Not long ago, the issue of negotiating with terrorists arose when three Americans got brutally beheaded by ISIS, which promoted the slayings on video. The families of the victims slammed the Obama administration and the Department of Justice for their handling of the crises, especially in one case for threatening legal action if they raised a ransom on their own. The US, however, is bound by treaty to refuse any negotiation — although most of our treaty partners in the G8 routinely ignore the restriction.
Jordan has no such treaty obligations, although they have previously refused to deal with terrorists. Now that may be out the window, as Jordan has agreed to swap a terrorist held since 2005 in exchange for a pilot captured in recent weeks:
Jordan is willing to swap an Iraqi woman prisoner involved in deadly 2005 hotel bombings for a Jordanian pilot captured in December by extremists from the Islamic State group, a government spokesman said Wednesday.
Such a swap would run counter to Jordan’s hardline approach toward Islamic militants and to the position of its main ally, the United States, of not negotiating with extremists. An exchange also would set a precedent for negotiating with Islamic State group militants, who in the past have not publicly demanded prisoner releases. …
On Wednesday, al-Momani said that “Jordan is ready to release the Iraqi prisoner, Sajida al-Rishawi, if the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, is released unharmed.” His comments were carried by Jordan’s official Petra news agency.
Al-Rishawi was sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 al-Qaida attack on hotels in Amman that killed 60 people. Her release would be a major propaganda coup for the Islamic State group.
ISIS has a different conception of the deal. They demanded the release of Rishawi in exchange for the remaining Japanese, hostage, not the pilot. Japan has been working with Jordan to make the deal for Kenji Goto:
The Japanese government on Tuesday remained fairly tight-lipped over developments regarding Kenji Goto, a war journalist, still held captive by the Islamic State ( IS) militants, following the killing of another Japanese hostage on Saturday, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other senior officials in Tokyo declining to comment on speculation that it is in talks with the Jordanian government over a possible prisoner swap.
Both Abe and his top spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have towed the official line, with Suga telling reporters Tuesday that the government believes Goto is still alive and is seeking the cooperation from Jordan and other relevant governments, religious and tribal leaders to secure his release at the earliest possible juncture.
Abe, for his part, in a briefing with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida earlier Tuesday, was updated on progress made by officials in Amman, where an emergency headquarters has been established to deal with the situation. Kishida told reporters he had briefed Abe on a number of specifics and that the government was doing all it can to utilize all of its channels, including diplomatic ones available to it, such as those with King Abdullah II of Jordan, and those of its other allies in the region, to ensure the safe release of Goto.
CNN recounted Rishawi’s terrorist operations two days ago, for which she has been in prison for almost a decade. Initially, a Jordanian court sentenced her to death for her part in a partly-bungled suicide bombing plot, but imposed a moratorium on executions until just recently. The big question is why ISIS is so interested in a failed suicide bomber at all, but the issue might be personal for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:
Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher said after the attacks that al-Rishawi is the sister of Zarqawi’s “right-hand man,” who was killed in Falluja, Iraq. He did not identify the lieutenant [Mubarak al-Rashawi, identified by Sky News in the video — Ed].
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a lieutenant of al-Zarqawi, retired Lt. Col. James Reese, a former U.S. Delta Force commander, told CNN.
“There’s a link back to this woman,” Reese said of the alleged prisoner swap. “This is just another way to help them (ISIS) bring these people back and help with their propaganda.”
The trade would probably be more of a propaganda coup than Rashawi herself, which is one reason that the G8 agreed not to negotiate with hostage-takers at all. The case of the Jordanian pilot is different — more of a POW situation than hostage — but that should then prompt an actual prisoner exchange of this conflict and with Jordan specifically, or at least the current coalition. That may be why ISIS is insisting that this trade be for Goto and not the pilot, only guaranteeing his life for the trade, in order to erode what remains of global resistance to hostage negotiations with the marauding army. They can then claim that this shows that ISIS is indeed considered a de facto state by its enemies, which would be another propaganda win for Baghdadi.
If Jordan and Japan agree to this deal, they may get their people back safely at some point. However, they’d better expect to see more of them disappear, too.