Syrian anti-aircraft missile launchers 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Sana Sana)
AMMAN - US troops equipped with Patriot missiles and fighter jets began
military exercises in Jordan that have drawn condemnation from Russia,
which accuses the West of fanning the conflict in neighboring Syria.
confirmed last week it was sending the F-16 jets and missiles - which
can be used against planes and other missiles - to its ally Jordan, and
said it may consider keeping them there after the drills.
Both Washington and Amman said on Sunday the Eager Lion exercises were not related to the war in Syria, where President Bashar Assad's air power has given him an edge over lighter-armed rebels.
the Damascus government, and its most powerful ally Moscow, have been
sensitive about any transfer of Western arms closer to the conflict,
particularly any gear that could be used to enforce a no-fly zone.
than 4,500 American troops, around 3,000 Jordanians, and 500 soldiers
from Britain, Saudi Arabia and other countries were taking part in the
exercises, less than 75 miles (120 km) from the Syrian border, said
"The drills having nothing to do with any
objective related to what is happening in Syria," the top army commander
in charge of Jordanian troops, Major General Awni al-Adwan, told
reporters during the launch of the exercises on Sunday.
General Robert G. Catalanotti told a joint news conference the Eager
Lion events would increase "our ability to operate together in any
The exercises also involved a number of
F-18 jets from bases in the Gulf and drills on handling chemical
strikes, which Syria's government and rebels have accused each other of
Jordan is one of a number
of Arab countries that have lent support to the Syrian opposition,
caught up in the two-year-old civil war.
Jordan, like Syria's other neighbors, is increasingly nervous that the fighting will spill over and ignite a regional conflict.
President Barack Obama has been reluctant to become involved despite
having called for Assad to resign and hinting at military action if the
Syrian government crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapon. He has
shown some willingness to protect friends in the region.
officials privately say they requested that at least two Patriots are
kept after the end of the exercises to guard against any missile attack
Western diplomats say Washington has favourably responded to the request to bolster its ally's security.
complained vociferously last year when the United States, Germany and
the Netherlands deployed Patriots on Syria's northern border in Turkey, a
Russia complained again after Washington confirmed its deployment of missiles and jets to Jordan last week.
have more than once stated our opinion on this - foreign weapons are
being pumped into an explosive region," Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement on June 4.
is happening very close to Syria, where for more than two years the
flames are burning of a devastating conflict that Russia and its
American partners are trying to stop by proposing to hold an
international peace conference as soon as possible."