American writer and academician Robert Satloff summarizes his exclusive meeting with Jordanian King Hussein in 1996 as follows:
It was in River House, in June 1996, that I had my last face-to-face conversation with Hussein. When I entered, the house seemed almost empty—there appeared to be no one there except an aide or two and the king. Almost immediately, the king picked up a pack of cigarettes and lit up. That’s what got us started.
“I see you’re still smoking, Your Majesty,” I said, implicitly questioning the judgment of a man who had surgery to excise a cancerous tumor in his urinary tract and remove a kidney four years earlier. That exchange triggered a conversation we had never had before, a discussion about fate, risk, and choices. I asked Hussein, who was 60 at the time, what he considered his greatest regret. I had expected him to say something about the loss of Jerusalem, which Jordan had ruled from 1949 to 1967 but which Israel took in the June war and was never going to cede back to the Jordanians. But he thought for a moment and then said something totally unexpected. “My greatest regret is the terrible injury I did to my son, Abdullah,” said Hussein. I quickly realized what he was saying. Let me explain: Abdullah, born in January 1962, was Jordan’s crown prince until he was three years old, when advisors convinced the king that it was too dangerous to have a toddler as heir when there were so many threats on the king’s life. Heeding his advisors’ counsel, Hussein had Jordanian law amended in 1965 to name as crown prince his youngest brother, the then-18-year-old Hassan.
“Are you referring to taking the crown princeship away from him?”
“Yes,” he said. “I know how painful this was. And I vow that before I die, I will repair this. I will correct what I did.” Hussein ultimately changed the line of royal succession just two weeks before his death.
King Hussein’s 63-year life that ended on Feb. 7, 1999, was rife with trauma and shocks. On July 20, 1951, he witnessed his grandfather King Abdullah being killed in Al-Aqsa Mosque. Next year, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and assumed the throne after his father Talal was forced to abdicate. Taking the throne of an arduous country like Jordan at not even 17 years old, he managed to maintain his long reign of power until his death but not without surviving 12 assassination attempts and being subjected to no less than six coup attempts. On Aug. 29, 1960, a bomb that was meant for him killed Prime Minister Hazza' Majali; and on Nov. 28, 1971, charismatic Jordanian Prime Minister Wasfi Tal was murdered by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Egyptian capital, Cairo. The scene of one of the PLO militants, who fired a bullet in the lobby of the luxury hotel where Tel was assassinated, licking the prime minister's blood on the marble floor to suppress his anger, was actually a reflection of the hatred felt for King Hussein.
Hussein had always carried the dual trauma of his grandfather’s murder and the overthrowing of of his cousins who ruled Iraq and executed in a bloody military coup on July 14, 1958. Bequeathing the throne to his son Abdullah, he wanted to preserve the balance within his country and his family and to please Jordan's partners in the international arena. It is for this reason that he appointed his son born in the year 1980, Hamzah, whom he had with his fourth and final wife— an American named Lisa who converted to Islam and took on the name Noor— as crown prince, at the side of Abdullah, his son with wife Moona (whose previous name was Toni Avril Gardiner)
Hamzah remained as crown prince on the orders of King Abdullah until 2004. Then, in a letter he wrote to Hamzah, he dismissed his brother "with great affection," emphasizing that "this highly symbolic task did not leave time to fulfill the other responsibilities he took on." Five years later, he appointed his son Hussein, born in 1994, as crown prince.
One of the U.S. and Britain’s most important allies in the Middle East, Jordan bore witness to an interesting event last Saturday: More than 10 well-known and top-level figures were arrested. And Prince Hamzah was placed under house arrest. After Hamzah conveyed what had transpired to the public with videos posted in Arabic and English, the the Royal administration - through a live press conference organized by Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi – announced to the world that the prince had been involved in activities with foreign groups that targeted Jordan’s security and stability.
“The sedition is over,” said Safadi, highlighting that the prince’s fate would be decided within the family. And that’s what happened: King Abdullah tasked his uncle Hassan with talking to Hamzah. After the two dismissed princes met, Hamzah’s “regret and apology” was announced. With an official statement, it was announced that this event had been put to rest.
Those who closely monitor the region know: Jordanian intelligence is a global leader in its field. The Prince Hamzah debacle has once again reiterated this situation to some countries in the Middle East, serving as a lesson. Abdullah once more showed everyone who the “king” is.