ISIS' claim it executed the captured Jordanian pilot was not only barbaric but strategically foolish

ISISReutersMilitant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.

ISIS claims to have executed Moaz al Kasasbe, a Jordanian pilot the group captured in Syria last December. The group has released a video in which Kasasbe is burned alive. ISIS had been attempting to trade Kasasbe for Sajida al Rishawi, an attempted suicide bomber imprisoned in Jordan since 2005.

Public opinion in the kingdom is already split over Jordan’s participation in the anti-ISIS coalition. As David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East policy wrote on Dec 5, only 62% of Jordanians considered ISIS a terrorist group, while many question whether there’s a real national interest in getting involved in the wars in Syria and Iraq.

Jordan had already halted airstrikes against the group after Kasasbe’s capture, and this latest development could potentially jeopardize Jordanian involvement in the fight against the jihadist group. On the other hand, the brutal incident could also hurt ISIS efforts to recruit in the country.

Kasabe’s death comes just days after ISIS’s released a video showing the beheading of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist. As the New York Times reported after his death, ISIS now has as few as four international hostages left, down from a high of 23, and failed to secure either a $US200 million ransom or the release of prisoners held in Jordan — their stated objectives in ransoming Kasasbe and Goto.

While Kasasbe’s gruesome death keeps the group in the global spotlight and could galvanize opinion within an Arab member state of the anti-ISIS coalition, it could also be read as a sign that ISIS is increasingly impulsive and non-strategic. The group has also experienced a series of recent battlefield setbacks, most notably the breaking of its siege on the border town of Kobane in northern Syria.

In an email to journalists, the National Security Council stated that it is “aware of the video purporting to show that Jordanian 1st Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh has been murdered by the terrorist group ISIL. The intelligence community is working to confirm its authenticity.”

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