Yesterday’s claims by ISIS that a U.S. aid worker was killed by a Jordanian airstrike have prompted further panic, following the barbaric execution of Captain Moaz al-Kasasbeh.
Jordan’s media minister has expressed doubts about the accuracy of the reports and the U.S. is yet to confirm ISIS’s claims.
For me, I see it as an attempt by ISIS to press for a halt to the intensified Jordanian ‘payback’ airstrikes. The group has been reported to be strongly hit by Jordan following ISIS’s video showing Moaz being burned alive.
Jordanians are united in a state of deep grief and more noticeably are seeking revenge. Condolence houses are everywhere across the country; prayers are being held at mosques and churches; wedding parties have been canceled; new born babies are being named after Moaz, as well as streets and avenues.
The brave pilot has turned into a symbol for Jordanians united under one belief that ISIS must be severely punished and must no longer exist.
That is the public scene now in Jordan. It is more sentimental yes, but on the official level, there is also firmness by Jordanian officials, from the king himself down to the bottom of the hierarchy - all vowing to punish ISIS for its barbarism and unsurpassed brutality.
Jordan has now officially declared war against ISIS and radicalismRaed Omari
Just a few hours following the broadcast of the stomach-churning execution video, Jordan took vengeance, hanging al-Qaeda inmates Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziyad Karboli.
In fact, Jordan’s unity is not the outcome ISIS sought when it first held Moaz hostage more than five weeks ago. He was used by the group to blackmail the government and demand that Rishawi be released from prison. ISIS also wanted to punish Jordan for what it believed to be the kingdom’s key intelligence role in the killing of Iraq’s al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2007. The terrorist organization’s aim was to create division within Jordanian society that would press for a Jordanian withdrawal from the U.S-led anti-ISIS coalition.
But ISIS’s plot proved a failure. Jordanians are now pushing their government for swift and tough action against ISIS. The spontaneous gathering of thousands of Jordanians in the airport to receive the king, who cut short his visit to Washington, and ask him for strong action against ISIS, was the best proof for such unity. It was definitely a disappointing scene for ISIS.
More importantly, the Jordanian government now sees itself as free of any restrictions hindering swift action against ISIS. It was not the trivial support for ISIS within the kingdom that had curbed Jordan’s initial moves against the group; it was the emergence of an uneasy public mood opposing Jordanians being sent to fight in a war off the kingdom’s borders.
The unsaid sentence from many Jordanians was: “Why let our children die in the hostile strongholds of ISIS at a time when the radical group poses little strategic threat to Jordan?” But all has changed now. It is the Jordanians who are pushing for action.
Prospect of ground troops
After the brutal execution of Moaz, talk about Jordan’s readiness to send ground troops to ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria has resurfaced. Remarks here and there by Jordanian army high-ranking officers and senior officials have pushed observers to expect active Jordanian involvement in the war, going beyond airstrikes.
Although ground operations are an option for Jordan, I still see it a far-fetched possibility unless coordinated with Washington and other anti-ISIS alliance members. Jordan would lead a ground campaign against ISIS if accompanied by the Americans, Iraqi troops and tribes, the Kurds and maybe the Free Syrian Army. What is inevitable is that Jordan will increase its intelligence-sharing with Washington to draw a concise map of radical targets.
Jordan may also accelerate its training of Iraqi Sunni tribesmen fighting ISIS under Baghdad’s request. I expect the training to be in Iraq to give Jordanian troops there an insight into the situation in the war-torn country.
Enjoying domestic support, the Jordanian government will most probably begin cracking down further on any ISIS’s supporters inside the country. Angry voices from the Jordanian public and the parliament are calling on the government to show a strict and firm stance against the Muslim Brotherhood after the juvenile and irresponsible statements by an Islamist leader who was quoted in local media outlets as denouncing terrorism, excluding ISIS. A nationwide campaign is expected to be launched in Jordan; in mosques, schools, universities and the press denouncing ISIS and promoting the true essence of Islam: tolerance, moderation and respect of human dignity. Jordan has now officially declared war against ISIS and radicalism.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via email@example.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2