There is little doubt the grisly video released by Islamic State this week showing Jordanian Air Force pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive inside a metal cage was meant to intimidate the government of King Abdullah II into withdrawing from the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the terrorist group in Syria. Instead, it appears to have had the opposite effect. Rather than cowing Jordanians into submission, the killing has unified the country against the terrorists and stiffened demands to make them pay for their crimes.

The barbarity of the killing surpassed even that of the mass shootings and beheadings the Islamic State has previously been known for. For weeks, Jordanians had been anxiously following the fate of al-Kasasbeh, who comes from a prominent tribe and who was taken prisoner by militants after his plane was shot down during a bombing run over Syria on Dec. 3. The release of the video showing his murder, which was widely circulated on social media Tuesday, sparked violent protests around the country and prompted angry calls for revenge from the pilot's family, friends and supporters. Thousands of others chimed in to express shock, horror, anger and sadness over the pilot's death.

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In a major concession to the terrorists, the Jordanian government had attempted to negotiate al-Kasasbeh's release. At one point it appeared he might be freed in exchange for Sajida al-Risawi, an Iraqi woman and would-be suicide bomber whom Jordanian authorities had sentenced to death for her role in attacks that killed 60 people in Amman in 2005. But then the terrorists tried to substitute a Japanese journalist for Ms. Al-Risawi's freedom and alter other terms of the proposed swap. The deal finally fell apart late last month when Islamic State, also known as ISIS, refused to provide proof that al-Kasasbeh was even still alive; Jordanian officials said this week that it now appears the pilot was killed in early January and that ISIS never intended to hold up its end of the bargain.

For the moment, at least, the outraged popular mood in Jordan has silenced government critics who earlier argued the country never should have joined the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Syria because it didn't have a stake in that fight. But now Jordanians across the political spectrum are openly questioning why a group that claims to represent Islam engages in killing other Muslims.

In December, the United Arab Emirates, one of the U.S.'s staunchest allies in the region, pulled out of the coalition in response to similar complaints that the conflict in Syria was mainly a problem for the West. That sentiment was exacerbated by a dispute with the coalition over a lack of specialized aircraft stationed in the region to perform search and rescue operations for downed pilots. It's unclear whether the availability of such planes might have allowed al-Kasasbeh to escape his pursuers after his jet went down, but the issue clearly concerns countries like the U.A.E., which still has not rejoined the fight.

Islamic State's unspeakable cruelty toward al-Kasasbeh aimed to reinforce such concerns in order to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its regional partners. But the Jordanian reaction to the pilot's death shows the tactic can cut both ways. Jordanian government and military officials have vowed to redouble their efforts against Islamic State while al-Kasasbeh's death has transformed him into a national hero and martyr widely seen as a patriot who sacrificed his life for his country. The upwelling of popular sentiment supporting such perceptions may make it harder for wavering allies like the U.A.E. to sit passively on the sidelines while others do their fighting for them.

The fact that Jordan has chosen to stand up to the challenge posed by Islamic State despite the deep national trauma its people have just endured is a bright spot in a U.S. strategy that has produced limited results. Coalition airstrikes have forced the militants to change their tactics on the ground and hindered their mobility to some extent, but the group still controls large swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq, and the toughest fighting on the ground still lies ahead. Islamic State has proven itself a wily and adaptable adversary whose military capability remains largely intact. If the U.S. is to defeat it, countries like Jordan will be crucial to the outcome, and the hideous violence the group is famous for may in the end bring about its demise.

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