The Minister in Jordan (Drew) to the Department of State 1
I have just returned from my first private audience with His Majesty King Talal I. I carefully refrained from discussing any official business with him having in mind the heavy load he has had to carry during the two weeks since his return from Switzerland. Aside from the physical and mental strain which he underwent in connection with his return and assumption of office, he has been obliged to receive countless deputations of Jordanians of all degrees, as well as official delegations from Iraq, Syria and Egypt, with delegations from Saudi-Arabia and Lebanon on the horizon.
While I never knew Talal intimately in the past, I found him seemingly completely normal and quite his old self. He is naturally a timid, soft-spoken and almost self-effacing person. In the course of our brief conversation this morning, he visibly opened up and became more expansive as we discussed trivial personal matters such as the forthcoming [Page 995]departure for England of Crown Prince Hussein to attend school at Harrow. In connection with some of the sensational reports published abroad regarding the anti-British sentiments of the young Crown Prince, it is not without interest that the King mentioned that Hussein was delighted to go to Harrow, where his cousin, King Feisal of Iraq is also a student.
If the King has retained any trace of abnormal mental condition, it was certainly not apparent to my untrained eye. Other visitors who have seen him have all gained the same impression. I have been reliably informed that people who have seen him together with Queen Zain and their children have found them a happily reunited and normal family displaying every indication of deep mutual affection.
Immediately after Talal returned an incident occurred which gave rise momentarily to fear that his mental recovery might not have been complete. The night of September 7, his brother, Prince Naif, appeared at the Italian Hospital to request asylum, alleging that Talal had threatened his life. This blew over in a day or so and apparently arose from some intrigue on the part of the two Turkish Princes, cousins of Prince Naif, who arrived in Amman shortly after Naif assumed the Regency. Evidently they persuaded Naif that Talal was gunning for him and that his life was in danger. It is quite understandable that Talal was not pleased with Naif when he learned that his younger brother was party to the plot to seize the throne as reported in Legtel 75 of Sept. 4, 2 p.m.2 Reportedly he had refused to speak to Naif. Subsequently, however, Naif’s wife, Princess Sultana, through Queen Zain, was able to effect a reconciliation between the brothers and they are known to have gone to the Mosque to pray together on September 12. In addition, King Talal has appointed Naif a Major-General in the Arab Legion.
The assumption of the throne by Talal and his apparent restoration to good health continue to be well received by the Jordan public. The King himself seems to be doing very well indeed. He has carried off his royal functions with all the aplomb and dignity which he inherited from his late father. He is reliably reported to want to withdraw as much as possible from intervention in the internal political affairs of the country and to rule as a constitutional Monarch. This Would fit in with the constitutional changes proposed by the Prime Minister in his address to Parliament on September 18. (See Legation’s Despatch No. 68 of Sept. 20, 1951).2 Talal has also stated that he will not receive any journalists or newspapermen of any nationality. In view of the many false statements which have appeared about him in the foreign press, his attitude in that regard can be understood, even [Page 996]though it is quite possible that he will eventually recede from this stand.
The Department will doubtless have learned through the press of the issuance of a royal decree naming Hussein as Crown Prince and successor to the throne. While this act was not required under the constitution, it should have the result of clarifying the situation and making it more difficult for the royal succession to be placed in question in the event of Talal’s death or incompetency.
On the international scene all is quiet. When the Prime Minister in his address to Parliament stated that neither he nor his colleagues were thinking of union with Iraq, in my opinion it closed the door to any further agitation as far as Jordan is concerned for union with Iraq or any other move to combine with or be divided among its neighbors.
To the gratified surprise of observers of the Jordan scene, the country now appears to have successfully survived the crisis caused by the assassination of King Abdullah and to have emerged into waters as calm as can be hoped for in this part of the world. There are only two clouds on the horizon; one is the severe economic crisis through which the country is passing and the other is the fear that irresponsible nationalist members of Parliament will agitate for abrogation of the treaty with Britain and ejection of British officers from the Arab Legion with the naturally serious political complications which would ensue. Other than those factors, there are reasonable grounds to hope that Jordan may carry on under Talal pretty much as in the past, remaining a friend of Great Britain and other western democracies and a useful area of resistance to Communist expansion in the Near East.
The British appear to think that all is quiet as Glubb Pasha is going off on leave for a month and Sir Alec Kirkbride plans to go fishing in Aqaba for several weeks.