By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
A video emerged Tuesday appearing to show captured Jordanian airman Mouath al-Kasaesbeh engulfed in flames while imprisoned in a metal cage. The latest apparent filmed ISIS execution could be the flash point for a larger Jordanian intervention—a role that Jordan’s government has long avoided in Syria. The grizzly film surfaced after failed negotiation attempts by Jordan including possible prisoner exchanges.
Jordan has vowed to avenge the pilot with a response that is “strong, earth shaking and decisive” Reuters reported. “The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan,” said a representative for the Jordanian army, Colonel Mamdouh al Ameri.
Jordan’s role so far has been one of extreme burden in housing Syrian War refugees near the border and close coalition support in joint military containment and strikes against ISIS within Syria. They have also played a large part with rebel paramilitary training.
ISIS made the announcement last summer that Jordan was an objective, after seizing large swaths of Syria and Iraq. Jordan is also a point of access to Israel, so it acts as a buffer for the spread of both the Syrian Civil War entering into Palestine and south into Egypt as well as a shield to the spread of ISIS. Not only must Jordan be reinforced and supported internationally, but this position places them in greater jeopardy as it prepares to enter into the inevitable proxy war with larger regional ramifications.
King Abdullah II of Jordan and his Hashemite supporters have pushed for Islamic moderation in reaction to ISIS, very much like Saudi Arabia. However, while Jordan is in a more strategic or vulnerable position, it does not have half the symbolic Muslim prestige controlled by the Saudi royals. King Abdullah II must respond to a growing unrest of radicals and impatient protestors within his own state. Moreover, the restlessness of the Syrian refugee crisis, housing an estimated 1.3 million people (according to US News & World Report), compounds serious internal political vulnerabilities for the monarchy. King Abdullah may be forced to act and make good on his promise to enter a total military commitment in Syria very soon.
The U.S. has condemned the brutal murder of Mouath al-Kasaesbeh. U.S. Commander for Central Command General Lloyd Austin said: “This vicious act is yet another example of ISIL or ‘Daesh’s’ brutality and warped ideology. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with his family. I spoke with General Mashal al-Zaben, Chief of Staff of the Jordanian Armed Forces, and assured him that we stand with our Jordanian partners and together we will fight this barbaric enemy until it is defeated.”
The U.S. has increased its annual support for Jordan to $1 billion, covering technical and security support; and in addition to the $467 million given to help refugees in Jordan.
At this point or very soon, Jordan may believe that it has less to lose by going to war in Syria. This action would spur other state actors into entering Syria, a process that has been slow and gradual, but de facto airstrikes confirm a regional proxy war effort of containment.
Airman Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, the downed and murdered Jordanian fighter pilot could become the historic name of great significance for the First Great Middle Eastern War of 2015. But even if his name goes largely forgotten by those outside of his family members and the Jordanians, any single international death at this point could act as catalyst for a conceivable total regional war.
Note: The opinions and comments stated in the preceding article, and views expressed by any contributor to In Homeland Security, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University System, its management or employees.
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