|Warning graphic image in the lower right hand side. Poster created by ISIS or Da'esh|
Escalating events and brutal winter storms in Syria has returned the world's attention to Syria and Iraq. The Kurds have been successful in fighting alone to push ISIS out of Kobane nearly altogether. Kurdistan has single handedly shown the way to defeating ISIS and winning back lost territory and protecting civilians. Winter storms in Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel has made life impossible for the thousands of Syrians, Palestinians and Iraqis in temporary makeshift camps across the region.
More pain has followed many ordinary and innocent people fleeing from ISIS for protective refuge or fighting against ISIS. A Jordanian pilot Moaz al Kasasbeh has been held alongside two Japanese citizens under a cruel ultimatum. Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist and Haruna Yukawa, have been held by ISIS terrorists for nearly a week threatened with death unless the Japanese government buckles under a $200 million ransom and a request to free a convicted would be female suicide bomber Sajida al Rishawi imprisoned in Jordan since 2005. Jordan and Japan have been in talks on possible negotiations as the deadline approaches. The ransom and demand for the immediate release of al Rishawi has sent Japanese society into crushing agony. Yukawa was coldly murdered prior to Goto's deadline. In Tokyo, residents have been holding vigils with signs writen in Japanese, English and Arabic. Goto's wife plead for her husband to be safely return to her and their two small children. Goto's family, neighbors, Kasasbeh's own family and friends are waiting painfully to hear the final update. The deadline has passed with no word on either man's whereabouts.
Jordan signals willing to possibly swap prisoners with ISIS
It is odd that any terrorist group would attack a country with a rare pacifist policy and humanitarian focused approach to conflict zones. The Japanese Middle East policy has been mostly passive and indirectly supportive of the United States. Until the 2003 Iraq War, Japan did not send its military troops into the major conflicts of the region except as UN peacekeeping troops in Lebanon and as part of the larger Coalition of the Willing in Iraq. Most of Japan's interaction with Iraq, Syria and Jordan has been through mostly diplomatic means and various real and genuine humanitarian organizations aimed at helping ordinary civilians. The other factor involves petroleum access and dependency on the black gold.
Pacifist Constitution moves to restore Japanese military
Japan has one of the oldest pacifist clause in its constitution that forbidden heavy militarization as part of its national defense or the use of a strong willed military force. The clause extends to the militarism. There has been continuous debate on ending the pacifist approach to defense and militarism. This hasn't stopped Japan from deploying troops to defend the disputed but resource rich Shenkaku Islands against Chinese troops. Japan's pacifist constitution goes back to the post-World War II American occupation of Japan. After bombing the entire country and killing hundreds of thousands in the bombings, the United States extended the Marshall Plan to reconstructing Japanese Society that would move away from its Fascist and imperial past to a more US friendly ally. American occupiers reduced the Japanese national defense forces down to a small local army that is weaker than some its neighboring country's military forces. The current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his predecessors have fought with the Japanese Parliament to overturn the ban on sending larger squads to intervene militarily in the Middle East and other regions where Japanese citizens might need immediate evacuation or protection not offered by local police.