Why Jordan is moving troops to Iraq border

Jordan continues its efforts to hit "hard in the very center of [Islamic State] strongholds" as it sends "thousands" of troops to the Iraqi border.

Emirati pilots walk at an air base in Jordan, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015. The United Arab Emirates launched airstrikes Tuesday targeting the Islamic State group, its official news agency said, marking its return to combat operations against the militants after it halted flights late last year. Jordan also deployed "thousands" of troops to the Iraqi border.

Jordan’s King Abdullah is making good on his promise to hit Islamic State (known both as IS and ISIS) militants hard in retribution for murdering Jordanian pilot Muath Kassasbeh. After launching new air strikes last week, King Abdullah has now deployed “thousands” of troops to its border with Iraq to escalate its show of force against the terrorist organization, NBC News has reported.

Matthew Henman, an analyst at Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre in London, said this move seems to be an “intensification” of ongoing efforts to stop IS movement of fighters and weaponry, as well as to secure Jordanian borders.

“It underlines a robust response on the part of government and the king in response to the killing of Muath Kassasbeh,” Mr. Henman said.

On Tuesday, February 3, the military group released a propaganda video of the imprisoned Jordanian pilot being burned alive. While it is uncertain when the event took place, a Jordanian spokesperson said the murder happened over a month ago. The savagery of the video sent shock waves worldwide, and Jordan is now responding with force.

Less than 12 hours after the video was released, Jordan retaliated by executing two Iraqi prisoners as a declaration of “punishment and revenge” against the group. They have amped up their air strikes, and have now deployed troops to the border to physically block IS action on the ground.

What does Jordan hope to accomplish with this robust response?

King Abdullah has made it clear that he is enraged by IS acts, and that he fully intends to respond accordingly. In a meeting with US lawmakers, he incited the violent Clint Eastwood film “Unforgiven” to provide a framework for his approach:

“Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any [expletive] takes a shot at me, I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down,” one of Eastwood’s characters says in the film. In addition, King Abdullah told the Examiner: “The only problem we’re going to have is running out of fuel and bullets.”

Abdullah pledged to hit IS militants “hard in the very center of their strongholds,” according to NBC News. He believes it is necessary because “this terrorist organization is not only fighting us, but also fighting Islam and its pure values.”

The IS militant groups occupy large areas north and west of Baghdad. They were stopped short of the capital by Iraqi forces last June, but are still able to carry out lethal attacks, reported Sky News. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed 14 people in Baghdad, prompting more military action and an attempt to reclaim Iraq from the terrorist organization.

With Jordanian troops deploying to the Iraqi border, Ed Morrissey of HotAir.com writes that this may provide an opportunity for Jordan and Iraq to work together in regaining territory, with the Jordanians holding the border as “an anvil for the Iraqi hammer that aims to crush ISIS forces.” Air strikes are not nearly as effective as manpower when it comes to reclaiming the urban territory IS has claimed as its own.

Mr. Morrissey writes: “Ground forces are the only way to roll back ISIS. They hold territory, and very specifically urban territory that makes it politically impossible to annihilate them into retreat from air power alone. Even if they did pull back, a lack of boots on the ground to hold liberated ground would mean it wouldn’t be liberated for long.” 

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