The horrific video showing the immolation of Muath Kasasbeh sent by Daesh to Jordan contained a message: “You are kuffar and we will destroy you.” This has been perceived as a deliberate insult and threat to the Hashemite Kingdom and its people.
It has caused outrage among Jordanians who have called for and received executions in retaliation, who want to send the Arab Army (the Jordanian Armed Forces) into Syria, who simply want revenge.
Muath Kasasbeh. Demotix/Steve Rhodes. All rights reserved.
Immediately after the video was released, one Jordanian businessman told me Sajida al-Rishawi, the failed al-Qaeda suicide bomber held in Jordan, “must die.” He had previously been resigned to Kasasbeh’s capture, assuming that he would be killed, probably beheaded. Now he said,
“It’s such bad news, I don’t know what we should do now. I would like them to kill Sajida.”
And they did, along with another al-Qaeda agent, Ziyad Karboli. More could follow. Everyone had said they knew Kasasbeh would be killed but the violence of the murder has surpassed what anybody in Jordan thought Daesh were capable of—especially when killing a fellow Muslim. So now Jordan has replied that Daesh are kuffar and will be razed to the ground.
On Wednesday, there was much unity on display in Amman; cars flew the Jordanian flag and there was no club music on the radio or TV, only quiet, respectful classics and hymns. But discontent has been sown. The previous night the government was blamed for Kasasbeh’s death by MPs in parliament; in Karak, Kasasbeh’s hometown, the governor's building was set alight by hundreds of protesters.
Demotix/Mics Pix. All rights reserved.
Unlike Lebanon, Jordan has not yet been pushed to breaking point by the crisis in Syria. But that is not to say it is not in difficult waters. At times in recent months the border has been closed to refugees because of the pressure under which they place the country, and they have lost free medical care. Rent is being forced up and up for everyone, and taxi drivers complain about the number of cars on the road.
On top of all this, aid agencies are facing shortfalls. In 2014, UNICEF raised only 58 percent of its funds, and the World Food Programme had to temporarily stop distributing food vouchers, before halving the amount given to each refugee. Jordan is facing a difficult year.
Speculation about the public’s reaction to the murder was focused on how the Jordanian government had handled Kasasbeh’s capture. “I’m not worried yet,” a local aid worker said,
“If something were to happen in Jordan it would have happened already. But my mother is very worried. People are mad about Kasasbeh’s murder. They think they’ve been lied to about him the whole time and they’re blaming the government. Daesh lied about when he died but they think the government knew already. It’s maybe a reason for them to flip on the government.”
Many blame Kasasbeh’s death on the government’s decision to take part in America’s coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Daesh. As one commentator who runs an export business patiently explains:
“America created Daesh, just like they created al-Qaeda. They are playing a game with Jordan. Daesh are fighting with American weapons and America’s allies are buying their oil—Turkey, Kurdistan. We must fight them but not as part of the coalition. We must work with the local governments and rebels to destroy them.”
Whether or not this analysis is correct is up for discussion, but Jordan has reiterated its commitment to the coalition. It has intensified airstrikes and a debate has begun on the scale of a ground operation. For all the wrathful revenge it seeks its armed forces are small, if well equipped and funded by the Americans. While it looks there will be no ground troops sent into Raqqa, Adeeb Sarayrah, a retired major general in the Arab Army, has said special forces will now enter the field of battle. No matter what Jordanians think they are tied into the coalition.
Kasasbeh’s capture and brutal murder has fomented a haze of worry and seething anger. The English language newspaper, the Jordan Times, in a jingoistic step posted a video of patriotic music, troops on manoeuvre and swooping jets on Facebook. Kasasbeh’s colleagues are performing daily flypasts in their F-16s, sometimes following well-publicised bombing runs.
Jordan’s involvement in the war on Daesh is no longer an open secret. King Abdullah has been quoted as saying: “The only problem we're going to have is running out of fuel and bullets.” This approach is working and people have fallen in line.
The hunger for the balance to be redressed is huge and the government, the army and the king are satiating the country’s blood-lust with executions and bombs. Daesh’s attempt to destabilise Jordan has failed because of their inhuman display. The country that is thought to be the third largest contributor of Daesh recruits is now united against it. The exporter sums up the feeling,
“We must burn the whole land to the ground, the whole of Daesh. There will be other casualties but khalas, enough.”