NEW YORK - In an interview with an influential American journalist, Jordan’s King Abdullah has derided leaders of Egypt, Turkey and Syria as also his own family for a variety of reasons, including insufficient knowledge and not being well aware of developments.
The king found fault with those leaders and others while speaking to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, and an advance copy of the interview was carried by The New York Times on Tuesday. The full interview with be published in The Atlantic magazine later this week.
President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt has “no depth,” King Abdullah was quoted as saying. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is an authoritarian who views democracy as a “bus ride,” as in, “Once I get to my stop, I am getting off,” the king said.
And he said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is so provincial that at a social dinner he once asked the monarchs of Jordan and Morocco to explain jet lag. “He never heard of jet lag,” King Abdullah said, according to an advance copy of the article.
King Abdullah turned to his own family, saying they do not understand the fact that the era of monarchy is nearing its end. “Where are monarchies in 50 years?” he asked in the interview. “Members of my family don’t get it. Look at some of my brothers. They believe that they’re princes, but my cousins are more princes than my brothers, and their in-laws are like - oh my God!” .
The king said he was fed up with having to stop members of his family from “putting lights on their guard cars.”
“I arrest members of my family and take their cars away from them and cut off their fuel rations and make them stop at traffic lights,” said King Abdullah. II.
He also did not shy away from labeling his family’s traditional supporters based in the East Bank of the Jordan River as the “old dinosaurs”.
Even his own sons should be punished if convicted of corruption, he insisted. “Everybody else is expendable in the royal family,” he said. “That is the reality of the Arab Spring that hit me.”
He blamed his own government’s secret police for blocking his efforts at political reform. For example, he charged that the secret police had conspired with conservatives in the political elite to block his attempts to open up more representation in Parliament to Palestinians, who make up more than half of Jordan’s population.
“Institutions I had trusted were just not on board,” he said, naming as an example the mukhabarat, or secret police. He said he had not realized at first how deeply “conservative elements” had become “embedded in certain institutions” like the mukhabarat. “Two steps forward, one step back,” he added.
Stopping the Islamists from winning power was now “our major fight” across the region, he said. During the interview, he repeatedly mocked the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab Islamist movement behind the largest opposition party in the Jordanian Parliament and Morsi’s governing party in Egypt, calling it “a Masonic cult” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” And he accused American diplomats of naïveté about their intentions.
“When you go to the State Department and talk about this, they’re like, ‘This is just the liberals talking, this is the monarch saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is deep-rooted and sinister,’ ” King Abdullah said. His job, he said, is to dissuade Westerners from the view that “the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.”