Moaz al-Kasasbeh and ISIS’ Fatal Misjudgment

The turnaround is extraordinary.

I have only been in Amman for little more than two weeks, but it was very clear that there was a strong current of Jordanian public opinion opposed to Jordanian participation in Coalition air attacks against ISIS. That critical current had apparently been simmering here in Jordan for weeks in the wake of ISIS taking the Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh prisoner when his jet crashed in Syria.

It was a sentiment that had surfaced in public expression and escalated in recent days, as ISIS cynically offered to spare an already dead Kasasbeh’s life and free a Japanese hostage it would eventually behead in exchange for Jordan releasing a would-be Iraqi suicide bomber.

Then the 22-minute ISIS video of al-Kasasbeh being set on fire and burnt to death turned everything around. The most powerful symbol of that turnaround is Moaz’s father, Safi Kasasbeh. Only a week ago Safi not only called upon the Jordanian government to give ISIS whatever was necessary to secure the release of his son, but he openly challenged Jordanian participation in the Coalition. According to Safi, Jordan and its air force had no business fighting in a war that did not concern it, one that was being waged beyond its borders.

Then ISIS released its video, confirming Jordanian Intelligence’s unpublicized concern that Moaz might already be dead. That is why all last week the Jordanian authorities had kept demanding – with ISIS failing to respond – that proof be provided before any prisoner exchange could take place.

A Father’s Demand

Since that video’s release, Safi al-Kasasbeh has demanded that Jordan “annihilate ISIS” a demand echoed by the thousands of Jordanians who turned out to cheer King Abdallah II upon his return to Jordan from the U.S. The king has pledged to wage a relentless war against ISIS.

Safi al-Kasasbeh’s demand was also echoed by…

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