Jordan Denies King's Brothers Ousted From Army Over Ties With Saudi Arabia

Reports claim King Abdullah II arrested his brothers and a cousin, but army says the three 'retired' ■ Behind-the-scenes tensions between Jordan and Saudi over crown prince's policies

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Riyadh, December 12, 2017.
Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout

Jordan's King Abdullah II has reportedly arrested two of his brothers due to communications they allegedly had with officials from Saudi Arabia. The Jordanian army denied the report, telling Haaretz that two, Prince Faisal bin Hussein and Prince Ali bin Hussein, had "retired."

To really understand the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

There have been behind-the-scenes tensions between Jordan and Saudi Arabia over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's policies and his intention to revoke Jordan's custodianship over Islamic sites in Jerusalem. Always concerned with palace intrigue, the Jordanian king's move may also be a message to the Saudis.

Along with the two brothers, a cousin, Prince Talal bin Muhammad, was also dismissed from the army.

Reports in Jordan called their dismissal part of a "restructuring" plan for the army to allow for a more prominent role for his eldest son, Hussein, Petra news agency reported.

However, Al-Sura, a regional news site critical of the Saudi regime, said the arrests came after Jordanian intelligence services alerted the king of communication between the two brothers and the cousin and leaders from Saudi Arabia and the emirates.

In November, Saudi security forces rounded up some 200 princes, ministers and business leaders and converted the Ritz-Carlton into a luxurious prison in what Riyadh said was a crackdown on corruption.

>> Cluster bombs and yachts: 5 things you should know about Saudi Arabia's crown prince <<

The move was also widely seen by analysts as helping  the crown prince consolidate his grip on power, after he ousted his cousin as heir to the throne in the summer.

Shortly after, Lebanon was plunged into crisis when Saad al-Hariri resigned as prime minister while he was in Saudi Arabia, saying he feared assassination and criticizing the Saudis’ regional arch-rival Iran along with its Lebanese ally Hezbollah. He stayed abroad for two weeks before returning, and finally withdrew his resignation.

In Yemen, Riyadh is leading an Arab military coalition against the Houthi movement that controls the capital. In recent weeks it imposed a blockade of ports, threatening to worsen what the United Nations says could become one of the worst famines in modern times.

Saudi Arabia has also led neighboring Gulf Arab countries this year in cutting off trade and diplomatic ties with their neighbor Qatar, which Riyadh says supports terrorism. Qatar is an important American ally and home to a big U.S. air base.

Reuters contributed background to this report