(Denver, Colorado) — Last night, the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” broadcast a must-see story they called, “The King.” It was both an illuminating interview with, and an intriguing profile of, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the most loyal Arab ally the U.S. has.
It does an excellent job of taking you inside the world my wife, Lynn, and I entered last Spring when the king invited us to spend five days with him after reading my novel, The First Hostage.
Just as we did, you’ll go inside the palace and hear the king in his own words on the risk that the West is not taking this “third world war” with the “outlaws” of Islam seriously enough. You’ll go, as we did, to the Syrian border, and go inside a refugee camp. You’ll also learn much more about the clear and present danger the Islamic State, an imploding Syria, and 1.5 million refugees are posing to the Hashemite Kingdom.
In fact, as the segment begins, you’ll see correspondent Scott Pelley joining the king on a live-fire military exercise near the Jordanian town of Zarqa in which Jordanian air and ground forces practice attacking an ISIS-controlled village with real bullets, bombs and missiles. This was something His Majesty invited Lynn and me to see with him, as well. It was absolutely fascinating and it really helped us understand more clearly how grave is the threat and yet how uniquely prepared the king is to defend his people.
Whoever emerges as the next President of the United States — indeed, whoever wins the many House and Senate races underway across the country — will need to make it a high priority to build a much stronger American alliance with Jordan, and to listen to our most faithful Sunni Arab ally….before it’s too late.
Keeping Jordan’s balance amid crisis
Terrorism. Civil war. A refugee crisis. Geopolitics. That’s the situation in the Middle East and right on Jordan’s doorstep. Scott Pelley interviews King Abdullah II
Scott Pelley, “60 Minutes,” opening comments: The bombs in New York and New Jersey last week brought the specter of terror home, again. It seems no country is safe, but there is one that is beating fearsome odds. ISIS burned through Syria and Iraq until it hit a firewall, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The king, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, is holding the front and sheltering millions of refugees despite his struggling economy, no oil wealth and precious little water. If the king can keep his balance, Jordan may prove that an Arab state can remain peaceful, tolerant, and modern. The arsonists torching the Middle East hope to see him fail.
Scott Pelley, script of the “60 Minutes” segment, “The King”
: This is not war. These are Jordanian forces sharpening their edge
on a make-believe town. Some of their weapons are antique. Attack helicopters designed originally for Vietnam. Surplus-armored cars that they found online. Jordan can’t afford the arsenals of its neighbors. Skill is its advantage. And, to hone it, they switched in training from blanks to live ammunition.
This is the soldier who ordered the switch. He’s the former head of Special Forces. He is Abdullah II, the king of Jordan.
Why live ammo we shouted? “Everyone uses blanks, makes no sense,” he yelled. There’s no sense in anything less than lethal because no king of Jordan has ever known peace.
Scott Pelley: This is the mosque that you built in honor of your father….
King Abdullah II: Yeah.
Abdullah became king in 1999 on the death of his father who ruled 47 years. We met the 54-year-old at his palace in Amman. He knows ISIS by its Arabic acronym, Daesh. But whatever you call it, he says the West doesn’t realize it’s in a Third World War.
King Abdullah II: I think this is the challenge that we’ve had over the past several years where people look at, you know, is it Iraq this year or Syria next year? Well, what about Libya? What about– Boko Haram or Shabaab in Africa? We have to look at it from a global perspective.
Scott Pelley: All of these things need to be attacked at the same time. You can’t concentrate on Syria one year and then deal with Boko Haram in another?
King Abdullah II: Well, the prime example, it’s as you see certain military successes in Syria and Iraq against Daesh, the leadership, they’re telling their fighters either, “Don’t come to Syria or Iraq,” or moving their command structure to Libya. And so are we going to wait to get our act together to concentrate on Libya? And then, you know, do we wait a year or two to start helping the Africans deal with Boko Haram or Shabaab? So we’ve got to get ahead of the curve because they’re reacting much quicker than we are.
Scott Pelley: The American strategy in Syria and Iraq, as you know, is to use U.S. air power and to train forces on the ground to fight the battle. That has not worked. How do you move forward from here?
King Abdullah II: I think the problem with the West is they see a border between Syria and Iraq. Daesh does not. And this has been a frustration, I think, for a few of us in this area with our Western coalition partners, for several years. You know, the lawyers get into the act and say, “But there’s an international border.” And we say, “For God’s sake, ISIS doesn’t work that way.” So if you’re looking at it and want to play the game by your rules, knowing that the enemy doesn’t, we’re not going to win this….