Cover image for King Hussein : a life on the edge
King Hussein : a life on the edge
Dallas, Roland.
Personal Author:
First Fromm International edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Fromm International, 1999.
Physical Description:
xxiv, 306 pages : illustrations, maps, genea. table ; 24 cm
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Material Type
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Central Library DS154.55 .D32 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Dallas, journalist and editor of Foreign Report, offers a sympathetic biography of Jordan's King Hussein. He traces Hussein's life from his boyhood to his death in 1999, focusing on the effect of Hussein's life on the politics of Jordan and the Middle East as a whole.

Author Notes

Roland Dallas spent many years with Reuters, as correspondent in Mexico City, Buenos Aries, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong and Rome and as chief correspondent and features editor in Washington. Since 1982 he has been editor of Foreign Report, newsletter on world affairs.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

An astute, dramatic biography that also serves as a political history of the Middle East power game, Dallas's book is a gripping portrait of the highly paradoxical king of Jordan, who died of cancer last February. Hussein was a strong man, writes Dallas, who "ran a quasi-democracy." Though a friend of the West, Hussein had more amicable relations with fiercely anti-American Islamists than did the leaders of other Arab countries. Dallas, editor of the London-based Foreign Report newsletter, shows that Hussein's embattled regime (launched in 1953 when the 18-year-old prince took the reins of power from his schizophrenic, incapacitated father) was propped up not only by the U.S. and Britain but also by Israel, which indirectly came to Hussein's rescue time and again, viewing the king, moderate by the region's standards, as a buffer to Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Like his grandfather, King Abdullah, who was assassinated by a Muslim extremist in Jerusalem in 1951, King Hussein kept channels open with Israel through clandestine meetings beginning in 1963. While Dallas covers Hussein's relations with Israel (always more cordial than Israel's relations with its other Arab neighbors, even after the 1967 war in which Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan), the book is more interesting for the light it sheds on conflict among the ArabsÄespecially the strife between the king and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who, after 1967, set up a Palestinian state-within-a-state in Jordan. Ultimately, Dallas concludes that the king was "a man of substance who had lessons to impart" about the virtues of moderation in an immoderate region of the world. Maps, photos not seen by PW. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Although there have been other biographies of King Hussein (e.g., James D. Lunt's Hussein: A Political Biography, 1989), this is the first since his death last February. Dallas, editor of the London-based Foreign Report, offers a comprehensive analysis of Hussein's remarkable 46-year reign. Hussein became king at 18 and through skill, luck, and well-placed friends managed to survive assassination and coup attempts as he searched for a leadership role in the Arab world. He was, Dallas argues, a political realistÄfor years he held clandestine meetings with the Israelis, for example. A benevolent strongman in the domestic arena, he never ceded power to anyone; 55 governments came and went during his reign. His personal life was equally eventfulÄhe had four marriages (the last to American Lisa Halaby). This is a clearly written, objective, and focused account of Hussein's complex life; Dallas manages to explain Hussein's reign from Hussein's point of view (though a bibliography would have been useful). Recommended for all libraries.ÄRuth K. Baacke, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This biography of King Hussein of Jordan gives a solid narrative history of the King from birth to death. Dallas, a former Reuters correspondent and editor of Foreign Report, has developed an informative, readable biography of one of the quiet giants of world history. Beginning with the king's grandfather and followed by a nod to his father, King Hussein's life is traced to the end, with intelligent journalistic commentary on his political positions and Jordan's travails. This is not deep scholarship but a basic accounting of the balancing act King Hussein played throughout his entire life to fend off enemies (the Palestinians), cooperate with adversaries (the Israelis), and give his people stability. Dallas does not undertake a full assessment of the King's accomplishments but says enough to convince readers that the world fared far better with an effective and balanced monarch like Hussein at Jordan's helm than it would have with a Jordanian Qaddafi. Recommended at all levels. J. D. Stempel; University of Kentucky



Chapter One     MURDER AT THE MOSQUE The American ambassador begged the king to drop his plan of praying at Jerusalem's great al-Aksa mosque and instead pray at the mosque in Amman, where he would be among friends.     "I have heard there may be an attempt on your life," he said. King Abdullah of Jordan replied: "Even if it were true, I would go. I will die when I am destined to die."     Abdullah knew his expedition was dangerous. "I have asked many people to come with me to Jerusalem tomorrow," he told his 16-year-old grandson, Prince Hussein. "It is very strange. Some of them don't want to come. They seem afraid of something. I have never heard so many feeble excuses in my life."     Arab East Jerusalem in July 1951 was tense. On July 16th a prominent Lebanese politician, Riad al-Sulh, had been murdered there. King Abdullah had wanted to pray at al-Aksa for two reasons, one official and the other top secret. The official reason was that the king regarded al-Sulh's murder as an attempt by his Palestinian enemies to destabilize his kingdom. Abdullah wanted to show that he was not afraid of them and that he remained in charge.     The secret reason was that the king had arranged, while in Jerusalem, to hold a clandestine meeting about possible terms for a peace agreement between Jordan and Israel with Reuven Shiloah and Moshe Sasson of the Israeli foreign ministry in a Jerusalem house on Saturday July 21st (according to Sasson).     The 69-year-old king was going against all the odds. Israel was being difficult about concessions. Sentiment among Palestinians, including hundreds of thousands turned into refugees by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, was fiercely opposed to peace with the Jews, who were regarded as cruel usurpers and oppressors. Many Palestinians, dreaming that somehow they might return home after Israel was destroyed on the field of battle, feared that Abdullah planned to betray them. "I know that I am hated," he told a visitor. But peace with Israel was the only sensible solution that he could envisage.     His grandson had been surprised a few days before the Jerusalem trip by Abdullah's words, which came out of the blue. "I hope you realise that one day you will have to assume responsibility," he said solemnly. "I look to you to do your very best to see that my work is hot lost." Then Abdullah asked his grandson to accompany him to al-Aksa and, unexpectedly, to wear his military uniform. The grandson, who hero-worshipped his grandfather and liked nothing better than to sit in his tent and listen to him talking to visitors, immediately agreed.     Before leaving Amman, his capital, Abdullah was chatting to some acquaintances about life and death. "When I have to die, I would like to be shot in the head by a nobody," he said. "That's the simplest way of dying."     On Friday July 20th, amid tight security, the old king and the young prince arrived at al-Aksa. A guard of honour presented arms. The king rebuked them: noisy military ceremonies should not be held in holy places, he said. Abdullah entered the haram (large courtyard), paid his respects at the tomb of his father, King Hussein of the Hejaz, and entered the mosque, where the Koran was being recited to about 1,000 of the faithful and being broadcast live. As his grandson recalled it later, the king turned to enter, and when he had taken about three paces inside the main doors, a man came out from behind the great door to his right. He did not look normal. He had a gun in his hand and, before anyone could react, he fired. The man was only 6 feet away but Abdullah never saw him. The king was hit behind his right ear and fell to the ground. His turban rolled away.     The man fired more shots, one of which (by Hussein's account) struck a medal on his chest and ricocheted away. He later decided that his grandfather's insistence that he wear his uniform had saved his life.     The shots were heard by listeners to Jerusalem Radio. So were the shots of Abdullah's soldiers, who killed perhaps 20 people and injured some 300 in panic and fury.     The king's party went from the mosque to Jerusalem's airfield where a Scottish wing-commander in Jordan's air force, Jock Dalgleish, came up to the young prince and offered to fly him back to Amman in a two-seater Dove. He accepted the offer. "I little thought that two years later Dalgleish would teach me how to fly," he wrote, "and that seven years later Jock and I, in similar aircraft, would be fighting for our lives, attacked by Nasser's Syrian MiGs. The next day I carried a gun for the first time in my life."     Who killed the king? A nobody, thus fulfilling his wish: a tailor's apprentice from Jerusalem with a criminal record who was a member of "Holy War", a paramilitary group led by Haj Amin Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem. The men behind him were, according to the findings of an investigation, Abdullah al-Tall, who had served as an aide of the king but had changed sides and lived in Cairo, and two relatives of the mufti. By one account, the investigators concluded that 60,000 Palestinian pounds, a huge sum of money, had passed hands. It was assumed, writes the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, that the mufti, King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian government had all played a part in instigating and financing the murder.     Reactions were mixed. The French consul in Jerusalem, no friend of the pro-British Abdullah, said: "There are 600,000 Palestinians who are delighted with his death." The British felt the main prop of their Middle East strategy had been knocked out from under them. Prince Hussein was devastated. "He of all men had the most profound influence on my life," he wrote later, after becoming king of Jordan. "He loved me very much, that I know, and I loved him to the point where I no longer feared his rather austere outward appearance. To him I think I was a son."     On November 6th 1995, giving the eulogy at the funeral in Jerusalem of Yitzhak Rabin, the assassinated Israeli prime minister, the 60-year-old King Hussein recalled his grandfather's fate in Jerusalem in 1951 and added, with Abdullah's fatalism: "When my time comes, I hope it will be like my grandfather's and like Yitzhak Rabin's." He did not enjoy that final luxury. Chapter Two     GROWING UP Prince Hussein may have been a well-loved "son" to his grandfather, but life in the Jordanian royal family was tense and difficult. Hussein's father, Crown Prince Talal, was showing signs of emotional instability and his father, Amir Abdullah of Transjordan (as the king was first known) treated Talal with contempt. As a strong and healthy man, Abdullah could not appreciate what mental illness was. Talal suffered acute mood swings: at times gentle and sensible, he was also subject to withdrawal and fits of violence that were eventually diagnosed by Swiss specialists as dementia praecox (schizophrenia).     It was a sad fate for an intelligent man in his 40s who had prepared carefully for kingship at the British military academy at Sandhurst, as a cavalry officer in Jordan's Arab Legion and as a judge of the tribal courts. Abdullah, who had dreamed of having a brave, intrepid Bedouin son as his successor, thought Talal was awkward, difficult and above all weak and indecisive. "My own son hates me," Abdullah complained. Talal was the son of Abdullah and his first wife, Musbah, who was also his first cousin.     Talal's illness did not, however, prevent him marrying and fathering five children. When he was well, he entranced them as a story-teller. He seemed kind and gentle, quite unlike the bluff, stern Abdullah. Talal's wife, Zain, evoked her son Hussein's strongest adjectives when he described her: she was net only very beautiful but also very wise, tender and loving and full of advice and encouragement -- "a major factor in my life".     Hussein credited his mother with helping his father to step in after the death of King Abdullah and rule Jordan, if only for less than a year. Talal could have not done it without her.     As a small boy, life was a strain for Hussein. Talal was poor: his allowance was of only £1,000 a year. The family lived in a five-room house with one bathroom. The crown prince's growing schizophrenia and differences with his father must have been an acute strain. At one point the family was so short of cash that, at his mother's request, Hussein said he made a painful sacrifice for a small boy: to sell the bicycle that his cousin, Crown Prince Feisal of Iraq, had given him as a farewell present at the end of a visit to Baghdad. It had been his pride and joy.     Before the age of 16 Hussein had gone to seven schools, in Amman and the Egyptian city of Alexandria. He seems to have been sent to schools and withdrawn from them at the whim of his grandfather and father; Abdullah favoured English and Islam while Talal stressed Arabic. At his first school, a Christian mission in Amman, he was not a top-of-the-class student.     Hussein was happiest, in the period before his grandfather's assassination, at Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt, where he learnt not only Arabic and English but also "football, cricket, books and companionship". He pleased his grandfather by taking lessons in fencing. He loved being treated like the other boys and making friends. But he added wistfully: "I never had any who were really close." By another account, this small, solemn schoolboy was bullied.     Having decided that Talal would not make a worthy successor, Abdullah pinned his hopes on young Hussein, who was Talal's eldest son. When home on holiday from Victoria College in the last year of Abdullah's life, Hussein was woken up at 6 am and taken to the king's palace by 6.30 am. In a room set aside for studies, the young prince read Arabic and religious texts with a tutor. Occasionally he had breakfast with his grandfather: a cup of cardamom-flavoured coffee with some flat bread-cakes without butter or jam. Sometimes Hussein acted as his grandfather's interpreter when he dealt with English-speaking visitors (Abdullah said he spoke only Arabic and Turkish though in fact he also understood English and probably could speak it).     Most evenings Prince Hussein dined with his grandfather. "I would listen to him talking about the subtleties and pitfalls of the hazardous profession of being a king," he wrote later. "Or I would sit at meetings with notables, or watch him dictate or play chess." Hussein's preparation for government, reminiscent of that of William Pitt the Younger at the hands of his father, the Earl of Chatham, could not have been bettered. During the period between his grandfather's death and his own accession to the Hashemite throne he did not forget what he had learnt.     Hussein acquired a bitter streak. He would never forget the sight of his grandfather's supposed friends abandoning him and scurrying for safety after he had been shot, and the rapacious politicians subsequently fighting for the crumbs of office. "If life is cheap, man is cheaper yet," he thought.     After Abdullah's assassination, Hussein wanted to return to Victoria College in Alexandria. However, because of' tension in relations between Egypt and Jordan, this was impossible for the crown prince. So Hussein had to start again, this time at Harrow, one of Britain's most prestigious private schools, where his cousin Feisal, later to become king of Iraq and to be savagely assassinated, was already a student.     Harrow was difficult. Hussein found that his English was not as good as he had thought: it was hard to understand not only the British aristocratic accent (he thought it was a "gabble") but also the unwritten laws of private-school behaviour. Hussein's best subjects were history and English literature, but it was an effort to understand and learn at the same time.     At first his fellow-schoolboys struck him as snobbish, arrogant and remote. But he eventually made friends, learnt how to play rugby and, predictably for a boy short in stature, played scrum half. His house-master said: "At the beginning of term he went out to play rugby for the first time. He had never seen the game before, and was a bit lost to start with. But before the end of the game he was tackling low like an old hand." One of Hussein's recollections, symbolizing his acceptance at Harrow, was the glow he said he felt on the rugby pitch when a boy threw him a long, low pass shouting: "Get going, Hussein! It's all yours!" Later, when he was king in 1962, Hussein said that he was very proud to have been at Harrow, numbered many Old Harrovians as friends and loved to wear his Harrovian tie.     On one occasion when both Hussein and Feisal were at Harrow, a senior British official asked how the young princes were getting on. Feisal, said the headmaster, was well-behaved, quiet and unassuming and might make an excellent constitutional monarch if allowed the opportunity. Hussein, on the other hand, was more vigorous, headstrong and determined, likely to be a strong ruler. However the future king's house matron found him to be highly strung and sometimes lonely. She also said he was "a very philosophical fellow, but a simple soul at heart", who wanted to chat about his worries about his father.     It was while he was at Harrow that Hussein acquired his love of fast cars. At first he had a blue Rover, then a maroon Bristol which could hit 90 mph with ease. It was looked after by a garage manager who became a friend, Maurice Raynor. Later, Raynor came to Amman to look after the king's stable of fast cars, one of which was a traditional Morgan sports model.     Much later, in 1997, King Hussein made a gift of a large undisclosed amount of money to Harrow to pay for the refurbishment of the school's Vaughan Library. It was doubtless appreciated by the old boys in the Harrow Association, some of whom are members of Britain's establishment. In 1997 the king was elected as president of the association and flew to London for its annual dinner, a black-tie affair in the elegant Merchant Taylor's Hall in the City. The Harrow Record 1997 reported: "In a most moving speech, His Majesty replied that he had only been at Harrow for a short time, but it had been an important time in his life and it made a great impression on him."     While Hussein was studying at Harrow, Talal was deteriorating. By one account, King Abdullah was partly to blame. He had intimidated his son by his-domineering manner and scathing criticism, which destroyed Talal's self-confidence. There had also been some incidents when Talal was at Sandhurst, the British army academy, described as "some sort of bullying". The king and crown prince scarcely spoke to each other. In 1940, Abdullah had signed a secret decree taking Talal out of the line of succession (it was subsequently rescinded). First in line was Naif, his half-brother, who was regarded by the British as a lazy lightweight who would not damage British interests. Talal, by contrast, had been described in 1940 by the British minister in Amman, Sir Alec Kirkbride, as "intemperate in his habits, untrustworthy and at heart deeply anti-British".     By the end of the war, Talal had managed to cut back on his drinking, which had become a problem, and behave in a friendly manner. But it did not last. In 1948 and 1949 British diplomats referred to his "fits of irritability" and his "unpredictable and violent temper".     In May 1951, shortly after his father left for a state visit to Turkey, Talal had a mental breakdown. Doctors persuaded him to take treatment in Beirut, where the specialist blamed Abdullah for his son's condition and said he needed a long convalescence. But he was back at home in June, suffered another breakdown and went this time to Switzerland.     Talal was in Switzerland in 1951 when King Abdullah was assassinated and his half-brother Naif was appointed as regent. However, the notables from Jordan's leading families preferred to take a chance on the unpredictable first-born than on his younger brother, who some thought was lazy. They were encouraged to take this view by a report by the respected notable Said al-Mufti, who saw Crown Prince Talal in Geneva on what must have been one of his good days. He concluded that Talal appeared to be sane. Two doctors were sent to Geneva and diagnosed, contrary to their better judgment and perhaps with the encouragement of al-Mufti, that Talal was only depressed and had no mental disease. At the same time Naif lost support for having tried to manoeuvre his way to the crown and, at the last minute, for having considered a coup attempt.     Talal returned home to a warm welcome from people who hoped he might bring a breath of fresh air to the old regime and clear out many of the late king's cronies.     The new king and his prime minister, Tawfiq Abul Huda, made several concessions that King Abdullah would not have appreciated. They engineered a reform of the constitution so that it no longer proclaimed that all power resided with the king; it appeared to create something akin to a constitutional monarchy with respect for human rights. There were, however, some significant loopholes.     Talal visited the Hejaz, the land of his grandfather, King Hussein, and his father, King Abdullah, which had been conquered by Abdulaziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. He flew in a Saudi aircraft. Thus Jordan symbolically acquiesced in the conquest of the Hashemite lands (including Mecca and Medina) by Ibn Saud. Talal also signed the Arab League's collective security pact. King Abdullah had refused to do so because the league had refused to recognize his takeover of the West Bank in 1948; now Talal and Abul Huda shrugged their shoulders.     Until January 1952, Talal, aided by Abul Huda, performed well, more or less, as a constitutional monarch. Gradually, however, the schizophrenia returned, perhaps caused by the pressures of high office. On one occasion after giving lunch to an ambassador, Talal swept the table-cloth from the table together with glasses and cutlery and struck his wife and daughter. On a trip to Paris he was found wandering in the street. Queen Zain and her family, including Crown Prince Hussein, observed the deterioration -- and the threat to her life -- at close quarters while on a European holiday. Zain kept quiet about the symptoms, hoping they would go away. However, Abul Huda soon became aware of the change: the king, reverting to the authoritarian mode of his father, insisted that the prime minister dismiss two high officials whom he regarded as his enemies. A British diplomat reported more frequent and more violent attacks by Talal on his wife and children.     The finale was played out with painful publicity. In May 1952, the prime minister asked his three most senior ministers to try to persuade Talal to take medical treatment abroad. Talal would agree only to take a "holiday" and to set up, in June, a "throne council" to act on his behalf during his absence.     While this was going on, the queen and her family (excluding Hussein, who was at Harrow) remained in a hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, unwilling to return home to Amman and face the unstable Talal. It was this decision that pushed the crisis to a conclusion. The queen said she would return only if Talal was moved elsewhere, possibly to Egypt or Cyprus. As the climax approached, she told Hussein to come to Lausanne from Harrow. Talal flew to Switzerland, ostensibly to bring the queen home. (During this period Talal had also said he intended to travel by liner to the United States and, later, to abdicate and devote himself to a life of prayer in the Hejaz.)     The succession, which could have provoked a collapse of the young state, was remarkably smooth. The discreet but decisive Kirkbride and the British commander of Jordan's Arab Legion, Lieut-Gen Sir John Bagot Glubb (Glubb Pasha), played their part; so did the Jordanian notables. All took a long-term bet on Hussein.     It was clear what had to be done: Talal had to be declared incapable and either abdicate or be deposed, and be succeeded by Crown Prince Hussein. The Swiss authorities refused to help. So the prime minister, Abul Huda, obtained a diagnosis from Egyptian and Jordanian doctors of Talal's incapacity and convened a special session of both houses of parliament on August 11th. The members voted unanimously to depose Talal and to crown Hussein. One man can take the credit for the smooth transition, and the preservation of the house of Hashem: the prime minister, Abul Huda, astute manipulator of power in Jordan.     Talal was moved to Egypt and, in 1953, to a nursing home in Turkey. He remained there, visited annually by Zain and Hussein, until his death in 1972.     It is not difficult to imagine the impact of such a family drama on a teenage boy. Writing in 1962, he said little about this period except to record that his father's schizophrenia deteriorated and, like any wife and son, "my mother and I hoped, until all hope was gone, that he would recover". Hussein must have been profoundly upset about what had happened to his father and fearful that Talal's schizophrenia might run in the family. He must have been permanently on his guard against his father's mood swings; he may well have become acutely embarrassed by Talal's behaviour when dealing with people outside the family, and he was certainly protective towards his mother, Queen Zain.     At this time, Hussein seems already to be somewhat introspective. He spent much of his time away from the family at boarding schools yet did hot wholly fit in at these schools, where he stayed for only short periods. Two figures dominated his youth: King Abdullah and his mother. He seems to have acquired a sense of cool objectivity: while he was angered and disturbed by his father's behaviour, he treated him with filial respect and, when looking back on his short reign, felt sorry for him.     On August 12th 1952, the young prince's life changed forever. A page-boy came to the door of his room at Lausanne's Beau Rivage hotel bearing an envelope on a silver salver. It was addressed to "His Majesty King Hussein" and it explained to him what had happened in Amman. Hussein promptly returned home, where he was pleasantly surprised by what he saw as a spontaneous and enthusiastic greeting. He did a grand tour of the country to show himself to the population. But there remained six months before the inauguration. How would he spend them? His uncle, Sharif Nasser bin Jamil, and the prime minister suggested Sandhurst, about 35 miles southwest of London. Hussein leaped at the opportunity; Glubb Pasha fixed the details.     Hussein loved it. At Harrow he had been treated like a boy; at Sandhurst he felt he was accepted as a man, although he was only 17 years old. He took a crash course but not the soft option offered to foreign dignitaries. That decision meant he took part in night assaults on rugged terrain and a lot of drill. He appears to have received no special treatment. Sergeants at Sandhurst liked to shout at the officer-cadets: "I call you Sir, and you call me Sir! The only difference is you mean it and I don't!" A drill-sergeant is reputed to have screamed at Hussein, when he took a wrong step on one occasion: "What an idle little king we are today, Sir!" Sandhurst's regimental sergeant-major Lord used to address him, with his customary bellow, as: "Mr King Hussein, Sir!" (Later, Hussein made a surprise appearance on British television, reminiscing about his Sandhurst days, when Lord was the subject of the programme "This Is Your Life".)     Fellow-cadets showed him no reverence, and vice versa . After his bicycle's tyres were let down by practical jokers before he needed to use it to get to a lecture, he made a point of unscrewing the tyre-valves of 30 other bicycles at night. "I might have been suspected," he said later. "But nobody ever proved who did it."     Hussein also related the story of going to London's Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, to sit with the judge and observe British justice at work. He was acutely embarrassed when his wristwatch alarm, a prize possession, went off during the proceedings. It had been set for midday by a practical joker.     On another occasion, Officer Cadet Hussein intervened after all students were confined to barracks because one of their number had set off the college fire-alarm at night and would not admit to it. Hussein himself admitted guilt. The college commander asked him how he could have done the deed since he had been celebrating his birthday in London at the time. Hussein agreed and said the commander's point applied to many cadets. The commander accepted Hussein's logic and let off all cadets who were in London.     The young king's car became known as the people's car because, he says, he gave many lifts in it to cadets who were weekending in London. These were happy days, full of youthful enthusiasm as well as worries and uncertainties, and they made Hussein an Anglophile. He retained close links with Sandhurst and in 1996 he gave a very fine piece of silver which is awarded as a prize for the Most Improved Overseas Student. Sandhurst has no old boys' association, like Harrow, but it has twice bestowed its own accolade on the king. He represented Queen Elizabeth at the officer cadets' passing-out parade (equivalent to graduation as an officer) in 1981 and 1993, a remarkable and unparalleled honour.     But the carefree times were ending. On May 2nd 1953, after a procession past cheering crowds to the parliament building in Amman, Hussein assumed the powers and responsibilities of king. It was a simple oath of office: "I swear by the name of God that I will preserve the constitution and be faithful to my people." He then prayed at his grandfather's tomb and went home to receive the congratulations of his mother, who told him not to let power go to his head.     In this way a long and dramatic reign began. It was to see Jordan ranged at times against Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the PLO. The legitimacy of the Hashemite dynasty was to be questioned, especially over its close links with Britain and subsequently with the United States. For many people, Jordan would seem to be a Western puppet. And for many years Hussein would follow the strategy of his grandfather and keep in close and secret touch with the adversary of the Arabs: Israel. Like his grandfather, the young king would adopt a pragmatic approach to Israel. The Jewish state was, he thought, a reality that had to be accepted and dealt with: no amount of terrorism or speechifying would make it go away. Indeed, help from Israel was on at least three occasions vital in preserving the Hashemite government. And Hussein, like his grandfather, would be a target for assassins.     Before beginning an account of Hussein's reign, however, it is essential to dig into its Hashemite roots in the Hejaz, a province of the Ottoman empire that comprised Mecca, Medina and Jeddah, and to describe the dramatic events which led to the rise and fall of the kingdom of the Hejaz, leading to the rise of the Hashemites in Transjordan and the West Bank. Copyright © 1999 Roland Dallas. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Chronologyp. ix
Mapsp. xii
The Hashemite family treep. xvii
Introductionp. xviii
1 Murder at the mosquep. 1
2 Growing upp. 4
3 Shallow rootsp. 14
4 Arabs and Jewsp. 24
5 Not quite warp. 35
6 Dealing with politiciansp. 43
7 Dealing with Nasserp. 49
8 First wifep. 60
9 Challenge from the leftp. 64
10 Climax in 1958p. 73
11 A new stagep. 83
12 Second and third wivesp. 88
13 Dealing with the PLOp. 95
14 On the way to warp. 107
15 Disasterp. 116
16 Civil warp. 128
17 Assassination of a friendp. 140
18 War againp. 146
19 What kind of peace?p. 151
20 Camp David's consequencesp. 164
21 Fourth wife, extended familyp. 181
22 A deal with Arafatp. 187
23 Wasted effortsp. 200
24 War in the Gulfp. 210
25 Peace at lastp. 225
26 Democracy and survivalp. 237
27 Taming the Islamistsp. 251
28 Guns and butterp. 260
29 The end of an erap. 267
Notesp. 289
Indexp. 299

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