Immediately following the horrid immolation of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Moaz Kasasbeh, the Jordanian government swiftly responded. Jordan promptly executed two al-Qaeda prisoners: Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli. Passionate and threatening rhetoric hit the media and headlines. King Abdullah, Jordanian government, and military officials promised harsh responses, revenge, and relentless action against ISIS. Jordan military members purportedly wrote messages such as “for you, enemy of Islam” on their bombs before embarking on airstrike missions. General Mansour-al-Jbour, Jordan’s Air Force chief, even exclaimed, “We are determined to wipe them from the face of the Earth.”
However, is there substance behind the swift executions, heated rhetoric, increased airstrikes, and troop deployments? Or are we witnessing pure overreaction that will merely pass by in the coming months? If this is not a galvanizing event for Jordan, and Arab partners in general, then what is? Jordan’s commitment must not waver, and it is important their fight against ISIS persists. With Syria and Iraq as neighbors, there is no time to lose.
Most recently, actions backing up Jordan’s aggressive rhetoric include: deployment of Jordanian troops to the Jordanian-Iraqi border to prevent ISIS infiltration, UAE jet squadrons launching strikes from Jordan, King Abdullah agreeing to allow Bahranian troops and aircraft to be sent to his country, and a salvo of airstrikes throughout the last two weeks. For example, The Guardian quoted Major General Jbour stating that 56 airstrikes had been carried out between February 5 and 8. According to BBC News and Reuters, these air raids have thus far targeted ISIS hideouts, weapon caches, and bases.
This is only just the beginning. In Libya, ISIS pushed Egypt to the brink after releasing a horrific video displaying the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians along the coastline. In an interview with France’s Europe Radio 1, Sisi passionately asserted, “We will not allow them to cut off the heads of our children.” Similar to King Abdullah’s rhetoric, it is yet to be seen if Egypt will push forward. Egypt, similar to Jordan, immediately retaliated. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi convened a meeting with his security council, and ordered airstrikes on militant positions in the coastal Libyan city of Derna. In addition to immediate airstrikes, President Sisi has now urged the UN to mandate a coalition against ISIS aligned militants in Libya. Indeed, the UN Security Council hosted an emergency session in New York on Wednesday, February 18 to discuss the crisis in Libya. President Sisi sent Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, to the UN to present Egypt’s proposals for a resolution against Libya.
These individual, sadistic acts of violence committed by ISIS and captured on video for the world to see have changed the course of the conflict. We see the intervention of those who were once more cautious again ISIS, possibly afraid of backlash in their own streets. Arab nations are beginning to realize that they are not untouchable, and that the region is becoming a smaller and smaller place by the day. While ISIS threatens the West, promising to raise the black flag on the White House or to conquer Rome, nations in ISIS’ neighborhood are the ones who should worry. Efforts from Egypt and Jordan must persist if ISIS is to suffer degradation. Rhetoric must be coupled with serious action. Fighting ISIS without Arab partners is unrealistic. They can no longer have symbolic positions in the coalition, as it’s a fight for their future.