WASHINGTON/AMMAN - The United States will deploy Patriot missiles and F-16 fighter jets to Jordan for military exercises this month and may consider keeping them there longer, in consultation with Jordan, US officials said on Tuesday.
The disclosure drew swift condemnation from Moscow, which accused the West of sending weapons to fuel Syria's civil war.
The Eager Lion exercises - held annually with a theme of irregular warfare - will include more than 8,000 service members from about 19 countries, one U.S. official said, adding the drills would run from June 9 to 20.
"These annual exercises will increase the preparedness of the Jordanian army. This year we are in need of more advanced weapons," Jordanian Minister of Information Mohammad al-Momani told Reuters.
If left in Jordan, Patriot missiles could be used to protect the country - a Sunni Muslim US ally - against any possible missile attack as the Syrian war threatens to widen into a more regional, sectarian conflict.
There was no official statement suggesting the Patriots or the fighter jets would be withdrawn when the exercises are over and U.S. officials left open the possibility they could remain in place.