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March 11, 1956

Untitled report on the expulsion of Glubb Pasha from Jordan

This document was made possible with support from Youmna and Tony Asseily


Amman, 11/3/1956


I do not believe that any Arab king or leader has ever undertaken as effective, popular and generally reassuring a move as King Hussein's dismissal of Glubb, especially its: propitious timing. It came in the aftermath of violent demonstrations and incidents by the Jordanian people in protest against foreign treaties and in reaction to rumours about the possibility of a Jewish attack on Jordan and other Arab countries. Glubb was seen as an obstacle to the Jordanian Army's participation in a real war against the Jews, and as being in favour of withdrawing from parts of the West Bank in Palestine.


As of Thursday 1/3/1956, journalists and people involved in politics noticed unusual developments both at the royal palace and the Prime Ministry. On that day, the cabinet had held its session for only a few hours in the presence of Glubb; Radi 'Innab, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the British Ambassador. Various rumours and accounts circulated and many thought that since the Jews intended to attack, the Government was considering which appropriate precautionary measures to take.


No one knew what really transpired or what decisions were taken during that particular cabinet session until the next day, Friday 2/3/1956, at 7.30 a.m., when Jerusalem Radio broadcast the royal court's official communiques terminating Glubb’s services, dismissing all foreigners from the army, and sending Glubb back to his country.


After some investigation, analysis, and following-up on previous and subsequent events and developments, I succeeded in obtained the following information:


It has been proven that the idea to expel Glubb and Arabise the Jordanian Army, in other words dismiss the British officers, had been under consideration for some time by the Jordanian authorities, and that official messages regarding the issue were being exchanged for over a month now. King Hussein was personally attending to this issue and pursuing contacts with the army's Arab commanders and officers to learn their opinion about the matter. He was certain chat if Glubb remained at the head of the army and under orders from Britain, his own influence will be limited, his position weakened, and Jordan will be placed in an awkward situation vis-a-vis other Arab countries that have already gained their freedom from foreign domination. These facts became all the more evident to the King as a result of the bloody incidents that had taken place over the past two months (February and January). The demonstrators were clamouring for the King’s downfall and for the institution of a republican system, because they believed that the King had an understanding with the British and with Glubb in particular.


In the meantime, the King was in contact with a group of officers, the so-called free officers, who had been victimised by Glubb. These officers were relating to him incidents concerning Glubb, as they gradually happened; the extent of corruption in the army; and the bad behaviour of the British officers. He also heard Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai’s daily protests about the army's interference in the affairs of state, and the Government's inability to carry out its duties and responsibilities because the army was contradicting his actions and decisions and pursuing people and government employees under the pretext of maintaining law and order. The army went so far as to interfere in political matters and contact the press and radio stations in an attempt to influence public opinion ... They went so far as to use Younes al-Bahri, from the Amman-based Izaa't al-'Arab radio station, to follow the specific policy they had drawn for him. It consisted of launching attacks against Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia; defending Iraq, the Baghdad Pact, and British interests; and making propaganda for the army. This compelled Mr al-Rifai, the Prime Minister, to take a decision dismissing Younes al-Bahri and appointing Mr Taher al-Shahabi as a supervisor at the Amman Radio Station (Izaa't al-'Arab) . Glubb's Army, however, insisted on keeping al-Bahri in his position and prevented al-Shahabi from performing his duties at the Station; this deeply affected Samir al-Rifai and prompted him to take the matter up to HM the King…


I learned that the King had discussed Glubb's situation with Prime Minister al-Rifai in detail, and sought his opinion about relieving Glubb from his duties and appointing an Arab commander in his place. Mr al-Rifai was all for it and told the King that nothing in the Treaty required Jordan to accept British officers and military experts in its army. He told the King that since messages and contacts about the matter had not borne results so far, since Glubb was personally impeding the process and taking his time executing it, the Jordanian authorities had the right to do what is necessary to relieve the untenable situation in which they find themselves. Samir al-Rifai advised the King to take the matter in his own hands to boost his personal power.


The reasons for expelling Glubb


Before I go into the details of this development, I find it necessary to summarise the reasons that led to Glubb's dismissal. These are divided into two: short term and long term reasons; the long term reasons, which are also the main ones, can be summarised as follows:


The level of public awareness in Jordan, the people's extreme hatred for the British, and the fact that the Jordanian Army is perceived as having been derelict in its duties towards Palestine, even over-generous in handing parts of it over to the Jews, and blamed it on the presence of the British and Glubb at the head of the army. We should also not forget that the majority of Jordan's citizens are Palestinian.


Glubb’s monopolisation of all army matters and potential, and his efforts to surround himself with spies and agents and keep at bay good and educated youthful elements and officers who adhere to national principles. Added to that his reliance, first and foremost, on former officers and tribal youths.


The spread of corruption, nepotism, and bribery throughout the army, as well as the preponderance of smuggling operations between Jordan and the other Arab countries, and Jordan and Israel. Glubb was a spendthrift, tightly controlled the army's finances and secret expenses, and refused to share relevant information with Arab commanders and officers. Even the Government itself was unable to obtain any details about the army's budget since, for Glubb, they were a secret that he alone could know…


Military and financial experts confirm that only half, or even a little less, of British assistance to Jordan, which varies between 8-12 million dinars per year, could have been spent on the army and the rest was simply wasted because all the weapons, military mission, ammunition, and military equipment were brought over from Britain at very high prices. Spending on members of the army was also monopolised by Glubb and he spent on daily rations without restraint. Had economy and moderation prevailed, it would have been possible to reduce the sums allocated for this purpose at least by half. As for secret expenses that went to cover propaganda and financial rewards to tribal chiefs, a number of the country’s leaders, investigative teams, and the press, their amounts are higher than anyone can imagine.


His interference in the affairs of state, his imposition of limits on personal freedoms, and his tight control overall official communications. This included control over various ministries’ telephone lines and postal and telegram exchanges, as well as his attempts at getting employees who dislike the British or display patriotic feelings dismissed from their posts. A telephone employee in Amman admitted to me that even the Palace’s and Prime Ministry's communication networks were under the army's surveillance.


A secret communiqué addressed by Glubb to all British heads of army units was recently discovered; it said that in case of an Israeli attack they should retreat and not resist. The free officers rook this communique up to the King.


The short term reasons

The short term reasons that hastened the implementation of the King's plans are:


The large-scale changes that Glubb recently intended to introduce to the army and  which would have led to the detention of a new group of free officers, the exile of a number of them to far-off locations, and the promotion of former officers close to him, in particular those of tribal descent.


His open defiance of al-Rifai's cabinet decisions, and his refusal to abide by any of its decisions regarding the army.


His open endorsement of Hazza' al-Majali and the supporters of the Baghdad Pact, and his attempts at forcing the press to publicise the Baghdad Pact and abandon its support for the Egypt-Saudi axis.


His use of the Izaa't al-'Arab radio station to unsettle Samir al-Rifai's attempts at forging an understanding with the Arab countries, and launching attacks against some of these countries under the pretext of supporting the throne and defending the King.


The disagreement between Glubb and the Under-secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Mr Sabah al-Rousan, which prevented the latter from obtaining any information about the army, and Glubb's efforts to do away with his ministerial position and remove him entirely from the Defence Ministry. Mr al-Rousan is one of Samir al-Rifai’s powerful friends and used co share with him every little incident, or news item, about Glubb that concerned him personally or violated the government's policies.


The existence of definite proof of a link between some investigation and intelligence employees and the troublesome incidents and attacks on a number of local American institutions. Finally, and most importantly, a number of free officers had told the King that Glubb was in the process, during the last week of February past, of planning a move to topple the King, bring down the Government, and form a military government. This heightened the King's fears that Glubb's plans might be supported by Iraq. Although this information proved to be untrue, the King believed it to be so at the time and took the initiative to mount a counter move, in cooperation with the free officers, and finish with Glubb, once and for all. The free officers were led by Ali abu Nuwar, who was recently appointed as commander of the 'Aha Brigade, the most important and modern unit in the army; Chief Mahmoud Istetieh, one of the King's aides-de-camp; Commander Radi al-Hindawi; and Cheif Adnan al-Mufti, all of whom were in contact with Sharif Nasser, the King’s maternal uncle who supported the move and kept the King apprised of its progress.


When the King felt the danger, or pretended in front of the Government that the threat was real, he secretly brought together in his palace, on 28, 29 and 30 January a number of free officers, and they agreed to draw up a plan to expel Glubb with help from a number of senior military officers. Chief among the officers involved in the plan's formulation were Radi 'Innab, the new Army Chief of Staff; military commissioner (Qa’emaqam) Ali al-Hiyari, head of operations; Commander Sadeq al-Share', head of the National Guard; and Chief Radi al-Abdullah, director of public relations in the army. They all agreed to put the British officers under close surveillance, in particular the heads of units, to keep them from coming to Glubb's assistance.


On Thursday morning of 1 February 1956, the King asked Samir al-Rifai to convene a cabinet meeting to discuss the issue of Glubb and take a decision to expel him from the army. In order to ensure chat the cabinet does indeed meet and discuss the issue, he personally went to the Prime Ministry, attended the cabinet session, and ordered the Chief of the Royal Court, Mr Bahjat al-Talhouni, to remain at the meeting until everything is over and Glubb is informed of the decision to expel him and appoint Radi ‘Innab in his place ...


In the meantime, Glubb was delivering a military speech at a camp in Zarka to one of the army’s divisions when he was summoned, around noon, without being given a reason. He arrived at the Prime Ministry and the Prime Minister informed him of the cabinet's decision, asked him to leave the country in haste, and hand over command of the army to Radi ‘Innab, all within the following 19 hours. He was also told that the plane which was taking him to London was due to leave at seven in the morning of the next day, Friday, 2/3/1956. Confused and astonished, Glubb requested more time to be able to finish his work and pack his papers and bags; however, the Prime Minister, acting on the King’s orders, insisted on the previously appointed time.


Glubb went straight to the British Embassy, told the Ambassador the surprising news, and asked for his intervention in granting him at least one more week. The Ambassador went to the Prime Ministry and did his best to convince the Prime Minister to extend the period, but the latter refused. While this was taking place, an army unit surrounded Glubb’s home, cut his telephone line, and increased surveillance over his movements. After being refused entry to the army headquarters, Glubb went back home, packed his belongings, and left the country at the appointed time and according to plan. A military unit was deployed at the airport all day long as a precautionary measure lest he changed his mind and decides to return. The British airport was also surrounded by mechanised units to prevent British soldiers from doing anything to help Glubb.


To ensure that the plan was successfully carried out, the King and his Government saw to it that during his ride from his house to the airport, Glubb was accompanied by Falah al-Madadha, the Minister of Defence who had played an important role in the incident; Bahjat al-Talhouni, Chief of the Royal Court; and a number of free officers. They returned to their duties only when they made sure that the plane had taken off and that Glubb was really over and done with.

King Hussein's dismissal of Glubb may strengthen prospects for the Jordanian Army, and Chehab lists reasons for Glubb's expulsion.


Document Information


Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 11, File 33/11, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford.


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Youmna and Tony Asseily