surprised if the incident--again, because it involves such a high-profile voice embraced by many Western groups, despite that the case was closed and that the instigation was a private complaint--makes it into the usual damning appraisals, such as the State Department's HR reports, Amnesty International's updates, etc. I'd bet fifty dinar that somebody at the US Embassy made a helluva lot of noise before the charges were dropped.

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