Jordan's king ousts kid brother
as air force commander

Thursday, September 30, 2004

AMMAN Jordan has quietly reshuffled its military command.

Jordanian sources said King Abdullah has ordered the dismissal of Jordan's air force commander and deputy in the biggest shakeup since he ascended to the throne in 1999.

The king's decision results in the ouster of his younger brother, Jordanian Air Force commander, Prince Faisal Bin Al Hussein, who holds the rank of general.

"We're talking about a very serious development that could have repercussions for the next few years," a source said.

The reshuffle took place as Jordan has been facing increasing domestic unrest and threats from neighboring Syria. Western diplomatic sources said the Jordanian leadership has been divided over how to respond to the domestic threat.

Faisal became air force commander in 2002 after having served as deputy commander.

Faisal was replaced by Col. Ahmed Mohammed Bes, who had been chief operations officer of the air force, the sources said. Faisal's deputy was also dismissed. His replacement was not disclosed.

The sources said Abdullah's dismissal of Faisal was not directly connected to the performance of the air force commander. They said the king's move appeared to be part of an effort to reinforce his rule and eliminate the potential of a power struggle with his younger brother.

Prince Faisal had been responsible for air force modernization and regarded in the West as the No. 2 in the Hashemite kingdom. The 40-year-old, who was not next in line for the throne, has maintained excellent relations with Western and Gulf Cooperation Council militaries.

Over the last week, Faisal has not been reported to have attended any official functions in the kingdom. He was not said to have met U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Rodman, responsible for international security affairs.

Moreover, neither Faisal nor Bes was mentioned in official Jordanian communiques regarding a Sept. 27 military exercise near the Syrian border.

The exercise, attended by King Abdullah, included maneuvers by air force attack helicopters and fighter-jets.

The sources said they did not believe the dismissal of Faisal would affect air force programs. Faisal had overseen Jordan's plans for additional F-16 multi-role fighters as well as the Joint Direct Attack Munition from the United States.

The military shakeup was said to have taken place last week. Jordan has not formally announced the appointments, but a Jordanian daily published an announcement that welcomed the selection of a new air force commander.

The sources said Abdullah has decreed that Faisal would become a special royal adviser. Faisal was also promoted to the post of lieutenant general.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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