Decades of predictions forecasting the imminent demise of “qadiyyah mustana,” the artificial entity called Jordan, all proved incorrect. Against all odds, both the Jordanian state and its Hashemite monarchial dynasty have not only survived but thrived. However, a perfect storm of domestic and foreign developments now are coalescing to make Abdullah, the last king of Jordan.

In the past, the prognosticators of doom included Jordan’s enemies and allies alike. Rival dynasties, like the al-Saud dynasty of Arabia, and aggressive neighbors like Syria and Iraq were left with appetites unsatisfied. Friends in the West, who bet against Jordan and its Hashemite ruling family, also had to acknowledge their surprise. U.S. National Security Council notes  and British Foreign Secretary Reports  both recommended to President and Prime Minister respectively to no longer invest political capital in the Hashemite kingdom, as Jordan’s survivability was in doubt.

However, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Golda Meir was not persuaded by the doomsayers. She perceived rare leadership qualities in Jordan’s young King Hussein.  She then convinced Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion of the practicality of developing a secret and nuanced relationship with Amman.

It is surprising that Jordan and indeed remarkable that the Hashemite dynasty survived the past 70 years of tumult in the most tempestuous region on earth.  The Jordanian State and Hashemite Dynasty endured three Arab-Israeli Wars, a Palestinian rebellion, the “Arab Spring” overthrow of several secular dictatorships in the region, and an ongoing six year civil war across the border in Syria, with multinational powers taking up sides in the conflict.

Nevertheless, a few more challenges to Jordan’s well-being and that of its ruling monarch are on the near horizon.  The impending existential threat to Jordan is driven by Islamic terrorists who are infiltrating the country from Syria. Islamic State (IS) operatives also are recruiting agents inside Jordan’s Palestinian refugee encampments.  IS guerrillas are staging operations against Jordanian border guard posts and General Intelligence Directorate (GID) installations which are likely shaking the regime’s self-confidence.

Jordan’s monarchy also is being challenged by secular, democratic-leftist oppositionists who are pressing for a transformative change in the country’s political leadership. Economically, the secular-left wants a redistribution of the country’s wealth to benefit Jordan’s poor. Politically, the left is demanding an end to gerrymandering of parliamentary representation which now favors the rural tribes who support a strong monarchy. Some in the urban-based leftist camp want an end to the monarchy altogether.

 In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood is remonstrating for economic reforms designed to improve the lot of the country’s poor, especially conditions for Jordan’s Palestinian majority. The Brotherhood, formerly a force for stability in Jordan, now only lend  support for a Hashemite on the throne, if he were a Constitutional Monarch.  The Brotherhood is now divided between an older, more conservative wing and a younger group which believes that the monarchy is sufficiently weakened for the Brotherhood to act more boldly than in the past.

The monarchy survived the economic and anti-corruption protests which followed in the wake of the “Arab Spring” dissolution of the region’s secular tyrannies in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Libya. The regime endured because of decisive and flexible political decisions by the King who restored subsidies, reduced prices on fuel and food staples following protests. He also has fired several Prime Ministers and Cabinet officials. Recently he even dissolved Parliament to defuse a crisis.
Moreover, the effective and loyal GID helped maintain political stability during the immediate post-Arab Spring regional revolutions. Nonetheless, the frequency of protests and growing numbers of demonstrators at these rallies make it clear to King and Court that Jordanians want fundamental political and economic reform. 

The current quiet on the streets of Amman does not reflect a population which is content with Jordan’s recent marginally improved economy. This improvement is a consequence of reopened trade routes to Iraq, due to the roll-back of Islamic State territorial control.  This improvement may prove temporary as opposition elements, sensing a weakened monarch, are likely to press for political liberalization. New protests also could materialize, particularly if the government gives in to International Monetary Fund pressure and again reduces subsidies for food and fuel.

The present lack of anti-government political protest may be tied to the fumes of good will Abdullah received following the Islamic State’s barbaric execution by immolation, of a captured Jordanian pilot.  Abdullah, emulating his late father’s charismatic personality and bold personal style of leadership, donned a military uniform and flew a bombing mission against Islamic State targets in Syria, following the murder of the young pilot.

Nevertheless, Abdullah is not as popular as his father the late King Hussein. Moreover the political power of Jordan’s major Bedouin tribes continues to decline as most now live in planned settlements. Moreover, many of the tribal leaders in rural Jordan who remained steadfastly loyal to the Hashemite family are now elderly or deceased. Many other tribal descendants are moving to urban areas of the country. 

In addition, adverse demographic trends may be approaching the tipping point.  A conservative estimate of Jordan’s refugee population of Palestinians, Syrians, and Iraqis is that these residents now form more than 40% of the population within the country’s borders.”

Perhaps the most threatening development of all, is the growing radicalization of Jordan’s young male population. The most popular Imams in Jordan’s mosques are those extremist clerics dispatched from Saudi Arabia. Jordan’s once moderate vein of Sunni Islam is becoming increasingly militant, reflecting Riyadh’s brand of radical Wahhabi Islam. 

The next wave of anti-regime protests will be difficult to contain without the King surrendering most, if not all, of his current absolutist power. However, due to the weakness of its neighbors, the Jordanian state is likely to endure. The monarchy may not.