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1956: King of Jordan sacks British general

King Hussein of Jordan has sacked the British commander of the Arab Legion in what is being seen as an effort to strengthen his own position within the Arab world.

Lieutenant General John Bagot Glubb, the British commander of the 20,000-strong Arab Legion, was ordered to leave Jordan within two hours - but the King relented and allowed him to remain overnight to pack his and his family's belongings.

He arrived at London airport this evening - 16 hours after his dismissal.

Joyful demonstrations

Eight other British officers holding key posts in the Legion have also been removed and replaced by Jordanians. Two Jordanian officers who had worked closely with General Glubb are being retired.

News of the General's departure was greeted with joyful demonstrations across the country.

Crowds gathered in the main streets and shouted slogans like, "Long live the King" and "Long live Arab co-operation and unity".

In dismissing General Glubb, the King has strengthened his own position by shedding the stigma of appearing to be a British puppet and by courting Arab nationalists.

Under General Glubb's command the Arab Legion has become one of the most efficient of the Arab armies. There are 67 British officers in the Legion. Arab nationalists say it represents British rather than Arab interests.

Under the terms of a 1948 treaty, the British government is allowed to retain airbases in Jordan and in return, it contributes a subsidy to the Legion. These funds are directly controlled by the General.

Speaking at London airport, General Glubb said Jordan and Britain had been friends for 35 years, "and the last thing I would like is for my personal affairs to cause any weakening of that friendship. I am neither shocked, dazed nor angry".

He added: "I have always been treated with the greatest kindness by the Hashemite Royal Family and have no complaints."

Tomorrow, General Glubb will report to the Foreign Office before going to Chequers for lunch with the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden.

In Context
Jordan emerged out of the post World War I division of the Middle East under British control.

It became independent in 1946. In 1948 a treaty of alliance allowed Britain to retain air bases and a small force in Jordan. In return, Britain continued to train and subsidise the Arab Legion which began as a security force and became the nucleus of the army.

King Hussein came to the throne in 1952 and ruled for 47 years until his death in 1999. He became a stabilising and moderating influence in a volatile Middle East.

After dismissing General Glubb, he issued a statement emphasising that Jordan would continue to respect the 1948 treaty.

General Glubb returned to Britain as a private citizen. He became a writer, mostly on Arab affairs.


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