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Michael Jansen: The West’s double standards
February 09, 2015
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today
Jordanian columnists lambasted the European Union over criticism of Amman’s execution of two Al Qaeda Iraqi operatives in retaliation for the brutal killing of Jordanian pilot Maaz Al Kassasbeh captured by fighters of Daesh after his F-16 crashed near the cult’s de facto capital on Dec.24. 

The Iraqis had been condemned to death for their roles in fatal terrorist attacks and held on death row in Jordanian prisons. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Frederica Mogherini, argued that Jordan’s response “needs to be consistent with our common values on justice” and “guided by respect for international human rights and humanitarian law”.

Her statement revealed that she and other leading European figures, perhaps unwittingly, expect Jordan to adopt fully European attitudes and values. She seems to envisage a “one standard” approach to international affairs and the conduct of war.

This would be fine if Europe and the US, “the West,” not only preached the need for “common values” but also practised the values they preach instead of routinely practising “double standards” when dealing with this region in particular.

On the issue of the pilot, Jordan had to take action as it saw fit not as Europe or the US saw fit. Jordan has, in part, a tribal society bound by the values of tribesmen. Flight Lieutenant Kassasbeh belonged to a large loyalist tribe many of whose members serve in the military. His uncle was a major general. Therefore, the authorities had to settle quickly on fitting retribution to pre-empt tribesmen taking the law into their own hands and wreaking vengeance on domestic supporters of Daesh, a cult that emerged from Al Qaeda in Iraq, founded by Jordanian Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who still has followers in Jordan although he was killed in a US airstrike in 2006. Europeans do not understand the need to take swift, harsh action to keep the peace in Jordan.

Furthermore, the tribesmen were not alone in being upset and furious but all Jordanians were outraged, East Bankers, West Bankers, and Jordanians of Iraqi origin, even Jordanians who do not support the government’s decision to join the US-led coalition.

The execution of death row prisoners Sajida Al Rishawi and Ziad Karbouli at dawn on Wednesday, hours after Daesh circulated a video of Kassasbeh’s hideous death by fire, was, however, only a temporary measure. Rishawi was a would-be suicide bomber whose explosive vest did not detonate during attacks on three Amman hotels in 2005 while Karbouli, a senior figure in Al Qaeda in Iraq, was convicted of killing at least one Jordanian.

The cruel and brutal death of Lt Kassasbeh has, at least, concentrated minds to a certain extent. In response to demands from a Gulf country, the US Central Command has moved its “search and rescue assets” – helicopters and extraction teams – from Kuwait to northern Iraq. This shift means that the US has a better chance of finding and saving aircrew who fall into Daesh hands after their planes either malfunction or are shot down in the course of bombing missions.

The US and its Arab and Western partners have vowed to step up attacks on Daesh fighters and facilities. The US also pledged to boost aid to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion. More funds will certainly be needed if Daesh is to be contained and rolled back.

Daesh sought to secure several objectives when it designed such a brutal death for Kassasbeh, photographed it, and circulated the video on Twitter. Daesh wanted to show that it would devise horrible punishments for other coalition pilots who happened to fall into the cult’s hands. Daesh sought to reach as many people as possible by releasing the 23-minute video on social media. The aim was to intimidate and terrify opponents of Daesh. But this backfired as the Jordanians did not buckle and pull out of the US-led coalition but renewed their commitment and dispatched fresh F-16s to the skies over Raqqa in Syria and Daesh-held locations in Iraq.

Daesh was determined to divert public opinion from its loss to the Kurds at the end of last month of Ain Al Arab/Kobani, the town in north central Syria. What better way to do this than to create a scandal by murdering Kassasbeh in such a way. However, the Ain Al Arab/Kobani defeat cannot be erased by a hideous deed. Daesh lost a strategic town that lies just north of Raqqa, a town that sits on the Turkish border, a gateway to Syria’s Raqqa province.   

Daesh also wanted to reassure its supporters in the Arab world that it could strike back at local and international powers ranged against the cult. While diehard supporters used social media to display their loyalty to Daesh and condemn Jordan and the coalition, waverers appear to have developed doubts about Daesh, at least temporarily.

In closing it is necessary to mention the double standard obtaining in the case of Lt Kassasbeh. While this region and the international community mourn Kassasbeh as a martyr and hero, there are thousands of unidentified and publicly unmourned soldiers, rebels and civilians who have been caught up in the conflict in Syria and Iraq. These include Syrian soldiers and insurgents belonging to groups opposed to Daesh and Al Qaeda’s Jabhat Al Nusra who have been beheaded, burnt alive, buried alive, stoned, crucified, and flayed to death by these groups and other rebels. There are thousands of Syrian and Iraqi civilians who have been killed by the Syrian and Iraqi armies and their militia allies as well as other insurgents and criminal gangs. These victims belong to the ignored multitude suffering from the war in their homelands, displaced within Iraq and Syria, forced into refugeedom in neighbouring countries, and drowning while boarding rust-bucket vessels in order to reach countries in Europe where they could find safety and some sort of peace, if they were permitted to remain. European “values” do not include a warm welcome to refugees of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.
The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict

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