Monday, May 22, 2017

22-May-17: On King Abdullah of Jordan's counter-terror priorities

Riyadh and the conference attendees [Image Source]
Some surprising things happened, and also didn't happen, at an event addressed by, among others, the ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

King Abdullah II, who presides over a country that is overwhelmingly Palestinian Arab (between 70 and 80% of its population, with most of the rest being Bedouin Arabs) spoke this past Saturday at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. The event attracted the participation of a spectrum of Arab and Muslim leaders (notably not the Iranians) and of US President Donald Trump.

The text of the report comes from Jordan's official news agency Petra ["King participates in Arab-Islamic-American Summit"] and is unedited except for some deletions. (Our comments come at the end.) Petra's introduction says Abdullah II  "spoke about a range of issues, foremost of which is the fight against terrorism and extremism". But on close reading, not even that part of it is true.

We'll skip the first few paragraphs of formal greetings and invocations.
Let me start by thanking my brother, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its hospitality and graciously hosting this summit. 
Mr. President: Allow me to express my gratitude for taking this step to reach out to Muslim nations, and making it a priority on your first foreign tour as President of the United States. 
We meet today to advance an effective response to the serious threats facing our world. The future for all of us will be shaped by the actions as you pointed out we take now, and we all have to work in partnership in four key areas. Let me say a brief word about each:
First and foremost, is the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism. Only a holistic approach can address the complex layers of the threat, from its evil ideas to its attack on prosperity and security. As you have mentioned, this demands coordinated and global action at every level. Success requires our mutual trust as well as our strength. The fight will not be won if we do not recognise our friends as our friends and our enemies as our enemies.

Terrorist groups employ a false religious identity. Their aim is to mislead and polarise our societies and peoples. Let us state here, clearly: Terrorist groups do not inhabit the fringes of Islam they are altogether outside of Islam; they are khawarej, outlaws of Islam. Arabs and Muslims, as you pointed out, Sir, make up the majority of their victims. Intolerance and ignorance will only aid terror groups. It is vital to help everyone, everywhere, understand this.
Mr. President: A second and equally vital challenge is a just and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian cause, based on the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative. This can bring an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and guarantees peace for all Israelis, Arabs, and Muslims. No injustice has spread more bitter fruit than the absence of a Palestinian state. This is the core issue for our region, and it has driven radicalism and instability beyond our region and into the Muslim world. 
The international community has a direct interest in a just peace. The Arab and Muslim world has offered its full support for effective negotiations. And here, Sir, I would like to thank you for your determination to work towards bringing a settlement to this festering conflict. We will stand by you, Sir, in your efforts and work with you as partners
Third, safeguarding Jerusalem must be a priority. The Holy City is a strategic linchpin, vital to relationships among the three monotheistic faiths. Attempts to create new negotiating facts on the ground will have a catastrophic impact. All of us must engage in averting these dangers. To me personally, and to all Jordanians, the Hashemite Custodianship of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian Holy Sites is an unbreakable, historical responsibility, and an honour to undertake on behalf of the Arab and Muslim nations. 
Mr. President: A fourth critical task is to sharpen public focus on the values that will protect and enrich humanity’s future: mutual respect, compassion, and acceptance. In the Muslim world, the voice of traditional, moderate Islam has been stronger in recent years. We need to continue to build on that...  
Our future is based on deeds, Sir, not words. We are all accountable for our commitment to fight radicalisation in all its forms.

Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, Excellencies, President Donald Trump: We must enhance our joint efforts, so that we are better able, with God’s help, to serve our peoples and future generations. Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.
Interesting to note from media coverage of the Summit that Abdullah's view that the issue he calls "the Palestinian cause", whose "injustice has spread more bitter fruit" than any other and is "the core issue for our region" (those are direct quotes from his speech text) was mentioned by - as far as we can tell - no other leader present. As for His Majesty's assertion that "No injustice has spread more bitter fruit than the absence of a Palestinian state", we think he's lucky that none of the media coverage drilled down on the long Jordanian military occupation of "Palestine" between 1948 (when Jordan's army tried to crush the new-born State of Israel to death) and 1967 (when the Jordanians were displaced by Israeli forces) and how that impacted on the injustice of which he spoke so passionately.

An Al Arabiya report ["Defeating terror key message of Arab Islamic American Summit"] mentions that the Saudi get-together had "50 leaders from the Muslim world participating". And that "cooperation between the Muslim world and the US in order to halt terrorism and extremism in the world" kept them busy.

But not Palestine.

The Aljazeera summing up ["Riyadh summit discusses ways of rooting out terrorism"] suggests that the millions of Muslims tuning in to TV coverage, "watching this speech will be totally surprised by a completely different tone by President Trump". It also mentions what the host, Saudi King Salman, said.

But not a word about Palestine. And no mention of King Abdullah either.

The White House report of President Trump's message to the conference [here] shows him saying that he "will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican – visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic Faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible – including peace between Israelis and Palestinians." That's all the airplay Palestine got in POTUS' speech.

The Ma'an News Agency report [here] of Mahmoud Abbas' participation mentions - at length and in detail - the identities of the various people who greeted him on arrival at the airport. But nothing about what he said or didn't say at the conference.

If Abdullah wanted his fellow potentates to buy the notion that "the core issue for our region" concerns Palestinian Arab rights, then this was not his best weekend.

On terror, what Abdullah said is seriously disturbing - not because he is wrong but because he plainly does not believe the things he said. Terrorism can be blunted and overturned only by "coordinated and global action at every level"; by "mutual trust as well as our strength". And the fight will fail "if we do not recognise our friends as our friends and our enemies as our enemies".

Also that Jordan "will stand by" the United States" and "work with you as partners". That, to be clear, is not the message we have gotten about Jordan's co-operation with Washington.

Here's the test. If the king seriously means what he just said in Riyadh, why is Ahlam Tamimi, our daughter's murderer and an FBI fugitive from justice who is being shielded by Abdullah's regime, not on a plane to the United States at this moment?

Why is she not facing a US prosecutor in a US court right now? Why are the FBI's Arabic-language "Most Wanted Terrorist" posters with Tamimi's face on them, not displayed in Jordanian post offices, hotel lobbies, government buildings, royal palaces?

Why, when Jordan already provides more ISIS Islamist fighters per capita than any other country [see the data here], is the king ensuring this unrepentant Islamist terrorist is kept safe and secure within Jordan's borders? And far away from the United States Department of Justice?

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