The minister and former head of the royal court in Jordan, Bassem Awadallah, sparked a great controversy when he was arrested with political figures accused of plotting against the country.
The state of controversy surrounding the person of Awad Allah is not new, but rather dates back to more than two decades when he became involved in political action.
Bassem Awadallah was born in 1964, and there is a dispute about his birthplace in Jerusalem or the Jordanian capital Amman.
He joined Georgetown University in the United States, and graduated in 1984 with a BA in International Relations and International Economics.
Then he moved to the United Kingdom, where he obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and finished his studies there in 1988.
After his graduation, Awadallah worked in the field of investment banking in the United Kingdom until 1991, but his entrance into the world of politics in Jordan was in 1992, when he assumed the position of Economic Secretary to the Jordanian Prime Minister until 1996. Then he was appointed as Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister, between 1996 and 1999.
During that stage, Awadallah’s relations with the palace and the government branched off. He moved to work in the royal court as director of the economic department between 1999 and 2001.
He also held several ministerial portfolios, the Ministry of Planning between 2001 and 2003, then Minister of Planning and International Cooperation between 2003 and 2005, and then he was appointed Minister of Finance in April 2005.
Awadallah was behind many economic reform programs in the country and managed economic policies in the Kingdom for years, which made him the target of many criticisms, especially with regard to privatization policies.
He moved again to the royal court, where he held the position of director of King Abdullah’s office between 2006 and 2007, and then head of the royal court in 2007.
Awadallah resigned from his last post less than a year later, on September 30, 2008, for unknown reasons.
WikiLeaks documents reveal that Awadallah has transformed in this period from a young man with a promising future, who is being prepared for prime minister, to a burden on the political establishment and the monarchy because of the controversy surrounding his person and his policies.
A document dated March 2007 stated that Awadallah was among the Palestinian figures who had a major role in Jordanian politics and the administration of the country, which angered the political forces opposing the influence of those of Palestinian origin.
The document described Awadallah as being the subject of a major attack by “anti-Palestinians and anti-reformists,” and said that the attack on Awad Allah “became targeting his person more than his policies.”
The parliamentarian at the time, Nariman Al-Rousin, accused Awadallah openly of being involved with the “Dawood and Partners” company owned by one of his relatives. The company was accused of trafficking in human beings, as it was convicted of attracting Nepalese workers to work in Jordan, and then smuggling them to Iraq to work in the “Ain Al-Assad” base of the American forces.
Al-Rusan called on the government to open an investigation into the matter and reveal the facts. Questions arose about the source of Awadallah’s wealth, which at that time amounted to 11 million Jordanian dinars, while he began his work as an employee in the prime minister’s salary with a salary of 600 dinars.
However, the American ambassador to Jordan Beecroft stated in the document that Awadallah made it clear to him that all his investments are outside Jordan, and that he sold his stake in a company owned by his brother in 1998.
However, this was not the only crisis surrounding Awad Allah at this time, as the document revealed a rumor that he had signed a “document of understanding” with the late Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, which was not necessarily in the interest of Jordan.
But the Jordanian Foreign Minister at the time, Salah Al-Bashir, denied the existence of such a document, and said that the Palestinian issue would not be resolved at Jordan’s expense.
‘Son of the king’
A subsequent document from Ambassador Beecroft revealed, in March 2009, that King Abdullah “was not satisfied” with the attack against Awadallah that led to his resignation. She stated that Awadallah was preparing to return to political work after the campaign launched against him subsided.
In the words of the Prime Minister at the time, Abdul Karim al-Kabariti, she stated that Awad Allah should be considered “as the son of the king, not just a security cover.”
However, an incident far from politics ended Awadallah’s political future in Jordan, as he was accused in August 2009 of severely beating his wife, which led to her being hospitalized. The couple later separated in September of the same year after a marriage that lasted only four months.
This was not Awadallah’s first marriage, as he got married in March 2008 to Rima Siyam, who is of Palestinian origin and used to work for Saudi Aramco. But the marriage was not successful.
The WikiLeaks document, issued by the US ambassador Beecroft on September 2, 2009, stated that this incident of beatings and separation undermined Awadallah’s opportunity to return to political work and his candidacy for the prime minister’s position, and that its influence extends to the reformist movement to which Awad Allah belongs as a whole.
Awadallah has always presented himself as the face of political and economic reform in Jordan, and he held positions opposed to the Islamic trend, and against Iran’s interference and its attempt to extend its influence in the region, especially over the Gulf states. He believed that the Islamic currents and Iran were exploiting the Palestinian cause for political gain.
Perhaps Awadallah realized at that time that his hopes for direct political action in Jordan had dimmed, so he moved to Dubai, where he was appointed as a member of the Dubai School of Government Board of Directors in 2008.
He also established in Dubai his company, “Tomoh”, which he heads until now.
The network of relationships that Awadallah enjoyed helped create new opportunities for him in the world of business and economics, as he was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of Al Baraka Banking Group in Bahrain in 2010.
He is also a partner of a number of Saudi investors in the Arab National Bank, and he is the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arab Bank in Jordan.
He also held a number of honorary positions, including the seat of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for the Visiting Fellowship at the Center for Islamic Studies at Oxford University in 2010, as well as Secretary General of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in the same year.
The following year, 2011, he became a member of the Board of Trustees for the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Then a member of the Board of Trustees of Al-Quds University in 2014.
Reports indicate that Awadallah worked as an advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in recent years, and that he was the mastermind behind the privatizations that affected Aramco in the recent period.
These connections were behind speculation that Saudi Arabia had a role in the recent crisis, and that Awadallah had a Saudi passport. According to media reports, the Saudi delegation that visited Amman on April 6 requested the Jordanian authorities to hand over Awadallah to return with the delegation on the same plane to Saudi Arabia.
But the Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan, denied these reports, and said that the delegation sent a message of support to King Abdullah II, and the talks did not address any other demands.
It is noteworthy that Basem Awadallah is the recipient of several medals in Jordan, including the Hussein Award for Distinguished Giving, the First Class Order of the Planet, and the Order of Independence of the First Class for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.