He’s spent millions of dollars in real estate on Fifth Avenue and the Champs-Elysées in Paris and spread an empire of luxury shops and palaces across the Middle East and beyond.
And that hasn’t come cheap, with Canadians shelling out at least $110 million in aid for Jordan this year, one of the largest sponsors of the kingdom’s military as it struggles with a brutal civil war gripping the country for more than a decade.
Canadian voters may have been happy to support such projects for a kingdom that has been responsible for building the nation of 20 million people, while ignoring an alliance that saw it render the deadly 1980 “Black September” attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, as a “provocation” designed to weaken King Hussein.
King Hussein enjoyed a father-of-the-nation photo op in 1990 when George H.W. Bush landed at Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport in Amman with the help of American forces.
And King Hussein, who always had a flair for opulence and absurd salary, has been called the “money-purse monarch” and even the “pay-to-play monarch” for his hosting of U.S. capitalists and others who never visited the country but used its king and country as a playground.
In 1993, however, the monarch played it cheap while pulling the “Israel card” and causing a diplomatic flutter. As then-Foreign Minister Jean Chrétien was scrambling for Israel’s diplomatic and military cooperation after the PLO split with the Palestine Liberation Organization, the king declared Israel “harboring terrorist cells” from his palace.
Israel denied the accusations, then hailed the end of the Canada-Egyptian alliance and said such a royal insult “reveals the superficiality and imperialistic essence of the Hashemite monarchy, without any apparent aims or objectives.”
Yet Hussein kept bejeweling his palaces, opening his Alexander the Great palace to great groups of tourists and U.S. businessmen and deploying his skills as a strongman ruler — much like his onetime great friend Saddam Hussein, with whom he consolidated the Jordanian monarchy during the Gulf War.
The fact that Abdullah’s money-laundering has been dubbed a “macro-swindle” and that he maintains massive holdings offshore in various countries suggests not only that he may be a real-estate pal of King Hussein, but it’s now his turn to play the blackmail card.