The brother of the Jordanian pilot captured last week after his fighter jet came down during a sortie against Islamic State has pleaded for his country to withdraw from the coalition fighting the extremists.
His words threaten to further polarise a nation already divided about its involvement in the conflict in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
“This is not our war,” Jawdat alKasaesbeh, 30, told The Times. “I wish we’d withdraw from the war but it’s a political decision and a big one.”
His brother, First Lieutenant Muath al-Kasaesbeh, was captured on Christmas Eve by Isis militants after his plane went down in Raqqa, Syria.
Jordan is America’s linchpin in the region, an ally so key that American, British, French and other militaries have based crews and equipment in the kingdom and launched their war efforts from here.
King Abdullah has made it clear that he supports a moderate, peaceful Islam and that Isis has no place in the region, calling the group “a cancer”. But the human cost of Jordan’s war on Isis is painfully clear. In Amman, a city reeling from a flood of refugees, chronically high unemployment and the rising threat of extremism inside its own borders, there is a debate about its participation in a regional war.
“You can hear it on the streets,” said Mr al-Kasaesbeh. “People are opposed to this war.”
Opposition to the war is a fine line to walk: there is risk in being perceived as anti-authority, and the government takes a hard line with extremists. Mr al-Kasaesbeh, who says he is a loyal supporter of his king, army and country, is among many trying to maintain a delicate balance.
The lack of information on First Lieutenant al-Kasaesbeh’s whereabouts and the progress of negotiations to secure his release has made this balance more challenging. Misinformation is rife, and much of it has been directed at the al-Kasaesbeh family.
This has included several Facebook posts highly critical of the government, allegedly authored by Mr al-Kasaesbeh’s father, and a statement purporting to be from his tribe, seeking to distance itself from the pilot and his role in the military campaign. Mr al-Kasaesbeh said that he and his family had not been involved in these messages.