David Frum

01.04.13

Jordan's Troubled Regime

Jordan's King Abdullah II (L) and Queen Rania arrive at Windsor Castle, west of London, on May 18, 2012, for a Sovereign's Jubilee Lunch hosted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. (JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/GettyImages) ()

Who knew I was vacationing in a powder keg? Rami Khouri gives the lowdown on Jordan. It's not just about overcharging tourists for donkey rides.

Jordan’s problem today is that three critical groups in the country have been slowly losing faith in the capacity of the ruling elite to manage the country efficiently and equitably, and they are speaking out to demand significant changes in the political and economic management systems. These groups are the tens of thousands of Islamists who tend to be disproportionately of Palestinian origin and live in a few large urban areas; the marginalized rural Transjordanians in places like Tafileh and Maan, who dangerously mirror the same sentiments of vulnerability and fear that we saw in rural Tunisia, Egypt and Syria in early 2011; and -- perhaps the most troubling danger sign that the regime must grasp soon -- the thousands of educated, dynamic, creative and loyal young professionals from both East and West Bank lineage who have been disappointed by the lack of political reform and economic advances during the last dozen years of King Abdullah II’s reign.

The result of the economic disparities and the parallel political discontent that ripple through the country is mainly evident in a newfound willingness by young and adult alike to speak their mind in public, including most notably crossing former red lines …

Just on that last point: I was startled when a young and educated guide, hearing that I was a journalist, interrupted our discussion of Nabatean to launch into a spontaneous and highly detailed complaint against the allegedly corrupt business dealings of the relatives of Queen Rania.