During Queen Elizabeth II’s lengthy reign, significant portions of the globe rebelled against British dominance, yet after her passing, a few kingdoms that were imposed by the British are still in place in the Middle East.
They have endured decades of conflict and unrest and are now seen as bulwarks of an authoritarian stability. Hereditary monarchs were mostly unharmed when public upheavals broke out throughout the region a decade ago during what was known as the Arab Spring, toppling administrations with anti-colonial foundations.
Although the era of gunships and imperial grandeur may be passed, the area still has strong financial and emotional links to England. King, sultan, and emir students attend Sandhurst’s Royal Military Academy. The richness of the Gulf Arab sovereign states has altered London’s skyline.
King Abdullah II of Jordan has links to Britain on both a personal and cultural level being the son of a British mother.
During World War I, Jordan’s ruling Hashemites, who hail from the Arabian Peninsula and claim ancestry from the Prophet Muhammad, began the uprising against the Ottoman Empire. They had believed that their alliance with Britain during the war would contribute to establishing an independent Arab state over much of the Middle East.
That’s not how it turned out.
Following the war, Britain and France divided up the Ottoman Empire, violating commitments and establishing often arbitrary boundaries that all but ensured decades of warfare in Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.
The Hashemites and the British royal family have, without a doubt, had extremely close ties, according to former Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muasher. But there have been significant problems and tumultuous moments in the partnership.
Jordan, a region of desert mostly inhabited by nomadic Bedouin, was granted to Abdullah I, the present king’s great grandfather.
Another new nation, roughly modeled after historical Mesopotamia and composed of three independent Ottoman provinces, Iraq, was established and Faisal was given the crown.
Both kingdoms were established with British assistance. Jordan has a bureaucracy in the British type. At Faisal’s coronation, “God save the King” was performed by a band in Iraq.
The surge of Arab nationalism that emerged after World War II battered both of them. In 1951, a Palestinian nationalist murdered Abdullah in Jerusalem, and in a violent coup in 1958, Iraq’s King Faisal II was overthrown and executed.
Hereditary monarchies were subsequently overturned in Libya and Yemen. In 1952, Egyptian military forces overthrew that nation’s British-backed monarchy. All were ultimately ousted and replaced by local autocrats, many of whom supported the West.
Jordan not however.
King Abdullah II and Queen Rania are the current rulers of an Arab nation that is now regarded as an island of stability in a turbulent area. King Abdullah II is a natural English speaker who would fit in at a British army club.
King Hussein, his father, thwarted internal threats and survived many schemes to have him killed or overthrown. Foreign supporters, first Britain and subsequently the United States, were persuaded to provide financial support for the kingdom by his reputation as a kind, Western-style ruler in a turbulent area.
Its current portrayal of stability hides an economy that is reliant on foreign help, a conservative culture, and periodically visible public unrest.
According to Jordanian political analyst Labib Kamhawi, King Abdullah II often goes to London to “seek guidance from the British on this or that topic.” The British capital was the only place Princess Haya, the king’s half-sister, turned for legal protection from her ex-husband, the ruler of Dubai.
Following Queen Elizabeth’s passing, Jordan’s royal court proclaimed a week of mourning, praising her as a “iconic leader” and a “beacon of wisdom.”
Ordinary Jordanians and citizens in the rest of the region responded less strongly.
Many people credit Britain’s 1917 Balfour proclamation, which endorsed “the creation in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” as the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A well-known Palestinian journalist working in Jordan, Daoud Kuttab, said he would have anticipated that Elizabeth’s demise would spark greater discussion among Jordanians. “But in 1952, she was crowned queen. It’s difficult to hold her accountable for the Balfour statement, he added.
Many Iraqis take satisfaction in the 1958 coup that toppled Faisal II, and many still bitterly remember the British invasion during World War II. The result was Saddam Hussein’s cruel dictatorship and conflicts with his neighbors, but it also marked the beginning of decades of unrest. Saddam was gone, but Iraq was thrown into disarray after the U.S.-led war in 2003, from which it has yet to completely recover.
“The numerous issues that the current Iraqi state has encountered were ignited by the installation of a monarchy that wasn’t particularly popular and that was overturned in 1958,” said Lahib Higel, senior Iraq analyst for the International Crisis Group.
However, Iraqis of a particular generation still give Britain credit for establishing healthcare and education institutions that, before to Saddam’s disastrous administration, were the envy of the region. Some Egyptians also have cherished memories of their monarchy, whose fall was followed by decades of stagnation and repressive government.
According to Egyptian author Khaled Diab, “especially older Egyptians maintain this lingering respect for British culture and institutions.”
British influence is still felt far to the east, across the glitzy cities of the Persian Gulf, decades after independence. The British Empire began to defend Gulf emirs in the 18th century by mediating peace treaties between loosely coupled tribes.
Even when the British retreated in 1971, the discovery of massive oil reserves guaranteed the continuation of hereditary monarchy. Today’s tribal elders’ heirs may brag about having second houses in London’s affluent neighborhoods and degrees from British colleges.
Despite Bahrain’s 2011 Shiite majority-backed uprising against its Sunni ruler, there was rarely any indication of unrest in any other Gulf state.
According to Christopher Davidson, a fellow at the European Center for International Affairs, “These Arab kingdoms are modern-era constructions and they’ve had to establish the monarchical myth in a pretty short length of time.” “These nations continue to be produced with a ready-made template on how to act and function thanks to the British royal etiquette.”
After Elizabeth’s passing, a 2015 video clip of Ali Gomaa, the former grand mufti of Egypt, referring to the British monarch as a progenitor of the Prophet Muhammad, went viral. He claimed that her family line dated back to Muslim Spain in the middle ages.
The assertion, which has previously been made but never supported, sparked ridicule on social media. However, other people embraced it as evidence of ongoing links.
The Egyptian author Diab observed, “There’s this yearning to make bridges.” “Britain still has a strong grip on Arab imagination.”