Succession plots are brewing inside Jordan's Hashemite dynasty. Reversing a deathbed wish of the late King Hussein, King Abdullah II stunned his subjects last week by summoning Crown Prince Hamzah his half brother from a holiday and abruptly sacking him as heir to the throne. "It was a complete surprise," said Mustafa Hamarneh, a prominent Jordanian political analyst.
Hamzah, eldest son of the late King Hussein and American-born Queen Noor, nearly succeeded Hussein in 1999 when the monarch, dying of cancer, dismissed his brother, longtime Crown Prince Hassan. So close was Hamzah to his father that even Abdullah, then a 36-year-old military officer, assumed that his younger half brother, then 18, would get the royal nod. But roughly two weeks before his death, Hussein opted for Abdullah's maturity and experience but made it clear that he should in turn make Hamzah his crown prince and "critical partner." Abdullah acceded, but never truly accepted Hamzah. Abdullah, for example, never gave Hamzah important tasks or even a ranking seat at the official dining table.
Though Jordan's royals have publicly united around the latest switch, tongues are still wagging about this new burst of palace infighting. In his dismissal letter, Abdullah said he had decided to "free" the Sandhurst graduate of his "symbolic" post in order to let him undertake unspecified responsibilities and missions. Hamzah's terse reply quoted a Koranic verse, saying simply, "Obey ... those charged with authority."
Abdullah said he would now give the Hashemite vacancy his "sincere attention." Many assume that he always wanted his own bloodline to succeed him. Until he formally announces a new crown prince, 10-year-old Hussein, the eldest of Abdullah's three children with Queen Rania, will be the Kingdom's de facto No. 2.