Angry Jordanian Crowds Rally over ISIL Murder of Pilot, but some blame US, King

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Jordanian protesters came out in the thousands on Tuesday to protest the gruesome murder by Daesh (ISIL, ISIL) of a captured Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kasasbeh. He was from the central Jordanian town of Karak (pop. 70,000), 87 miles south of the capital of Amman, and crowds came out in its center last night. Protests were also mounted by the Kasasbeh clan, to which the victim belonged, demanding that Jordan leave the US-led coalition. Crowds also rallied in Amman. the capital.

While the masses were protesting Daesh’s cruelty to a fellow Jordanian, then, some of them also chanted against the Coalition that is bombing eastern Syria and even against the Jordanian regime for joining them in bombing Daesh positions in Syria and Iraq.

The Jordanian government responded to the news by abruptly executing Iraqi terrorist Sajida Rishawi and Ziad Karbouli, aid to the late al-Qaeda leader Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi. The two had been considered for a swap for the unlucky pilot.

One opinion poll last November found that 59% of Jordanians supported or strongly supported Coalition bombing raids on Daesh, whereas 28% opposed and 8% strongly opposed this intervention. (Despite the 58/36 split, Jordanians are more hawkish toward Daesh than are Egyptians or Saudis; they are not as hawkish as Lebanese, 76% of which want the Coalition to destroy Daesh yesterday.)

Jordanians have a long tradition of opposing religious extremism. The 2005 hotel bombings in Amman, carried out by the previous incarnation of Daesh, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, produced a severe public condemnation of that organization. Jordanians are proud of their capital and its increasing stock of five star hotels, and despise those who attacked them and killed innocents. The now-deceased Sajida Rishawi and Ziad Karbouli were associates of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a car thief and ring leader of the Sunni extremists in Iraq after 2003. Rishawi wore a belt bomb into a fancy Amman hotel to blow up a wedding party, but her belt did not detonate.

Zarqawi was killed by a US strike in 2006, but likely it was Jordanian intelligence that tracked him down.

Some 36% of Jordanians did not want their country to be part of the aerial bombing campaign against Daesh and some of those also did not approve of Americans and European powers getting involved. The modern Middle East has suffered since Bonaparte with Western military invasions, occupations and colonial regimes, and some proportion of the population thinks any Western intervention will be disastrous. About 60% of Jordanians are of Palestinian heritage, who suffered as refugees from being ethnically cleansed by Israelis backed by Britain, which gave away Palestine to the immigrant Jews. All this is to say that it would not be correct to read the 36% who oppose the Coalition intervention as pro-Daesh by any manner of means. Others oppose Jordan getting involved in Syrian affairs, for fear of a backlash.

The pilot’s barbarous execution by being burned alive may increase the number of Jordanians who want Daesh wiped out and are willing to ally with the US and some European powers to accomplish that goal. Jordanian national feeling is running high. The undercurrents of blame on the regime for getting involved with the US-led anti-Daesh bombing raids, however, are a reminder that public opinion could go in the opposite direction.


Related video:

Jordan has had a ‘troubled history’ with Islamist movements | Channel 4 News

9 Responses

  1. The “experts” on the media argue that the king will now escalate his cooperation with the US war on IS. Does anyone take seriously his regime’s claim that the pilot was burned to death Jan 3? That’s just cover for bungling the swap for the woman for the Japanese reporter which, for what I can tell from here, was the only swap on offer from IS.

  2. The depravity of our aggression against Iraq and the greater ME being reflected back to us in the depravity of ISIS. I believe the behavior of ISIS will ultimately be seen as the end game of our war for oil against those who legitimately own it. Alas, we have no leadership in sight to lead this country from the moral morass in which it has plunged. Thank you SCOTUS.

  3. From the United States’ rap sheet:

    a. Neo-fascists installed in Ukraine by the machinations of neocons in the state department burned 30 people alive in a union hall in Odessa.

    b. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. How many people have paid attention to ISIS’s victims being clothed in Guantanamo orange and considered a connection?

    c. Our anti-communist “friends” in Argentina and Chile tossing live prisoners into the ocean from helicopters.

    d. My Lai and lesser “My Lais” in Vietnam.

    And that’s just for openers.

    So it takes an enormous amount of gall to be indignant about this latest half-dozen atrocities in the Islamic State but, being exceptional, the United States is up to the task.

    • >Neo-fascists installed in Ukraine

      You the centrist party which won the ukranian elections.

  4. Once the anger over this atrocity subsides, I suspect that Jordan will choose not to join in any further overt action against ISIS, much like the UAE has already done. It’s much too divisive in this polarized climate to hope for Arab Sunnis to fight against Arab Sunnis.

    • I disagree with you. Of course, we are doing what is easily prone to failure: predicting what is going to happen. My view, first of all, is that ISIS is a band of mean punks whose esprit de corps is the thrill of gaining power by extreme brutality. Their reign is doomed by the fact that everywhere they go they make more enemies than friends (among Sunnis and everyone else). I don’t claim to be a scholar of history, but cruel, murderous regimes invariably have a short shelf life so far as I know. Perhaps there exists an example to the contrary? The leaders of ISIS will meet a violent death…

    • It’s much too divisive in this polarized climate to hope for Arab Sunnis to fight against Arab Sunnis.”

      You could be right. I was wondering whether the ISIS execution of al-Kasasbeh didn’t deliberately put a dagger in on a split line in Jordanian society. Yeah, sure, the tribal chiefs are furious, the aristocratic support of the King. But the sympathies with ISIS lie in the poorer end of society, in Zarqa.

      In a larger, less delicately balanced country, it probably wouldn’t matter. But it wouldn’t take much to destabilise Jordan.

  5. This cruel act seems like an act of desperation more than anything else. Daesh just withdrew from Kobane after months of getting pounded. Their supply lines to Mosul are shaky and the Peshmerga definitely has the upper hand. Obama’s bombing campaign is paying dividends. These ultra- violent “pygmies” have no answer and they are hurting for money. So, they demand $200,000,000 for each Japanese captive and behead both. Money wasn’t the motive with the Jordanian pilot. They didn’t have one.

    How long can they last?

  6. Just ironic how the call to revenge given by the king and other government officials is almost immediately followed by asking for money and weapons. Seems like classic rentier state posturing. I’m pretty sure the Jordanian’s governments fight against ISIS will just turn into a repression against domestic challengers, which happen to be any type of movement that doesn’t fit into the tribal-military complex. Ikhwaan criticism of Emirate princes and monarchies are the real red lines in Jordan. oh and the king is going to dismiss the prime minister and dissolve parliament. Because that’s how all political sagas end in Jordan.

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