Abdullah II, who has closely allied himself with the U.S., is accused by reformers and traditionalists alike of alienating his people.
By Borzou Daragahi
Times Staff Writer
"AMMAN, Jordan — A politically inexperienced king takes control of a Middle Eastern monarchy from his powerful father, surrounds himself with U.S. military hardware and spies, loses touch with his people and is finally ejected in a popular uprising.
Numerous parallels exist between the shah's rule and that of Abdullah. Like the shah's SAVAK security and intelligence service, Jordan's General Intelligence Department, now in a new hilltop complex in an Amman suburb, operates as a "subdivision" of the CIA, said Alexis Debat, a former French Defense Ministry official who is a counter-terrorism consultant and a senior fellow at the Nixon Center in Washington.
By Debat's estimates, the Jordanian intelligence agency receives at least $20 million a year in U.S. funding for operations and liaison work. "They're doing all the legwork for the CIA," he said.
The Jordanians have become one of Washington's closest allies in the intelligence-gathering business, second only to Britain's MI6, counter-intelligence experts say. They are closer to the CIA than the Mossad, Israel's much-touted intelligence agency, which is considered to have too much of an agenda of its own to be completely reliable, Debat said.
Perhaps most controversially, say Amnesty International and other human rights groups, Jordan has become an important nexus in U.S. intelligence's subterranean "renditions" network, in which terrorism suspects are secretly detained and interrogated in countries with blemished human rights records. Jordanian officials deny participation in the program.
But the Hashemite kingdom's evident close ties with Washington and its leap into the U.S.-declared war on terrorism threaten to put the government on what some call a collision course with many of its people, especially in light of a sharp increase in anti-American sentiment after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Israel's recent bombing of Lebanon in the Jewish state's war against Shiite Muslim militants.
"Being darlings of the U.S. is considered bad, bad, bad," said a Western analyst based in Jordan who requested anonymity.
Few publicly speak out against the king because of a law that can be used to prosecute those who do. "Criticisms of the king and the intelligence forces are strictly taboo and carry serious penalties," says a January 2006 Human Rights Watch report. "Articles of the penal code criminalize speech slandering public officials, criticizing the king and his family, and harming relations with other states.""