Jordan and ISIS: more bombing, less peace

Last week when ISIS burned the Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kassasbeh, and Jordan responded by hanging two prisoners already sentenced to death for crimes committed as part of al-Qa’eda, Arise TV in London asked me to comment. Here’s the part of The World programme I was on:

The reaction of wanting to lash out is understandable but will it help? Is it possible, as the pilot’s distraught father has demanded, to “annihilate” ISIS? For if it is not possible, the result will only be to stoke the fire.

Indeed, there are reasons for thinking that Jordan’s reaction may be counter-productive. One short term result could be to bring ISIS closer together with al-Nusra – the al-Qa’eda group with which ISIS broke and which it has been fighting. Each step further into the morass of escalation of this complex conflict makes it harder to find a way out.

Pictures of Kobani show how much destruction air power can achieve and the Kurdish peshmerga fighter in the picture looks over a town ISIS has vacated.


Yet ISIS has only gone into the hills a few miles away and could be back to torture the town even further at any time.

Despite the pain ISIS has unleashed, and despite its fighters being driven out of Kobani, it still seems to be true that only a political solution will work.

Defeating a group such as ISIS through armed force may drive its adherents underground. It may even obliterate the organisation. But if the conditions that produced it persist, then something like it will re-emerge.

And, to date, the lesson of the Middle East and North Africa is that after every defeat of a militant group, another yet more militant group emerges. Precisely because the conditions persist.

If we can sympathise with a Jordanian father demanding that his son’s killers be annihilated, we may do best to interpret that as a plea to get to grips with eliminating the problem so there is no more ISIS and no successor group.

But that means thinking much more thoroughly about the region, its capacities and its problems – including the role of outside powers – than either the regions rulers or their external allies want to.




One thought on “Jordan and ISIS: more bombing, less peace

  1. Dan,
    I have been arguing for some time that only if the west cooperates and coordinates with the Assad Government in Syria can ISIS be defeated in Syria. The defeat of ISIS requires a deal by which the opposition to the Government puts differences aside and joins the Government for the term of the current Presidency. With a lot of effort and good coordination the combined efforts of the coalition government that would be formed, the west and some Arab states could defeat ISIS in Syria, and undermine its role in Iraq. In Iraq ISIS can only be defeated with the full hearted support of Iran (also involved in Syria). The USA has come round to coordination with Syrian Government (otherwise their aircraft would be endangered) and the realization of an accommodation with Assad and Iran as essential for the fight against ISIS to succeed. this is the only realistic policy available.

    Unfortunately Israel has seen the chance to continue its fight with Hizbollah with tragic results todate, threatening the whole western effort, and with hizbollah hitting back. turkey and the conservative Arab states supported ISIS and now play a double game, trying to get Rid of Assad and also afraid that ISIS is out of country.

    To defeat ISIS a formal agreement for a joint effort is needed involving the Governments of Iraq and syria, the kurds who are showing great courage, the west and states such as Jordan that realize the risk they face face from ISIS.

    ISIS was the creation of the horribly wrong policies of the USA in Iraq and syria, and ISIS should be recognised as the most successful arab military effort since Saladin. It therefore requires a huge effort to defeat it from the air and on the ground. Foot soldiers are needed if the west is serious and cooperation between all those fighting ISIS.

    The current western policies are insufficient and often counter productive. ISIS is a threat to all modern concepts of human rights and governance and should be treated as such, and western governments should show political courage and join together with all those fighting ISIS to succeed, while Israel should stay out of the whole thing and not try to hit its old enemies that are fighting ISIS.

    Costas Apostolides

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