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January 1999 
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ABDULLAH OF JORDAN
HOW HISTORY TURNS

MER - Washington - 31 January)

Today's history in the Middle East was planted much earlier in thecentury. And tomorrow's history in the region is being planted now, in our own time.

The origins of the "Hashemite Kingdom" of Jordan through British intrique go back many decades, to the same period of modern-day Iraq's creation and the carving out of Kuwait from Iraq.

Professor David Fromkin in his extraordinary book about the creation of today's Middle East summarizes the crucial events of 1921 at which time a part of mandate Palestine was turned over "temporarily" to the first Abdullah, son of Hussein of Mecca:

"Having opted for a Hashemite solution in Iraq, the conference did the same -- though on a temporary basis -- for Transjordan. Disorder was endemic in that territory, and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff was of the view that Britain could not hold onto it without sending in two more battalions 'which of course we have not got.' Even as the conference was taking place in Cairo, alarming news was received that Feisal's brother Abdullah, accompanied by 30 officers and 200 Bedouins, had arrived in the Transjordan city of Amman, apparently en route to Syria to attack Damascus (then controlled by the French after having military expelled Abdullah's brother Feisal - ed.). Abdullah claimed that he had come to Amman for a change of air in order to regain his health after an attack of jaundice. Nobody believed his explanation. Churchill's solution was, in effect, to buy off Abdullah: to offer him a position in Transjordan if he would refrain from attacking French Syria. (It will be recalled that Britain feared that if Arabs from the territory of British Palestine were to attack the French in Syria, France would retaliate by invading British Palestine.)


 

 

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