Transjordan, an Emir wants an empire, and has a Arab Legion to get it for him

Staking an empire is hard even when you are moderate and have powerful friends. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The stamp today is from Transjordan. The area is now called Jordan and the same royal house rules it. The Emir on the stamp was serving at the pleasure of the British mandate and although there is no evidence of this on the stamp, everyone was aware of it. At least he had the power to be his own man on the postage stamps. Eventually he would be his own man but resentment over who his friends were would lead to his assassination.

The issue today is A3, a 1 mil stamp issued by the Emirate of Transjordan in 1934. It featured Emir Abdullah ibn Hussein. It was part of a 16 stamp issue in various colors and denominations with the same portrait of the Emir. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $2.00 in mint condition. The stamp to look out for in this issue is the grey 1 Palestinian Pound stamp that is worth $120 used.

King Abdullah I, his eventual title, was the son of the Grand Sherif of Mecca. He was a direct decendant of the Prophet Muhammed. His early days were the last years of the Ottoman Empire. His early mannouverings reflected the intrigue of the time. He was educated in Istanbul and his first two wives were of Turkish nobility. On the other hand a great deal of his dealings were with the British in Egypt and his third wife, married later, was of that decent. World War I saw an Arab uprising against the Ottomans and King Abdullah along with his brother the eventual King of Iraq lead Arab armies against the Ottoman Turks. This was done with British support and coordination most famously by T. E. Lawrence, (Lawrence of Arabia).

The hoped for independence after World War I was not forthcoming instead the area was divided into a British mandate and a French one to the north in Lebanon and Syria. King Abdullah hoped for a great empire that would stretch through modern day Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Instead for the time being he had to be content with the title of Emir in just Transjordan, that did not yet include the west bank of the Jordan River or the city of Jerusalem.

The complicating factors here were the British mandate and the growing numbers of Jews arriving in Palestine to build a new Jewish state. King Abdullah was the only Arab leader in regular contact with the Jews including a regular dialog with Golda Meir, the later Israeli Prime Minister. At various times he supported a Jewish state in Palestine or a least a Jewish run canton that pledged allegiance to his empire. He was opposed to local Palestine Arabs who pledged themselves not to King Abdullah but the Mufti of Jerusalem.

What King Abdullah did possess was the British lead Arab Legion. It was by far the most effective military force at the command of the Arabs at the time of the 1948 war. The deployments during that war were limited has the goal of Abdullah was not to wipe out the Jewish state but rather to bring the Palestine Arabs under his control. To affect this he banned the terms Transjordan and Palestine in favor of Jordan and offered citizenship to Arabs with Palestine mandate papers. He took control of the west bank of the Jordan.

With his British ties and Jewish contacts there was some distrust of him from some of his subjects post independence. There were rumors in 1951 that Lebanon and Jordan were conspiring to make peace and recognize the Isreali state. Within a 48 hour period the Lebanese Prime Minister and King Abdullah I were assassinated at the hands of Palestinians. This ended any peace talks. Abdullah was succeeded by his son  King Talal I whose rule was short. He was forced to abdicate after less than a year after his schizophrenia became known. He spent the rest of his life in a sanitarium in Amman.

Well my drink is empty and so it is time to open up the discussion in the below comment section. What a different middle east we might have today except for the assassinations in 1951. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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