Goodspeed Analysis: U.S., allies sending a not-so-subtle message to Syria with Jordanian war games (NATIONAL POST COMMENT) Peter Goodspeed 05/16/12)
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More than 12,000 special forces troops from 19 countries, including
many who saw combat last year in Libya, will be swarming all over
Jordan for the next two weeks in the largest war games ever held in
the Middle East, while their leaders adamantly deny it is a prelude
to war in Syria.
The commandoes — from the United States, Britain, France, Italy,
Spain, Saudi Arabia Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Australia and several
other Arab countries that refuse to be identified — are practising
guerrilla tactics, staging assaults on a fictitiously troubled
nation, conducting counterterrorism operations and learning how to
deal with refugees.
While the exercises will reportedly be confined to southern Jordan in
a bid to allay Syrian fears, they send a not-so-subtle warning to
Syria and Iran over the possibility for international intervention in
the Middle East.
As a United Nations-brokered peace plan continues to unravel in
Syria, Syrian newspapers were having conniptions last week over the
fact the joint military manoeuvres are code-named Exercise Eager Lion
12 — the surname of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also
Jordanian officials insist the exercises are “not connected to any
real world event” and are unrelated to the violence that has torn
Syria apart, caused the deaths of at least 9,000 people and forced
more than 11,000 refugees into Jordan.
“Training events such as Eager Lion provide our forces with an
opportunity to practise their language skills, immerse themselves in
the culture, learn different tactics, techniques and procedures,”
Major General Ken Tovov of the U.S. Special Operations Forces said
The U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., which is responsible for the
Middle East, called Eager Lion “part of a long history of
multilateral military exercises in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”
“The exercise scenarios are designed to portray realistic, modern-day
security challenges,” U.S officials noted. “The scenarios are
designed years in advance to fulfill collaborative training goals.”
Nevertheless, many in the Middle East see the military manoeuvres as
just another step in the pressure Western and Arab states are
applying to Syria.
As Syria’s revolt entered its 15th month Tuesday, its neighbours
continue to warn of the dangers of an all-out civil war.
“The violence is still continuing, the bloodshed is still
continuing,” Prince Saud Al Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister,
said Monday after a special meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council
in Riyadh to discuss Syria.
“Nothing has been accomplished except the violence has lessened …
nobody is satisfied.”
He said the UN peace plan, cobbled together by former UN secretary
general Kofi Annan to put 300 UN monitors in Syria to police a
ceasefire, is rapidly losing credibility.
Twenty-two people were killed in Syria Tuesday, according to the
opposition Local Coordination Committee of Syria, who said government
troops opened fire with live ammunition on a student demonstration in
The state-run Arab News Agency said terrorists killed two police
officers in Damascus and Daraa.
Even Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN’s special envoy to the Middle East,
warned of pending disaster last week, when he said arms are
continuing to flood into Syria from Lebanon.
“What we see across the region is a dance of death at the brink of
the abyss of war,” he said, warning Syria could easily slide into the
civil war that traumatized Lebanon in 1975-90.
Another indication of the tensions generated by Syria’s descent into
chaos came early this month when Israel’s military called up six
reserve battalions to serve on the borders of Egypt and Syria. They
also obtained parliamentary permission to summon another 16 other
reserve battalions if necessary.
Israeli military officials are closely tracking events in Syria. They
fear the sudden collapse of Mr. Assad’s regime could result in groups
affiliated with al-Qaeda trying to seize control of the Golan Heights.
There are fears prolonged conflict in Syria could drag the Middle
East into a new round of terrorism and ethnic and religious strife.
Fighting spilled over into Tripoli, Lebanon, this week, where eight
people have died in three days of sectarian gunfights between groups
supporting different factions in Syria.
The threat of a wider terrorist campaign surfaced in Damascus last
week, when two car bombs exploded outside a police intelligence
office, killing 55 people and wounding 300 more.
“The car bombs drove home the point that the insurgency is getting
more lethal and capable all the time,” said Joshua Landis, a Syrian
expert at the University of Oklahoma.
“Damascus must worry about becoming more like Baghdad and Kabul.” (©
2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. 05/16/12)
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