Middle East

Jordan Rules: King Abdullah joins the fight against ISIS

Jordan's King Abdullah vows revenge against ISIS

 

Within hours of learning that the Islamic State had immolated captured Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh, King Abdullah gave the order to hang two Al Qaeda terrorists held in a prison near Amman.

 King Abdullah has no reason to suppose that he can count on Washington for more than weapons, intelligence and moral support.

The terrorists, one of whom was a woman, were dispatched without any legal appeals or handwringing from the local branch of Human Rights Watch. No learned think-tank expert was asked to parse the difference between Al Qaeda suicide bombers and the Islamic State. Not one protested the injustice of hanging the former for the crimes of the latter.

 King Abdullah has no reason to suppose that he can count on Washington for more than weapons, intelligence and moral support.

The executions were popular with the Jordanian public. People seemed to feel that this was the least the King could do. Or less than the least.

The pilot’s father, for one, declared himself unsatisfied. “Two is not enough to revenge the blood of my son,” Safi al-Kaseasbeh said. He made it clear that he favors sending all incarcerated terrorists imprisoned in the kingdom on a blind date with the 72 virgins of paradise.

The chances are good that this will happen. As far as King Abdullah is concerned, it is time to play Jordan Rules.

The king, who was educated at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Oxford and Georgetown, is the very model of a moderate Muslim monarch. But he is also the heir to a desert legacy, a direct descendant, it is claimed, of the Prophet himself. His army is composed mainly of Bedouin warriors, many from the al-Kaseasbeh clan. His rule depends upon their loyalty.

King Abdullah was in Washington when he got the news about the torching of Lt. al-Kaseasbeh. He was bareheaded when he conferred with President Obama at the White House, but he wore a red-and-white Bedouin keffieh in his televised address to his people. Nobody missed the significance of the war bonnet.

King Abdullah has never had to fight before, but he has no choice now, and it won’t be pretty. But he has the backing of some powerful regional players, including Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayib, the head of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the most prestigious Sunni religious institution in the world. In an unusual move, the sheikh issued a statement authorizing the “killing, crucifixion and mutilation of the limbs of ISIS terrorists.”

Abdullah also has the support of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who is facing Islamic State-inspired jihadists in his own Sinai Peninsula. El-Sisi is a firm proponent of killing enemies in the most efficient style possible, and while he is not a Bedouin, he shares the two-eyes-for-an-eye philosophy of Abdullah’s desert chieftains.

Abdullah also can (and does) count on Israel. The king is not a Zionist — three months ago, he pulled his ambassador out of Israel to express dissatisfaction with Israeli management of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount — but he is a longtime de facto security partner. And he needs Israel, which is why he returned his ambassador two days before the video of al-Kaseasbeh’s murder surfaced.

In 1970, Israel saved Abdullah’s father’s crown during an aborted invasion from the north by Hafiz Assad (the father of the infamous Syrian president, Bashar Assad). The last thing Abdullah needs now is a second front. Israel will see to it that this doesn’t happen. It shares an interest with Jordan in keeping the Syrians and their Iranian and Hezbollah allies off the Golan Heights. Israel will also watch the king’s back on the West Bank (his majesty’s highly efficient internal security forces can deal with Palestinian fans of the Islamic State on the east side of the Jordan River).

The de facto alliance of Egypt, Jordan and Israel — backed by Saudi money — could provide the U.S. with an opportunity to lead a genuine wartime coalition against Islamic radicalism. But there is little confidence in Jerusalem, Cairo or Amman that this will happen. The Obama administration has proven itself incapable of seeing, let along seizing, regional opportunities.

In his six years in office, President Obama has demonstrated that he is not a wartime leader. He walked away from Iraq, lost Libya, erased his Syrian red line, allowed the Iranians to make a fool of him at the nuclear negotiating table and (impotently) championed the Muslim Brotherhood over el-Sisi in Egypt. King Abdullah has no reason to suppose that he can count on Washington for more than weapons, intelligence and moral support.

Still, King Abdullah has to fight. The Islamic State has left him no choice. If he loses, he will wind up as a Hashemite Louis XVI. To keep his crown, and his head, he will have to unleash his inner Bedouin warrior and fight this war according to Jordan Rules.

Zev Chafets is a Fox News contributor. His latest book is "Remembering Who We Are: A Treasury of Conservative Commencement Addresses" (Sentinel 2015).

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