Will President Trump bring King Abdullah to Heel?
Last Spring, seven GOP legislators threatened Jordan with economic sanctions and the withholding of aid money if it didn’t extradite the infamous terrorist, Al-Tamimi.
Al-Tamimi was involved in the terrorist bombing of the Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001, which claimed the lives of 15 civilians, including two Americans. Due to a prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel in October of 2011, Al-Tamimi was released to Jordan where she has been living ever since.
King Abdullah has refused to extradite her to the U.S. despite her being placed on the FBI's most wanted list and a criminal extradition treaty signed between U.S. and the Government of Jordan (GoJ) in 1995.
For years, if not decades, Congress and succeeding administrations have looked very favourably on King Abdullah of Jordan. Only a select group of Americans knew the truth, namely that Abdullah was not a friend.
In response to questions from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) posed at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings a few days ago, President Trump's nominee ambassador to Jordan, Henry Wooster, confirmed,
"The United States has multiple options and different types of leverage to secure Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi's extradition,"
"We will continue to engage Jordanian officials at all levels not only on this issue, but also on the extradition treaty more broadly. U.S. generosity to Jordan in Foreign Military Financing as well as economic support and other assistance is carefully calibrated to protect and advance the range of U.S. interests in Jordan and in the region."
On June 16/20, AP reported that "US considers withholding aid to Jordan to force extradition." Considering that the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs released a report dated June 30, 2020, claiming,
“The United States is Jordan's single largest provider of bilateral assistance, providing more than $1.5 billion in 2019, including $1.082 billion appropriated by the U.S. Congress to Jordan through USAID in the 2019 fiscal year budget, and $425 million in Foreign Military Financing.”
This was a heavy-duty threat.
The king's excuses have ranged from the fact that the extradition agreement has never been ratified by the Jordanian Parliament, to Jordan's Court of Cassation ruling that the treaty was illegal, thus denying the U.S. request to extradite Al-Tamimi.
Sources inside the king's intelligence apparatus have confirmed that King Abdullah will not change his position on Al-Tamimi's extradition. The reason for this is simple: Al-Tamimi is a member of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
The king's administration has told the media several times that "The Muslim Brotherhood is a part of the Jordanian system" and that "The Muslim Brotherhood is a part of the regime".
Abdullah is even more dependent on the MB now because the Bedouin upon whom he used to rely have developed a hatred for him.
As for Jordan's Palestinian majority, it has historically hated Abdullah and his family.
King Abdullah knows President Trump is nowhere near as forgiving as previous U.S. administrations have been when it comes to terrorism supporters, especially those who call themselves America's friends.
Abdullah's tactic is to keep dragging the issue out in the hopes that President Trump will lose the 2020 presidential elections and that America forgets.
As for the court’s ruling against Al-Tamimi’s extradition, the king is the head of the judiciary authorities in Jordan. According to the constitution, he could override any court decision.
Jordanians have not exhibited any support for Al-Tamimi in social media or on the streets. For the vast majority of them, she is a non-issue. But they have protested against the king.
The king himself breaks the law, violates the constitution and provokes Jordanians every day by trying civilians before the State Security Court, a martial court deemed illegal by the Jordanian constitution and even international law. Every week, this court sentences critics of the king to jail and has sentenced people to lengthy jail sentences for things like issuing bad checks. Additionally, this court has ordered executions.
Al-Tamimi is not the only killer of Americans the King is protecting. He is also protecting Muarek Abu Tayeh.
Abu Tayeh was the Jordanian airman who killed three Green Berets in cold blood in November 2016. The Americans have always insisted on interrogating Abu Tayeh independently, and the king rejected this request on multiple occasions. The king and his government protected him, and even promoted him in rank at the beginning.
Thanks to the victims' families’ pressure and lobbying in D.C. the king eventually agreed to have Abu Tayeh prosecuted for the lesser crimes of second-degree murder. He was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing three people. Abu Tayeh has sustained his claim during and after trial "I have carried out the orders," hinting he was asked to do what he did.
Nevertheless, the FBI has not been allowed to independently interrogate him. Simply put, Abu Tayeh has a story to tell that may involve his commanders, and the king does not want the Americans to hear it. If the U.S. seeks to have him extradited, that could be another pandora's box opening in the king's face.
How long can the King refuse to cooperate? Is the Trump administration determined to bring him to heel?
We shall see.