Troops from roughly 20 countries are traveling to Jordan to join a program of armed forces drills planned to be among the largest ever carried out in the Middle East, CNN reported on Tuesday (see GSN, March 9).
More than 12,000 personnel from the United States and partnered European and Arab countries are set to participate in the "Eager Lion 2012" maneuvers. The program -- scheduled to continue until the close of the month -- would include practice in transitioning from water to land in conflict scenarios, as well as mock antiterrorism and other offensive missions carried out by U.S. and Jordanian special operations forces.
A secondary aim of the effort is to convey to Iran and Syria the readiness of Washington and its partners to address any possible security threats to the region, according to multiple U.S. armed forces sources.
The drills would focus in large part on joint preparation of forces to handle an emergency involving armaments from Syria's suspected chemical or biological arsenals. Persistent, widespread instability and violence in Syria have prompted fears that some of the WMD materials could fall into outside hands and potentially enter neighboring Jordan.
“This has nothing to do with Syria. We respect the sovereignty of Syria. There is no tension between the Syrians and us. Our objectives are clear,” said Maj. Gen. Awni al-Edwan, head of Jordanian military operations and training. “No forces will be deployed north of the 32nd parallel. The exercise is not connected to any real-world event.”
A U.S. Defense Department source told CNN the program is intended solely to address "realistic threats" in the Middle East. Others, though, have noted the benefits of such preparations should the United States go to war with Iran, which Washington suspects of pursuing a nuclear-weapon capability (see related GSN story, today; Barbara Starr, CNN, May 15).