By Sal Bommarito
The horrific execution of Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot, by ISIS could change the dynamics of the ISIS conflict.
In reality, ISIS’ brazen and cruel action is not really an acceleration of violence. During the past several months, the group has murdered moderate Sunnis and Shiites across Iraq and Syria, all fellow Muslims. But, the in your face attitude of the insurgents, the staging of the event and the use of it as propaganda and a fear tactic may arouse the Muslim world. The question is whether Muslims will be more enthused about participating in the U.S. coalition.
Understandably, Jordanians are outraged by the execution and promising to respond aggressively. They took a first step yesterday by executing two Al Qaeda prisoners shortly after ISIS released a video of the pilot’s execution. One of the prisoners was a female who killed 60 people in Jordan and was offered in a trade to ISIS for the release of the pilot.
The reaction from the Muslim world could go in three directions. The outrage might inspire greater participation of Arab countries in the ISIS conflict. Frankly, the most helpful response would be greater pressure on the ground against ISIS. This is far-fetched and unlikely.
A second possibility could be no significant response at all. Nothing has changed; ISIS is continuing to kill Muslims and terrorizing the Arab world.
Thirdly, Arab leaders may pressure the U.S. to become more engaged in the ISIS conflict. Keep in mind that, to this point, the U.S. is bombing the enemy at a rate significantly lower than it did in previous Middle East conflicts. And, the U.S. is not employing ground forces. It seems that every military person interviewed by the media has stated that ISIS cannot be defeated without ground troops.
President Obama has resisted this notion, but Arab leaders might try to convince him to change his strategy. This blog has repeatedly indicated that ground forces that can root out ISIS fighters in populated areas and direct bombing sorties, are critical to successfully dealing with the ISIS threat.