On the heels of a deadline that held the lives of two hostages in the balance, Jordan, Japan, and the Islamic State (IS) group are in a spitting match using human beings to see who backs down first. Jordan and IS were reportedly engaged in talks through back channels of tribal leaders in Iraq for the release of the Jordanian hostage, military pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh. IS had demanded the release of an Iraqi al-Qaida prisoner on death row in a Jordanian jail.
Japanese hostage Kenji Goto is also being held by IS.
Jordan has said it will only release the prisoner if it gets proof the pilot is alive and so far has received no such evidence from the hostage-takers.
After a 24-hour deadline for a potential exchange passed, another ultimatum was issued by Jordan. According to Elijah Magnier, chief international correspondent for Kuwait’s Al Rai newspaper, the Jordanian government passed a message to IS that if the pilot is killed, they will fast-track the death sentence for the Iraqi prisoner. The relayed message was reported exclusively by MailOnline.
Calls to the Embassy of Jordan in the United States were not returned to confirm the message, nor was a message sent to the reporter.
The Jordanian government has remained tight-lipped in public forums about what, if any, developments are underway.
“Government institutions are working around the clock on the case of pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh,” Jordanian military spokesman Mamdouh al-Ameri said in a statement. “We will inform you of any developments in due time.”
He also told Jordanians not to listen to rumors.
IS sent their own warning about spreading hearsay with a cheesy banner ad posted on Twitter. The message, written in Arabic, states: “A warning to all #IS supporters: Don’t diffuse any non official information.”
The fate of the second hostage, Japanese freelance journalist Kenji Goto, is also unknown. Officials in Tokyo have said that they have no progress to report on his condition or whereabouts. They have been leaning heavily on Jordan in hopes that the release of one of the men will ensure the release of both.
On Friday, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, reiterated Japan’s “strong trust” in the Jordanians to help save the Japanese hostage. Other hostages who have recently been held by IS have died through brutal executions by beheading.
Dr. Paul Droubie, an assistant professor in history at Manhattan College, doesn’t think that the Japanese government will use the situation to seek justification to expand Japan’s military power. Under Article 9 of their constitution, they are only allowed the existence of a force for self-defense.
“Prime Minister Abe would certainly like to use this as further justification for an expansion of Japan’s military power,” said Droubie in an email. But he said ultimately how the fate of Goto is handled won’t play a major role in the future military relations.
“While this hostage situation is catching everyone’s attention, I just don’t think it will end up being that significant in the broader picture regarding Japan’s military.”