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Crossing Jordan


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crossing-jordan-clifford-d-mayNational Review:


Meeting with King Abdullah II in Jordan last Friday, President Obama was gracious enough to mention the monarch’s great-grandfather, King Abdullah I, who “gave his life in the name of peace.” To Western ears, that sounded like a tribute. To Arab and Muslim ears, it may have sounded like a warning.

To understand why, it’s necessary to dip into the history that Westerners seldom learn and Middle Easterners seldom forget. What we now call Jordan was for centuries a backwater of the Ottoman Empire, the last of the great Islamic caliphates. Ottoman forces made the mistake of fighting on the losing side in World War I. Defeat precipitated the collapse of the empire and the dissolution of the caliphate. Ottoman lands were divided between the British and the French. The territory east of the Jordan River, referred to as Transjordan, became part of the British Mandate of Palestine.


Farther east, in Arabia, fierce warriors of the Saudi clan overthrew the Hashemite clan, whose members are said to be descended from the prophet Mohammed and who had long ruled the Hejaz, which includes the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Displaced Hashemites were installed by the British in Transjordan. Abdullah — who had fought against the Ottomans and alongside T. E. Lawrence — was named Emir of Transjordan in 1921.Scissors-32x32.png

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