GWEN IFILL: We take a closer look at the killing of the Jordanian pilot and reaction with Rod Nordland of The New York Times, who is on the ground in Amman, and former Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher. He’s now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Welcome to you both.

Rod Nordland, we are now learning that, in fact, we’re hearing that this Jordanian pilot was killed a month ago, even though negotiations were under way just until, we’re told, this week. Is there some sense now that this was nothing that was ever going to be fixed or that this was futile?

ROD NORDLAND, The New York Times: Well, I think it’s clear that Jordan’s position they had to show proof of life was informed by their belief that he was already dead, and they weren’t going to release this terrorist, Sajida Rishawi, from prison if they thought that he really was dead. And that now appears to have been the case.

GWEN IFILL: Were the — was his family still hopeful that he was alive?

ROD NORDLAND: They were really hopeful. They were hopeful up until a few seconds before word came that this video was out showing his death in this really horrible manner, burned to death in a cage.

As it happens, my colleague Ranya Kadri was sitting with the mother and the wife of the pilot when the word came, and it was kind of an unfortunate insight into just how devastating this kind of news is to families and the loved ones of somebody this happens to.

They were just completely hysterical, pulling their hair out, screaming. And it just really brought it home, because I was actually on the phone with Ranya when this all happened. And then, when we saw the video, it was really — it was just about as despicable a thing as you can imagine.

GWEN IFILL: Marwan Muasher, does this tit-for-tat diplomacy, now we’re hearing the woman prison will also be executed, is that — has that replaced diplomacy?

Marwan Muasher
Muasher is vice president for studies at Carnegie, where he oversees research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East.
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MARWAN MUASHER, Former Foreign Minister, Jordan: Well, first of all, these are unconfirmed reports, but there is no question in my mind that there is a state of anger and shock today among all Jordanians and that there will probably be a public demand to execute this woman and three others also that are in Jordanian prisons.

But let me point out that these are people who have already been condemned and sentenced to death, so they were awaiting execution for many, many years. And whether the government is going to retaliate in this way remains to be seen, but I think it will fall under public pressure to do so.

GWEN IFILL: Does this put Jordan between kind of a rock and a hard place? It’s part of the coalition. At the same time, it’s taking in so many refugees, and at the same time so many recruits for ISIL are coming from Jordan.

MARWAN MUASHER: Well, Jordan has been in a tough position.

The king has made it clear that he regards this war not just as a military war against ISIS, but also a cultural war, a war of values, if you want, to determine who speaks on behalf of Islam. And I think that, whereas some people in Jordan didn’t take that message, and really, you know, it is estimated that maybe between 2,000 to 5,000 people are ideologically attached to ISIS, I think this message will resonate more, particularly after the horrible, horrible way in which the pilot was killed.

GWEN IFILL: It is horrible.

And, Rod Nordland, I wonder whether this nervousness, this unhappiness that Marwan Muasher refers to is being — is resonating now on the streets in Amman, where you are tonight.

ROD NORDLAND: You know, a week ago, people were saying, and we were reporting actually, that a lot of Jordanians thought this shouldn’t be their war, they shouldn’t be a part of it.

And there’s been a huge change in attitude, even before this awful video of his murder came out. Even before that, Jordanians were really rallying around the flag and turning against ISIS and its tactics. And I think if they thought that this video was going to turn Jordanians away from joining in the coalition, I think they badly misjudged the mood. And I think we will see even more support for Jordan’s role.

GWEN IFILL: And do you agree with Marwan Muasher then that the mood has been misjudged because of the cultural war that’s under way here, rather — and the ideological one, rather than anything having to do with Islam?

ROD NORDLAND: Yes, I think that’s probably true.

At the same time, though, there has been, you know, a kind of underground here of supporters for ISIS, especially young men, some of them fairly vocal. I think you will be hard-pressed tomorrow to find anybody speaking out on behalf of ISIS, or the Islamic State, anymore here, and there will be a real kind of reckoning to come.

GWEN IFILL: Marwan Muasher, why the increase in barbarity, to use President Obama’s words? We weren’t exactly inured to beheadings, but this seems to be a step beyond, several steps beyond.

MARWAN MUASHER: I actually see it as a sign of weakness.

When you kill people in such a barbaric manner, it sort of proves that you’re not able to get results by other means. Whatever the case, this is clearly a group that doesn’t belong to humanity, with which no compromise is possible.

GWEN IFILL: How do you stop them from doing this?

MARWAN MUASHER: You stop them first militarily, but also culturally.

I think we need a cultural war of values to address the very grievances that, you know, a lot of people have and are frustrated enough to move them to join such barbaric groups.

And it is a war that, you know, the region has to take for itself. They need to be fought militarily, but the underlying causes of frustration and marginalization have also to be addressed. And I hope that is going to be the case. The king, as I said, made it very clear that this is a cultural war, that the region needs to make it clear that Islam, you know, has no place in it for such groups.

GWEN IFILL: And, Rod Nordland, would you say that tonight Jordan is a nation in mourning?

ROD NORDLAND: Yes, I think that’s safe to say.

Schools are going to be closed tomorrow, probably businesses and government as well. And I think we will see a huge reaction here to what’s happened tonight.

GWEN IFILL: Rod Nordland of The New York Times in Amman for us tonight, and Marwan Muasher, the former foreign minister for Jordan, thank you very much.


This interview was originally aired on PBS Newshour.