Jordan has hanged two prisoners after Islamic State militants posted a video appearing to show a Jordanian pilot being burned alive.
- By Mary Casey-Baker<p> Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p>
Jordan has executed two prisoners after Islamic State militants posted a video appearing to show Jordanian pilot First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive. The Jordanian army confirmed Kasasbeh’s death and state media reported he was killed on January 3. Jordan vowed an “earth-shattering response” and at dawn Wednesday hanged Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli, both Iraqi citizens. Rishawi had been sentenced to death for involvement in bombings in the capital of Amman in 2005, which killed about 60 people. Islamic State militants had demanded her release in exchange for Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, who appeared to be beheaded in a video released Saturday. Karbouli, a senior member of al Qaeda, was convicted in 2008 for killing a Jordanian national. Jordan’s King Abdullah addressed the country and cut short a trip to the United States where he met President Barack Obama. On Tuesday, U.S. officials reported the United Arab Emirates suspended airstrikes against Islamic State militants in December, following the capture of Kasasbeh, over fears for the safety of its pilots.
The U.N. World Food Program has expressed concern over images appearing to show its food aid rebranded with “Islamic State in Syria” labels on the boxes. The photos appear to be from the Syrian town of Dayr Hafir, about 30 miles from Aleppo, where the WFP last distributed food in August 2014. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Tuesday the first of 12 chemical weapons production facilities reported by the Syrian government as part of a treaty signed in 2013 was destroyed on January 31. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials reported a series of explosions have killed more than 12 people in the capital of Baghdad.
- Gunmen seized control of Libya’s al-Mabrook oilfield Tuesday, reportedly killing four guards, a day after fighting resumed at the port of Es Sider.
- The United Nations has named U.S. Judge Mary McGowan Davis to lead an inquiry into alleged war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict following the resignation of William Schabas.
- John Chilcot, the head of a British investigation into the Iraq war defended delays in releasing a report in front of a parliamentary committee Wednesday.
Arguments and Analysis
‘Tunisia opts for an inclusive new government’ (Monica Marks, The Washington Post)
“If confirmed in parliament, this new government would send reassuring signals that Tunisia is stepping toward pluralism and farther from the politics of exclusion, which is destabilizing so many of its neighbors. However, as with many milestones toward dialogue and democracy in Tunisia over the past four years, the creation of this government wasn’t the inevitable result of some sort of national predisposition toward consensus and compromise. Rather, it came after hard bargaining and represented the reversal of an initial proposed government that was, in fact, startlingly non-inclusive.”
‘Saudi Arabia’s Game of Thrones’ (F. Gregory Gause III, Foreign Affairs)
“Since the reign of King Faisal (1964–1975), effective decision-making power in Saudi Arabia has been shared by a group of half-brothers who backed Faisal in his struggle for power against his older brother, King Saud (1953–1964). This “party of Faisal” has supplied the country’s kings ever since: Khalid (1975–82), Fahd (1982–2005), Abdullah (2005–15), and now Salman. The party of Faisal also controlled important posts, such as the Defense Ministry, under Prince Sultan, and the Ministry of the Interior, under Prince Nayef. (Both men died before they got their chance at the top spot.) The king, of course, was primus inter pares among the half-brothers, but the rest of the group members still had vast power through their control of important bureaucratic positions and through an utterly opaque but ultimately effective decision-making process.
But the party of Faisal is over. Salman is its last member; his crown prince, Muqrin, was too young to be involved in the political machinations that brought the party to power in the 1960s. With the passing of a generation, Salman was thus confronted with the opportunity to restructure his country’s decision-making process. And rather than re-create the old collective decision-making system among the next generation of prominent princes, in his royal decrees of January 29, he centralized power in the hands of just two members of that generation.”
‘Why ISIS Did Not Entirely Lose in Kobane’ (Lina Khatib, Carnegie Middle East Center)
“The series of events around Kobane show a pattern that has now become established: Whenever ISIS feels overstretched militarily, it resorts to psychological warfare through propaganda to compensate for this weakness. Although the international coalition won the battle of Kobane militarily, it lost the image war. Jordan’s open negotiation with the Islamic State has given the latter a significant boost as it has enabled it to humiliate an Arab state and expose Jordan’s fears about domestic and external causes of instability. The Kobane events have also exposed the weaknesses of the international coalition, showing that it does not have a coherent strategy for dealing with hostage crises, since Japan refused to negotiate while Jordan did. They have also highlighted the limitations of the coalition’s influence on Turkey, whose refusal to cooperate while ISIS was advancing towards Kobane facilitated the geographical expansion of the Islamic State. ISIS has also managed to turn its military losses into an advantage through using Kobane as a purgatory for dissidents. The liberators of Kobane deserve credit for saving the town, but the bigger picture reveals a much darker scenario at play in the war against the Islamic State.”
— Mary Casey-Baker