(Oct. 22) It’s time for President Joe Biden to get tough with King Abdullah of Jordan.

For weeks, Abdullah has been in the United States, living in luxury as his nation struggles. The leaked Pandora Papers detail what appear to be, ahem, highly questionable financial dealings by the king. Meanwhile, as explained in two columns in July, Abdullah is holding a U.S. citizen in prison after a trial in which the citizen, Bassem Awadallah, was afforded no chance to call his own witnesses or provide exculpatory evidence, denied private meetings with his attorneys, and allegedly tortured.

All of which, combined with the $1.5 billion in annual aid the U.S. provides Jordan, gives Biden leverage to demand the release of Awadallah, who was charged with sedition in a bizarrely convoluted case stemming from a rift between the king and his half brother, Prince Hamzah.

Awadallah has now been in custody in Jordan for more than 150 days.

The Washington Post reports the king has spent a fortune securing ritzy compounds in California and Washington, D.C., “using an extensive network of offshore accounts that disguised his transactions … with funds whose origin remains unclear.” Perhaps the transactions are on the up and up, but presumably, the king doesn’t want U.S. investigators looking too closely into their provenance.

Jordan is an important ally of the U.S., a longtime moderating and stabilizing influence in the otherwise volatile Middle East. The U.S. pays Jordan billions to help keep it that way. But King Abdullah’s rule is absolute, and his nation is struggling economically and otherwise, even as human rights groups raise red flags about some of its practices. Sometimes U.S. policy is best served by looking away from some dicey practices of this nation’s allies. But when the apparent abuses ensnare a U.S. citizen, the American gaze should not be averted…. [The full column is at this link.]


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