Amid concerns over Jordan’s stability, America contributed troops, Patriot batteries, and F-16 jets to participate in the Eager Lion military exercise in the country. Major General Awni al-Adwan, Jordan’s chief army commander for the drill, contextualized the exercise:
In a press conference held at the Jordan Special Operations Command in Amman, Edwan said the military exercise will last till June 21 and will take place in Jordan’s central and southern region. Stressing that the drill is not linked to regional developments around Jordan, Edwan said the military exercise will not take place near the northern border with Syria. … Part of the military drill involves air exercises on how to control and reduce effects of chemical weapons on military units and civilians.
The 12-day Eager Lion exercise is the combined effort of 8,000 troops from 19 countries, including 4,500 American troops, some 3,000 Jordanians, and 500 soldiers from Britain and Saudi Arabia. The drill, according to U.S. Major General Robert G. Catalanotti, increases “our ability to operate together in any upcoming contingency.”
F-18 jets from Gulf nations were also incorporated into the drill, reflecting regional sensitivity toward Jordan’s role in preventing a full-blown regional security spiral. The focus on chemical weapons, in turn, indicates what Gulf nations fear will be the trigger of that spiral. Syria is thought to have the world’s largest cache of chemical weapons.
Half a million Syrian refugees have sought to escape the violence by fleeing into Jordan, and that number is expected to reach 1.2 million by the end of the year. Senator John McCain has been explicit about the dangers that Jordan – and the region – face from the Syrian conflict.
It has been speculated that Jordan may request an extension of the deployments of the Patriots and F-16’s past the end of Eager Lion.
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