Jordan promises 'earth-shaking' vengeance against ISIS

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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World. Vengeance in Jordan comes quickly it seems. Yesterday, ISIS showed the gruesome execution of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot. This morning, two Muslim extremists on death row in Jordan were hanged in a prison there. But the pilot’s father says even that is not enough vengeance. He told Reuters that Jordanians are demanding revenge with even more painful blows to destroy these criminals. Daoud Kuttab is the head of an independent radio station, Radio al-Balad, in the capital Amman. A father’s grief totally understandable Daoud, but how widespread is that demand for revenge in Jordan?


Daoud Kuttab: That’s a strong feeling that these two people who received capital punishment were actually people who were supposed to be hanged anyway. The only thing that happened was that they sped up the process even though all the legal paperwork had been done. There is a feeling that there’s going to be some kind of, what the spokesman of the government said, earth shattering attack of revenge or response of some kind. There is going to be some kind of attack, maybe it’s going to be special forces or a much further use of the fighter jets, but there’s going to be an attack on the group that calls itself ISIS.


Werman: King Abdullah today vowed a relentless war against ISIS. Is anyone talking about sending ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq or Syria?


Kuttab: No. The question of ground troops is being discussed but I don’t think that people are thinking in a level-headed way about a drawn out ground war. They’re talking mostly about, just as you quoted, an attack that would be painful but not more than that. The situation in Syria is very complicated with too many players there; the government is still there, and without approval of the Syrian government, I don’t think the Jordanians will go with a ground war in Syria.


Werman: King Abdullah has called for unity. I know some Jordanians though have been raising questions about why the country is fighting ISIS in the first place. So, how united is Jordan?


Kuttab: Jordan is quite united on this issue. In fact, the head of the foreign relations committee in parliament, who had previously said this was not our war, has been all over the press and media, saying “I don’t think that any more, and I think this is our war now, and we have to fight it.” I haven’t heard anything in the other direction, so I think, if anything, this gruesome killing of the pilot has unified people.


Werman: I know you said these two prisoners on death row who were executed in Jordan were going to be executed anyway, but this sped things up. Have any Jordanians spoken out about this kind of visceral eye for an eye action taken by Jordan? Would anyone dare criticize these revenge executions, if you could call them that?


Kuttab: That’s a very good question. On our radio station, we’ve been talking about certain things and a number of our reporters who are against the death penalty said that despite the anger that they have, they are still against the death penalty, including against these individuals. So, there is, I would say, still a minority but a reasonably level-headed minority that is against capital punishment, even in cases like this.


Werman: What about ISIS sympathizers in Jordan? Is there great appeal there, or even minor appeal?


Kuttab: There is minor appeal, especially among poor people in the south of Jordan. Some of the young people who are unemployed see in this movement a kind of success story, if you will, in a very nasty way. Unfortunately, there are some who have joined or have sympathized with them. Of course, many of them are in prison now in Jordan--even giving a “like” to a pro-ISIS website might land you in jail. But there is some support, but I would say it’s still a very strong minority.


Werman: Journalist Daoud Kuttab in Amman, Jordan. Thank you very much.


Kuttab: Thank you.