In an area ravaged by the effects of the power struggle against the militant Islamic State, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was one of the most recent victims of the horrific trademark executions performed by IS.
Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh was burned alive in a video released by IS on their social media platforms on Feb. 3, which triggered a heartfelt response from Jordan’s king, Abdullah II, who vowed to rain airstrikes upon IS cities.
Jordanian armed forces said, “You shall know who the Jordanians are.”
Even though he is faced with the execution of al-Kasasbeh on top of already crippling economic hardships, Abdullah II’s popularity is surging, and Wheaton students who worked and studied in Jordan over the past year were witness to the King’s acclaimed status.
Senior Lena Maxey, who worked in Jordan through a HNGR internship, said, “The public opinion is that King Abdullah II is a great leader. People love him and his wife, and everyone speaks extremely highly of him and is grateful to have him as a leader. They even go out of their way to tell you this.”
Likewise, senior Kent Lindbergh who studied abroad in Jordan through BestSemester’s Middle Eastern Studies Program said, “Over the years, King Abdullah II has shown respect for the traditional and tribal aspects of the Jordanian people while also raising the standard of living remarkably and connecting with the younger generation in Jordan.”
Despite the king’s heralded reputation, citizens face tough conditions. Jordanian citizens can be jailed for speaking out against the monarch, and Jordan remains the second water-poorest country in the world.
In the face of such adversity, Abdullah II forged ahead to defend his military’s honor. There were even rumors that he, as a former pilot in the Royal Jordanian Air Force, would personally lead airstrikes against key IS cities. While the rumors were false, Abdullah II’s actions attest to the fact that he a competent commander in chief who intends to renew his military’s offensive against the incursion of the IS.
Jordan is an interesting nation, sandwiched between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq, and is currently one of the frontline nations hindering IS’ advance.
Lindbergh said, “I think it was necessary for him to act in such a firm manner against ISIS because he needs to reassure his people that they are not afraid and not going to let ISIS terrorize them. It is a reality for Jordan, which borders Syria and Iraq that ISIS could come their way so I think it was a smart decision to not put troops on the ground but to simply intensify air strikes which they have been doing alongside the US for several months now.”
Senior Sam Breslin, who interned in Amman, Jordan last summer, said, “While war is never a good thing, I think it was a wise choice to rally his people to take action against all the atrocities going on in the region.”
Assistant professor of politics and international relations Michael McKoy said, “Jordan is a frontline state in fighting against ISIS. For us in America, this is a genuine existential threat from ISIS. Any Wheaton student who cares about the stability of the Middle East who does not want to see an ideology that is directly bent on killing Christians and murdering innocent people, enslaving minorities and enslaving women should care about the survival of a state that is on the frontlines fighting ISIS.”
Furthermore, Lindbergh said that Jordan is recognized as “one of the most generous countries in the world,” having accepted more than one million Syrian and Iraqi refugees over the last few years, in spite of their lack of resources. Lindbergh also commented that Jordan is committed to promoting the rights of Christians in a dominantly Muslim society.
The strategic position of Jordan, coupled with its reputation as a safe haven for refugees, makes it crucial to the fight against IS. If the country’s military and economy were further crippled, other countries fighting IS would feel the loss.
“Being allied with the U.S. already puts them in danger of retaliation,” Maxey said. “They are vulnerable as a neighbor with many Iraqis, Syrians and IS supporters in their borders. They are much more vulnerable than the U.S., which is far away and not as entangled,” she concluded.