Friday, June 14, 2013


Patriot batteries, F-16s and 4,500 US troops near Syrian border(June 10, 2013)

History:June 10, 2013 

US missile defense system may remain on Jordan-Syria border after drills

Jordan wargames: Patriot batteries, F-16s and 4,500 US troops near Syrian border.

Multinational military exercise 'Eager Lion' has been launched in Jordan amid condemnation from neighboring Syria and its ally Russia. The US brings Patriot missile batteries to the Syrian border, which could remain deployed afterwards.

The exercises will last for 12 days, bringing together about 8,000 personnel from 19 countries, mostly Arabic, but also including the US and Europe. 

The maneuvers will also involve some 3,000 Jordanian and 500 British troops. 

'Eager Lion' – which is being conducted only 120km from the Jordan-Syria border – is aimed at training personnel for the possibility of the Syrian civil war spilling into neighboring countries.

Russia has raised concerns over the deployment of US Patriot missile batteries and F-16 fighter jets to Jordan: “We have more than once stated our opinion on this – foreign weapons are being pumped into an explosive region,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said.

“This is happening very close to Syria, where for more than two years the flames of a devastating conflict are burning that Russia and its American partners are trying to stop by proposing to hold an international peace conference as soon as possible,” Lukashevich said.

The organizers of 'Eager Lion' say that the troops involved will also train for the possibility of a chemical attack, as Syria’s neighbors fear that Damascus may lose control of its chemical weapons arsenal, which could then fall into the wrong hands. 

"We all have chemical training from any activity, so we continue to build those objectives into any exercise that we do,” said US Major General Robert Catalanotti, the Director of Exercises and Training. 

Last week the US military revealed it may indefinitely leave behind the Patriot batteries and F-16s deployed in Jordan due to the threat of the violence in Syria crossing into Jordanian territory. 

Jordanian Army Major General Awni el-Edwan, Operation Chief of Staff, told reporters on Sunday that no US troops, Patriot missile complexes or F-16s would remain in Jordan after the exercises conclude: "The drills have nothing to do with any objective related to what is happening in Syria." 

“No forces will stay after the exercise unless there is a request by the Jordanian government to keep the Patriots and F-16 jets, this is a political decision," General el-Edwan said, adding that Amman has no intention to “attack anybody.” 
US Major General Robert Catalanotti echoed el-Edwan's remarks, saying that “If the government of Jordan decides to make that request that would have go back through Washington, DC, for decision, and they would have to plan the numbers to support that.” 

“But as of right now, in the exercise, I am not working that issue at all, I'm simply using those instruments here for our objectives in the exercise,” Catalanotti said. 

General el-Edwan also stressed that the Syrian opposition will not participate in the exercise: “We are dealing with countries, we are a neutral country.” 

The Syrian army is continuing its push to retake control of rebel-held regions in the country. Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad recently forced rebel militants to withdraw from the strategic western Syrian town of Qusair. 

US missile defense system may remain on Jordan-Syria border after drills.

The US will deploy Patriot missile batteries and F-16 fighter jets in Jordan for military exercises, and the weapons may remain there indefinitely due to the threat of the Syrian civil war. The US has declined to comment on the size of the deployment.

The missile defense systems were "approved for deployment to Jordan as part of Exercise Eager Lion," AFP quoted US Central Command spokesperson Lt. Col. T.G. Taylor as saying. "In order to enhance the defensive posture and capacity of Jordan, some of these assets may remain beyond the exercise at the request of the government of Jordan," he added. 

The US has so far refused to reveal how many F-16s are being deployed, or how many of them will remain in Jordan after the exercises conclude. Jordanian officials have confirmed that the missile defense systems are being sent, vowing they will only be used to defend the country from potential missile attacks. 
Jordan, an ally of Washington, shares a border with Syria and has seen a huge influx of Syrian refugees displaced by the conflict. 

Russia has condemned the US decision, arguing that the deployment will only “pump more weapons into an already explosive region,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said. Lukashevich noted that that missile defense system will be placed close to Syria, which is still embroiled in a conflict that “Russia and the US are trying to resolve with an international peace conference.” 

The Patriot batteries are capable of shooting down Scud or other short-range missiles – which are known to be part of the Syrian military's arsenal – and could be used to enforce a no-fly-zone over Syria. 

NATO previously deployed Patriot batteries along the Turkey-Syria border, and a contingent of 1,200 soldiers to operate them. The Syrian government criticized the NATO deployment as a provocation, and Russia and Iran have likewise protested the move. 

Russia is often criticized for its commitment to ship S-300 missile batteries to Syria as part of a contract signed several years ago. Moscow maintains that the deal does not violate international law, and may help stem violence in the country. 

The general director of MiG – the Russian arms manufacturer that makes the jets of the same name – told Russian news agencies on Friday that a Syrian delegation was in Moscow to discuss the terms and deadline for a new contract to supply “more than 10” MiG-29 M/M2 fighters. 

Washington’s decision could spark further worries about its increasingly assertive role in the Syrian conflict. 

The EU lifted an arms embargo on Syria at the end of May, allowing European countries to “fully support” the rebels fighting against the government of President Bashar Assad. Washington has praised the development as giving Europe more flexibility to ramp up pressure on Assad. 

Moscow maintains that the Patriot deployment is both counterproductive and potentially unlawful, since delivering arms to non-governmental actors against the wishes of that country’s government is a violation of international law. Such moves are forbidden by both UN-level treaties on arms trade and the EU’s own guidelines. 

In a further development, the White House has reportedly asked the Pentagon to outline plans for a military no-fly zone over Syria. A no-fly zone is often enacted as a final precaution before military intervention.  

So far, the US has been reluctant to directly intervene in the Syrian conflict, saying it was only a remote possibility. Still, US lawmakers have on several occasions pushed for the US to adopt a more aggressive stance. 

Republican Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a staunch advocate for supplying military aid to the Syrian opposition, made a surprise visit to war-torn Syria at the end of May to meet with the rebels. 

The conflict in Syria has now entered its third year,with Damascus the site of frequent bomb attacks. At least 96,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011, according to UN estimates. 

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