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Opinion: Jordan’s ISIS Dilemma | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Jordanians gather outside a mosque during Friday prayers, following a demonstration against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and demanding the freedom of Jordanian pilot Muadh Al-Kasasbeh, in downtown Amman on December 26, 2014. (AFP Photos.)

War is war, with blood, wounds, captivity, bereavement, anxiety, deception, resolution and reluctance.

It has been like that throughout history, from the time of bows and spears to the age of F-16 fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles.

We have all heard about the international coalition which has been cobbled to fight the Tatars of our time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The coalition which consists of the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan is committed to fighting the militants affiliated with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

In recent comments about the international coalition, King Abdullah II of Jordan said it is the duty of Muslims and Arabs, before anyone else, to fight ISIS to protect their countries and people from the radical group and to safeguard Islam from the taint of its brutal acts.

Fighting ISIS is a worthy and necessary national duty. The Arabs who are performing this duty are carrying out a vital service, rather than merely complementing the US military forces that are participating in this battle. Jordan has no choice but to fight this war in order to protect itself. Even if the Americans and others would backtrack, Jordan would have no choice but to continue fighting. It is true that the international coalition has provided strategic depth and an umbrella for Jordan, but we must all focus on strengthening our efforts against this dangerous group, rather than seeking to de-legitimatize the war on ISIS.

I say this in response to those who tried to use the capture of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS as a pretext to rebuke the Jordanian state for fighting ISIS. The terrorist group claims to have downed the Jordanian F-16 fighter jet with a heat-seeking missile it fired from the city of Raqqa, the so-called seat of its “Caliphate”. However the Americans have roundly denied ISIS’s claims, saying that the fighter jet crashed due to mechanical failures.

The capture of First Lieutenant Muadh Al-Kasasbeh by ISIS has shocked the Jordanian street. This is not to suggest that the incident has intimidated them but rather that it has come as a complete surprise. Until his captivity, the war had no Jordanian victims. Therefore, the war has now revealed its other ugly face to the people of Jordan. The Jordanians’ response to the capture of one of their own was extremely emotional, particularly after ISIS released footage showing him surrounded by a group of its militants. Social networking sites were inundated with campaigns in solidarity with Kasasbeh and people on Twitter used the hashtags “Be an eagle” and “we are all Muadh Al-Kasasbeh” to signal their support.

It is normal for the family of the captive to appear in the media and issue appeals and for the Jordanian military to issue statements demanding calm. It is also normal for the Jordanian monarch to monitor the case of his captured pilot personally.

So how will ISIS deal with the captured pilot? Will it treat him as it usually treat its captives? Or will it be smarter this time and try to use him as a bargaining chip?

Many in Jordan sympathize with ISIS. These include Mohamed Al-Shalabi, known as Abu Sayyaf, who in a statement following the incident questioned what interest Jordan has in fighting ISIS, praising the Islamist group. “Kasasbeh’s fate depends on the leaders of ISIS who will reportedly swap him for Sajida Al-Rishawi whom Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, may Allah have mercy on his soul, sent on a mission before she was arrested, and Ziyad Al-Karbuli, an ISIS member,” Shalabi claimed.

The brave Kingdom of Jordan needs assistance and support in order to protect it from ISIS abroad and its agents at home.