Does the Islamic State dare to strike a deal?

تم نشره في Sun 1 February / Feb 2015. 07:54 PM

By Fahed Khitan

It is difficult for observers, and even those experts in extremists’ affairs, to always interpret the behaviors of extremists. This is what is currently happening with the terrorist organization the Islamic State (IS). In its second letter regarding the Jordanian pilot Muath Kassassbeh and the Japanese hostage, the organization threatened to kill the pilot if Jordan did not release criminal Sajidah al-Rishawi, and nothing in the letter referred to the fate of Japanese hostage. The next day, IS brutally killed the Japanese hostage and did not mention the Jordanian pilot.

Are we playing a suspense game with the organization, or is IS revisiting its options regarding the hero pilot?

Since Jordan announced its readiness to swap Rishawi with the pilot, and conditioned that IS provide a proof that the Jordanian pilot was still alive, the organization began to be evasive. In the beginning, it sought to bring about a rift between the official and popular positions, saying that the Jordanian government refuses to negotiate for the release of the pilot, and refrain from responding to the terms that could save his life. It also resorted to spew its venom through phone calls from unknown locations outside of the country with many people in Jordan, which helped reveal its plans.

The murder of the Japanese hostage was an outrageous action that was condemned by the Jordanians before the Japanese. But the move has been a turning point in the ongoing negotiations for the release of the Jordanian hostage. After the killing of the Japanese hostages, IS no longer has any excuse to refuse the "Rishawi for Kassassbeh” deal.

In the negotiations, which began through intermediaries weeks ago, Jordan offered and did not receive an answer from IS. Then, later, IS gave an alternative offered; that was not rejected by Jordan, but expanded to include the Jordanian pilot.

Now, we went back to the starting point; Is this what IS wants?

It is not clear yet. But it stands to reason — which does not necessarily apply to a radical group as an IS —that there is no other option for IS; if he really wants to save Rishawi, it needs to accept the swap.

But before that, we should stop at the fate of the Jordanian pilot, and IS’s refusal to reveal whether he is alive, and this is what we want, or if the organization has done something stupid.

Kassassbeh is the only hostage that IS did show in a video; neither sound nor image. All that was conveyed on his behalf were written text published by the Dabeq magazine, telling the details related to his work as a pilot, and before that, they published images of his abduction; the validity of photograph that was shown of him with the Japanese hostage is highly contested.

In this regard, there are many possibilities. It may be intentional IS to manipulate Jordan, or there are internal disagreements about his fate. Unfortunately, the worst case scenario is also there.

It is certain that IS does not deal with the issue of Jordanian pilot in the same way that it dealt with the hostage of foreign countries. Jordan is a state neighboring IS territory, and there are many issues that must be taken into account before resorting to the option that IS restored to with other hostages.

Jordan exceeded all external considerations and international reservations for one thing only, and that is to ensure the safe return of Kassassbeh; it officially declared its willingness to strike a deal with IS. Will IS dare to take an action different than what it had done previously, and accept a fair deal instead of the savage approach that brought upon it the adversary of the whole world?

@fahed_khitan

 

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition

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