#NotOurWar: Jordan vs the Islamic State group

#NotOurWar: Jordan vs the Islamic State group
Many believed Amman would be merely providing logistical support in the US-led fight against IS. But the capture of Moaz al-Kasasba exposed Jordan's involvement in yet another American war, and sparked a wave of solidarity with the young pilot.
5 min read
30 Dec, 2014
The capture of pilot Moaz al-Kasasba came as a shock to Jordanians [Getty]

Jordanians did not fully realise the consequences of Jordan's involvement in the US-led war on the so-called Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) - until they woke up to the images of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasba after he was captured by the extremist group as his plane crashed in Syria.

Indeed, earlier leaks had suggested the Jordanian role in the war was limited to logistical support and intelligence gathering on behalf of coalition forces. 

This lack of transparency, tantamount to deception, is nothing new; the regime is implicated up to its neck in US-planned, US-led military and other covert operations. So much so that this seems like it is the inescapable fate of the Jordanians.

It is as if normal life for Jordan would not be possible without this involvement in the White House's wars. It is as if the regime's only purpose is to be fully subservient to Washington, its policies and its desires. 

Why fight?

The involvement of the Jordanian state and its agencies in US-led wars is often implicitly sold to the public as a prerequisite for economic growth and the flow of aid, even as Jordan drowns in in debt, with deteriorating living conditions and a lack of any meaningful hope for change. This absence of hope continues to push many young Jordanians to join IS and other militant groups.  

However, digging deeper it is clear that the real purpose of Jordan's involvement is to renew the client-state nature of the regime and to preserve the interests of a narrow clique of people who benefit from it - the very clique that was shaken to its core by the Arab uprisings and the demands they championed.  

     It is clear that the real purpose of Jordan's involvement is... to preserve the interests of a narrow clique of people.

The economic factor, meanwhile, is not the sole cause of the spread of Salafist-Jihadism in Jordan. This ideology has enjoyed a nurturing environment which the security services and successive governments have helped foster, in a concerted effort to counter nationalist and leftist movements.

What is new here, though, is that the regime's extreme subservience, including the participation in a US-led war while at the same time remaining seemingly impotent and paralysed when it comes to the many and frequent Israeli wars, has aggravated the simmering sense of resentment among broad sections of young people here.

The anger aroused was not only on behalf of or in solidarity with the Palestinians; rather it was also because of a feeling of national humiliation that has been ignored by the country's rulers. 

Manipulating fears

The regime and its agencies have exploited understandable fears of IS and other extremists, which explains the support for the current war from political factions known for their hostility to US policies.

The regime successfully managed to enact amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Law, giving more powers to the security services, and pushed through economic measures that run counter to the aspirations for change that has characterised the "Jordanian street" since the start of the Arab uprisings. The regime used the slogan of the war on terror as justification for both the unacceptable and the acceptable.

But the capture of pilot Moaz al-Kasasba came as a huge shock for both the supporters and opponents of the war.

There are real concerns for the fate of the young man. In his pictures posted on Facebook, Moaz resembles thousands of young Jordanians aspiring for a better life, which he had perhaps found in joining the armed forces, in addition to nurturing his sense of patriotic pride and finding a special status and respect as a member of the air force.

The pictures showing Moaz in the hands of IS fighters after being stripped of his uniform have shaken Jordanians, many of whom wondered why this young man should pay the price for the convenience of the elites.

     The pictures showing Moaz in the hands of IS fighters have shaken Jordanians.


The debate about whether this was a Jordanian or US war was rekindled. Hashtags on social media including #ThisIsNotOurWar and #WeAreAllMoaz began trending. Users expressed solidarity with the young pilot and began questioning whether the war on IS and its ideology could be reduced into a war whose political and military objectives Jordan could not control. And how could an ideology ever be defeated militarily anyway?  

The regime and many among the elites opted from the outset to ignore the tough questions. To them, military annihilation was the easiest option, with a clear and present danger looming across the border, and real fears from slaughter, torture, or the establishment of severe and zealous restrictions, to the point of death, on social freedoms.

The images of women being stoned and enslaved, and the prohibition of mixing and any social participation of women, was a nightmare that people feared could indeed become reality in Jordan.  

What the elites in Jordan seem to have ignored, however, was that the culture that underpins IS does not only exist across the border but in their midst too, and that confronting extremism requires the promotion of social justice and an enlightened culture. 

As usual, these elites live in a bubble, and those who ultimately pay the price are always young people such as Moaz. The continuation of injustice fuels a kind of terrorism that wars cannot snuff out, and one day, we could wake up to find that we are all indeed Moaz.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.