Jordan king cancels Romania visit in Jerusalem Embassy row

Jordan's King Abdullah II canceled his scheduled visit to Romania. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019

Jordan king cancels Romania visit in Jerusalem Embassy row

  • The Jordanian and Romanian governments had been due to sign an agreement, two memorandums of understanding and a cooperation program
  • Jerusalem is the source of the historic and religious legitimacy and what affects Jerusalem infringes on Jordan’s legitimacy”

AMMAN: The Jordanian Royal Hashemite Court announced on Monday that King Abdullah II had decided to cancel a visit to Romania. 

Osama Salameh, a spokesman for the royal court, confirmed to Arab News that the trip “had been scheduled to start Monday,” but that “in solidarity with Jerusalem, and following Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s remarks expressing the intention to move her country’s embassy to Jerusalem, the king has decided not to travel to Romania.”

A royal court press release said that King Abdullah’s visit to Romania, “which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, had been planned to include meetings with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Parliament leaders.”

The king had also been scheduled to participate in the Aqaba meetings, which had been planned to be hosted by Romania in partnership with Jordan. 

The Jordanian and Romanian governments had been due to sign an agreement, two memorandums of understanding and a cooperation program, while a Jordanian-Romanian business forum had been planned to be held with the participation of private-sector representatives from the two countries.

Wafa Bani Mustafa, a veteran member of the Jordanian Parliament and a member of the International Parliament, told Arab News that the king’s decision “is an important message to all those countries that are trying to follow the isolationist decisions of the United States.” 

Bani Mustafa said that the decision of the king follows his appeal a week earlier for public support for the pressures that are being placed on Jordan regarding Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause. 

“For us in Jordan the issue of Jerusalem is not only a Palestinian issue but it is part and parcel of Jordan’s national interests.”

David Rihani, spokesperson for the Jordan Evangelical Council, said the king’s decision was a clear message to the world of his solidarity with Jerusalem to remain a holy city for all. 

“His Majesty is steadfast in his position for a just and a comprehensive peace in the region,” he said. 

Wasfi Kailani, the director of the Royal Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa, told Arab News that the Romanian move is risky for both regional peace and the Jordanian safeguarding of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites. 

“For His Majesty, as custodian of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites, nothing encourages the Israeli escalation of illegal violations on the ground more than the international community’s blessings and silence toward Israel’s flagrant desecrations of Jerusalem’s genuine identity.” 

Kailani said that moving the embassy of “a UN member state to Occupied Jerusalem does not only erode the status quo and kills peace but also it puts the credibility of the UN at risk.”

Hamadeh Farneh, a member of the Palestine National Council and a former Jordanian member of Parliament, told Arab News that Jerusalem is important to Hashemites and King Abdullah. 

“Jerusalem is the source of the historic and religious legitimacy and what affects Jerusalem infringes on Jordan’s legitimacy.” 

Faraneh said that the decision to cancel the trip to Romania is intended to “reflect the King’s anger and to ensure that countries like Romania don’t get any rewards for such decisions.”

Ahmad Awad, the director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, told Arab News that the king’s decision was in the interests of Jordan and in support of the Palestinian cause. 

“Jerusalem is occupied by Israel and this decision is a message to all that our interests and our causes are the compass to which we focus our political decisions.”

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, a member of the Islamic Waqf Council and head of the PASSIA think tank in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the decision of the government of Romania to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem represented a preemptive decision to the two-state solution, in violation of international law. 

“The government of Romania’s announcement is an attack on Palestinian national, political and religious rights that panders to the Israeli occupation narrative of Jerusalem, one that is strongly rejected by the international community. The king of Jordan’s decision to cancel his visit is not only in line with international consensus but also a clear message that Jerusalem is a red line.”

Khalil Atiyeh, one of the most popular members of the Jordanian Parliament, told Arab News that the King’s move is part of a continuous royal interest in Jerusalem. 

“The decision as stated by the prime minister of Romania is refused in Jordan by the King, the government and the people. We are proud of the royal decisions and we stand behind the king as he exposes the Zionist entity.”

Fawzi Samhouri, a Jordanian human rights activist, told Arab News that the decision by the king is a practical translation of his statement in Zarqa that Jerusalem is a red line and that he will never agree to any decision that affects Jerusalem as the capital of the independent Palestinian state. 

“This decision shows the king as a role model for how a person’s words and deeds are in sync with each other.”

Iran-backed militias deployed snipers during Iraq protests

Updated 5 min 14 sec ago

Iran-backed militias deployed snipers during Iraq protests

Iran-backed militias deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops during the Iraq’s deadliest anti-government protests in years, two Iraqi security officials told Reuters.
The deployment of militia fighters, which has not been previously reported, underscores the chaotic nature of Iraqi politics amid mass protests that led to more than 100 deaths and 6,000 injuries during the week starting Oct. 1. Such militias have become a fixture here with Iran's rising influence. They sometimes operate in conjunction with Iraqi security forces but they retain their own command structures.
The Iraqi security sources told Reuters that the leaders of Iran-aligned militias decided on their own to help put down the mass protests against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, whose one-year-old administration is backed by powerful Iran-backed armed groups and political factions.
“We have confirmed evidence that the snipers were elements of militias reporting directly to their commander instead of the chief commander of the armed forces,” said one of the Iraqi security sources. “They belong to a group that is very close to the Iranians.”
A second Iraqi security source, who attended daily government security briefings, said militia men clad in black shot protesters on the third day of unrest, when the death toll soared to more than 50 from about half a dozen. The fighters were directed by Abu Zainab al-Lami, head of security for the Hashid, a grouping of mostly Shi’ite Muslim paramilitaries backed by Iran, the second source said. The Hashid leader was tasked with quashing the protests by a group of other senior militia commanders, the source said. The sources did not say how many snipers were deployed by militia groups.
A spokesman for the Hashid, Ahmed al-Assadi, denied the groups took part in the crackdown. “No members were present in the protest areas. None of the elements of the Hashid took part in confronting protesters,” al-Assadi said in a statement to Reuters.
Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maal said state security forces did not fire directly at protesters and blamed unnamed “vicious” shooters for the mass deaths and injuries. The government has opened an investigation to determine who shot the protesters and who ordered it, Maal said in a news conference on Oct. 6.
The assertion that security forces did not participate in the violence seemed to contradict an earlier statement on Oct. 14 from the Iraqi government, which admitted state security forces had used excessive force and promised to hold individuals accountable for violence against civilians.
An official with the prime minister’s office said in a statement to Reuters Wednesday that it would be “premature to lay the blame on any parties, whether from Hashid or other security forces, before we end the investigation. Let’s wait and see who gave the order ‘shoot to kill.’”
Iran’s role in responding to the demonstrations was another reminder of Tehran’s reach in Iraq, where a sizable number of former militia commanders are now members of parliament and support the Iranian agenda. Stability of the Iraqi government is in the best interests of Iran, which has been steadily amassing influence in Iraq since 2003, when the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Islamic Republic’s arch-enemy Saddam Hussein. Iran is Iraq’s biggest trading partner.
Iran's delegation to the United Nations did not immediately respond Wednesday afternoon to questions from Reuters about its support of militias and their involvement in the violence against protesters. Leaders of militias in Iraq have denied getting training and weapons from Iran.

As protests entered their third day, on Oct. 3, snipers appeared on Baghdad rooftops. A Reuters cameraman who was covering the unrest near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square that afternoon said he saw a sniper, wearing a balaclava and dressed in black as he stood on top of an under-construction building that overlooked the demonstrations.
Protesters fled as the sniper opened fire. One protester who was shot in the head was carried away in a large crowd. Another who was shot in the head appeared to have died and was rushed off in a truck. When his phone rang, a friend recognized that the man’s brother was calling.
“Don’t tell him he died,” the friend said.
The protests started Oct. 1 amid public rage over chronic shortages of jobs, electricity and clean water. Iraqis blame politicians and officials for systemic corruption that has prevented Iraq from recovering after years of sectarian violence and a devastating war to defeat Islamic State.
Any vacuum of power could prove challenging for the region, given that Baghdad is an ally of both the United States and Iran, who are locked in their own political standoff. Thousands of U.S. troops are stationed in the country in positions not far from those of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias.
The second security source told Reuters that the snipers were using radio communications equipment that was provided by Iran and is difficult to intercept, giving the groups an essentially private network.
A group of senior commanders from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards traveled to Iraq on the second day of the protests and met with Iraqi intelligence and security officials, according to a diplomat in the region familiar with Iran’s decision-making process. After the meeting, senior Revolutionary Guard officers with experience in curbing civil unrest continued to advise the Iraqi government, the diplomat said, although no Iranian soldiers were deployed.
A senior commander of one of the Iran-backed militias - who said his group was not involved in efforts to stop the protests or the resulting violence - said Tehran consulted closely with forces trying to quell the demonstrations.
“After two days, they jumped in and supplied the government and militias with intelligence,” the militia leader told Reuters. “Iranian advisors insisted on having a role and warned us that the ongoing protests, if not reversed, will undermine the government of Abdul Mahdi.”