Obama Consults With Abdullah After Islamic State Kills Pilot

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U.S. President Barack Obama (R) chats with Jordanian King Abdullah II in the Oval Office, at the White House, February 3, 2015, in Washington, DC.

Photo by Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images

President Barack Obama held a hastily scheduled meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the White House Tuesday evening after Islamic State extremists released a video purportedly showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned to death.

The two leaders made no statements when reporters and photographers were allowed into the Oval Office before the start of their discussion.

The Jordanian government had been in negotiations with Islamic State over the fate of the pilot amid widespread objections within the kingdom to its decision to join the U.S.- led coalition against the militant group. Jordan borders Iraq and Syria, the two countries where the group controls territory.

The video was released at a potentially embarrassing moment for Abdullah, who was away from the country for meetings in Washington with congressional leaders and other U.S. officials including Vice President Joe Biden. Local Jordanian media reported Abdullah would cut short his visit to the U.S. to head home.

“This is a big crisis, and it is the duty of all to be united,” the monarch said in an address to the country on state television. He said the pilot, Moath al-Kasassbeh, had “died defending his religion and nation.”

Obama wasn’t planning to meet with Abdullah during the visit, though their paths were scheduled to cross on Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. The White House didn’t announce the meeting until about an hour in advance of it.

After the meeting, Alistair Baskey, a White House National Security Council spokesman, said in a statement: “The president and King Abdullah reaffirmed that the vile murder of this brave Jordanian will only serve to steel the international community’s resolve to destroy ISIL.” ISIL is another name for Islamic State.

Meeting Lawmakers

Abdullah had private meetings earlier in the day with members of the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations committees while he was in Washington.

“The king feels that the gloves are off,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said as he left a session with Abdullah at the Capitol. “You can’t negotiate with these people, you have to take it to them.”

Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, the top Democrat on the appropriations committee, said senators and the king discussed U.S. support for Jordan, including assistance for Jordan to deal with the more than 800,000 refugees who’ve fled fighting in Syria and Iraq. The administration is seeking to provide $1 billion in aid over the next three years.

Obama Reaction

Shortly after the video was released, Obama told reporters that it show the “viciousness and barbarity” of the Islamic State and vowed that the group’s actions “will redouble the vigilance and determination of a global coalition to make sure that they are degraded an ultimately defeated.”

He said the burning shows the Islamic State is ideologically “bankrupt.”

Al-Kasassbeh was captured by Islamic State in December when his plane crashed in Syria during a bombing run against the group. The video posted by the jihadist group showed him being burned in a cage, according to Maryland-based analysis firm SITE Intel Group.

The video didn’t say when al-Kasassbeh was killed. The Jordanian army, in a statement broadcast on national television, said it happened a month ago, without saying how it got the information. The army vowed to “take revenge against the criminals” responsible for his death.

The Jordanian pilot is the latest captive to be executed by Islamic State, which says it’s punishing countries that joined the U.S.-led military campaign to crush its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

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