Jordan, Egypt and ISIS: A Tale of Vengeance
By Raed Omari
20 February 2015
Isn’t there enough silence and inaction on the rising terrorism worldwide? What more is needed to prompt a world response to ISIS’ unsurpassed brutality? Isn’t beheading and burning alive of the innocent and, even the convict, horrific enough? Don’t we live in a globalized world with interrelated interests and shared risks? Can’t you see ISIS rapidly growing? Isn’t it time yet? Why the procrastination and hesitation? Do you think you are immune from the danger? Aren’t we your moderate and trustworthy partners? Aren’t we indeed part of the international community? Such rhetoric questions and more are what Egyptian and Jordanian officials are raising now while embattling the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and Syria outside their territories in regions either very close to the West or of vital Western interests.
Only a few hours following ISIS’ release of a video showing its masked militants’ beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian workers, Egypt, in retaliation, sent its F-16 warplanes to Libya to hit the group’s hideouts there typically echoing Jordan’s vengeance following the burning alive of its pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Exactly as Jordan did, Egypt accompanied its military action on ISIS with diplomatic efforts seeking to build a world consensus on the importance of eradicating the radical organization which is undoubtedly now the embodiment of all terror. Like Jordan, Egypt seems to be determined to hurt ISIS and “healing the chests” of its citizens, yet complications persist.
Action on ISIS
Before and after Jordan’s and Egypt’s action on ISIS, there is much to say militarily, politically and diplomatically on the U.S.-led international community’s work on terror. The burning alive of al-Kasasbeh was as horrible as the beheading of the Coptic Egyptians but in the short interval between the two acts of terror and long time before, less has been done by the world to address ISIS, not toward eliminating the radical organization but at least toward curbing its expansion. What is really so special about Jordan and Egypt being the two major actors in the tragedy now is that the two countries are major strategic allies of Washington, fighting now for a cause that lies at the heart of its interests yet pleading for U.S. assistance.
The Obama administration has not yet responded to Jordanian request for military equipment necessary in the fight against ISIS amidst news reports about the request being turned down. That Washington had once refused to provide lethal weapons to the Syrian rebels under concerns of such arms one day falling in the hands of radical groups fighting in Syria was understandable but in the case of Jordan that is absurd. Jordan is a country that enjoys receiving advanced U.S. weaponry. The same applies for Egypt. Egyptians’ requests for U.S.-manufactured weapons have been always met with procrastination by Washington which prompted them to diversify weapon providers like Russia and France. Listening to Jordanian and Egyptians these on terror, one can see the unmistakable dismay they express over the inadequate assistance they receive in their declared war on ISIS; the war they believe as inseparable from the U.S.’s interests.
Although Jordan’s and Egypt’s quick “payback” response to ISIS has to be viewed as a reaction rather than an action – I mean spontaneity vs. planning – the two countries have long been involved in anti-terror efforts in Syria, Iraq and Libya. A long time before al-Kasasbeh’s tragedy, Jordan alerted the world to the horrible consequences of leaving terror-fertile Syria unaddressed. Egypt too, has long warned that widespread terror will be the outcome of the world’s inaction on Libya. The two warnings have proved valid.
Additionally, there is now an anti-terror alliance being formed by Jordan and the Gulf states on one hand and Egypt and the Libyan government on the other. Such an Arab version of the war on terror has been implemented with America’s hesitance and decisiveness in the background. However, it carries a message to the Obama administration that, if sending troops to Syria, Iraq and Libya may cause disputes in the White House and the Congress, we can do the job but we need help, let it be logistic, military and political.
ISIS’ documented mass execution of the Egyptian Christians in Libya was in part a proof of the rapid expansion of the radical organization and also a major indicator that the group has declared its “global jihad.” In other words, ISIS has declared itself as an international, trans-border organization that has affiliations everywhere in violent hotbeds and safe havens maybe still hidden as “sleeper cells” waiting for an order from the central leadership to move. Has the world received the message? Let’s wait and see.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English.