In a rare and remarkably candid interview with a Western journalist, King Abdullah II of Jordan speaks critically of other Arab leaders, his own family, and the U.S. State Department, which he describes as naive in its dealings with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
Speaking recently to American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, an expert on the Middle East and longtime acquaintance of the monarch, King Abdullah said that stopping the Islamists from gaining power across the region is “our major fight,” according to an advance copy of the interview for The Atlantic Magazine that was obtained by The New York Times.
In the piece due to be published this week, the king describes the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamist movement behind Morsi, as “a Masonic cult” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“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,’” he said, according to the Times.
King Abdullah, Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world, also reportedly told Goldberg that his job is to change the view among Westerners that “the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Times also noted that Abdullah also finds fault with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, describing him as an authoritarian who views democracy as a “bus ride,” as in “Once I get to my stop, I am getting off.”
The king revealed in his conversations with Goldberg that he had offered asylum to the family of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“They said, ‘Thank you very much, but why don’t you worry about your country more than you worry about us?’” he recalled.
Abdullah predicted that Arab monarchies would soon be a thing of the past, the Times reported.
“Where are monarchies in 50 years?” he asked at one point, adding that his own family, which consists of 11 siblings and half-siblings, has yet to grasp the lessons of the Arab Spring or understand the fact that people will no longer tolerate excess or corruption on the part of their leaders.
“I’m always having to stop members of my family from putting lights on their guard cars,” Abdullah reportedly told Goldberg. “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.”
If convicted of corruption, he said even his own sons should be punished.
“Everybody else is expendable in the royal family,” he said. “That is the reality of the Arab Spring that hit me.”
Unlike his father, King Hussein, Abdullah said he plans to move his country toward a British-style constitutional monarchy in recognition of the public sentiment that prompted the Arab Spring.
“The monarchy is going to change,” he vowed.
The king also criticized Jordan’s secret police, accusing them of stalling his reform efforts to give Palestinians, who make up more than half of the country, greater representation in Parliament.
“Institutions I had trusted were just not on board,” he said, referring to the mukhabarat, or secret police.
Abdullah also described himself as a bit naive, telling Goldberg that he could not see the challenges ahead 14 years ago when he inherited the throne from his father. He referred to himself as an out-of-touch “Forest Gump” when he was living under his father’s long reign.
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