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Jordan Tests Coalition Against ISIS With Offer To Negotiate


Jordan's willingness to negotiate with the Islamic State represents a sharp about-face for the kingdom. And joining us from the Jordanian capital, Amman, is Rula Al Hroob. She's a member of the Jordanian Parliament - we've spoken with her before about this. Ms. Al Hroob, is this a risky move for the Jordanian government - to talk about negotiating with ISIS or ISIL?

RULA AL HROOB: Well, there has been great dispute among Jordanians since yesterday after the statement issued by ISIS demanding for releasing Sajida al-Rishawi. As for the family of the pilot, they are demanding the government to do whatever is possible to be done, including releasing Sajida or any other terrorists that are being convicted in Jordan. So yesterday, we had some big tribal movement coming from Karak to Amman demanding the king, the regime, the government to release Sajida in exchange for the pilot's life.

SIEGEL: What about the families of the 60 people who died at the hands of Sajida? Are they speaking out against the trade?

AL HROOB: It is a big problem, but Sajida did not kill. She was about to blow herself, but she didn't do that. This belt she had did not work, which means that her hands are not blooded.

SIEGEL: But one could say that's not for lack of trying. Her husband's belt, I believe, did detonate in the same attack.

AL HROOB: Exactly. She had been a part of a big plot against Jordan and against Jordanian security, yet bringing Moaz back safe and sound is a big priority among Jordanians, regardless of their opinion of Sajida and their opinion of what's going on and this war against ISIS. Everybody in Jordan demands getting Moaz al-Kasasbeh back alive.

SIEGEL: Considering that fact, airstrikes carry with them the risk that a plane might go down and that a pilot might be lost or taken captive. Can Jordan credibly remain a part of the coalition staging airstrikes against ISIS if indeed the prospect of losing a pilot is going to be a crisis?

AL HROOB: It's not the matter of the Jordanian government. It's the matter of Jordanian people. We have the Jordanians not really supporting this war against ISIS. Most of them believe that this is not a war for several reasons - some of them for religious reasons, others for political reasons and the rest of them just say that we have nothing to do with this war; they have not threatened our borders, and why should we take our soldiers to be dead or to be captured in this war? So we don't have support in the street for this war in the first place, and there haven't been any kind of prearrangements to convince the people of Jordan that this war is a necessity for Jordanians and it's a national security war.

SIEGEL: You've said that the Jordanian government has not yet been able to convince the people that this war is inevitable - or I assume you mean as well that it's necessary for Jordan. Do you think the kingdom has a chance of doing that? Can the government actually convince a significant number of Jordanians that it's important to take part in the coalition attacks against ISIS and even risk the loss of pilots, or is this argument already lost?

AL HROOB: Unfortunately, this is too late to be done. This should have been done before taking the decision of going into this war. Right now we have a person whose life is on stake, and all Jordanians feel that this is their own. And this has been turning into a factor of decivilizing the kingdom.

SIEGEL: Rula Al Hroob, thank you very much for talking with us once again.

AL HROOB: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Rula Al Hroob is a member of the Jordanian Parliament. She spoke to us from the capital, Amman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.