DAMMAM: Saudi Arabia fervently denies any involvement in the Jordanian royal feud, but the arrest of an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sparked unease in Riyadh, which sources say is pushing for his release.
Bassem Awadallah, considered an influential figure familiar with the inner workings of Saudi leadership, has been trapped in a rift within Jordan’s royal family that has unfolded in full public light.
Riyadh has officially given its support to Jordan’s King Abdullah 2nd, who has sought to draw a line under the damaging feud with his half-brother Prince Hamzah as state television showed them together on Sunday for the first time since outbreak of the crisis.
Saudi officials dismissed speculation that he was behind the split, insisting that such royal infighting could have dangerous ripple effects for other monarchies in the Tinderbox area. . Speculation arose as Jordan suggested that a “foreign” hand was behind the crisis, with observers immediately pointing the finger of suspicion on Riyadh.
The crisis follows media reports that warming Saudi-Israel relations could cost Jordan – home to a large Palestinian population – custody of holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a key source of legitimacy for the ruling Hashemite dynasty in Amman.
But a source close to Saudi Arabia’s leadership, who is no stranger to royal cuts, told AFP that Riyadh has “no interest in
destabilize Jordan ”, a long-standing regional ally. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan led a delegation to Amman last week to express what he called solidarity with Abdullah.
The trip took place, the source said, as Saudi leaders believed that “the (Jordanian) king was fueled by rumors from other parties that they had to refute in person and not over the phone.” But, further intensifying speculation over Saudi motives, two sources familiar with the discussions said the delegation in Amman pushed for Awadallah’s release.
Awadallah, a Saudi-Jordanian, appeared alongside Prince Mohammed at the Davos Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. He was also pictured praying next to the prince, known by his initials MBS, an honor usually reserved for his closest confidants.
Awadallah, a controversial figure in Jordan who served as head of his royal court and also a special envoy to Saudi Arabia, is among at least 16 people arrested in connection with what Amman has described as a plot to destabilize the country.
“Not only the (Saudi) foreign minister went to look for Bassem, the Saudi director of intelligence and the chief of staff of MBS went to Amman,” Bruce Riedel, a former US military officer, told AFP. long time from the CIA to the Brookings Institution.
The Saudi source denied that the delegation was there for Awadallah, without specifying which officials were on the team. “Awadallah has a personal relationship with the crown prince,” a Western official based in the Gulf told AFP.