A little over three weeks ago, we published a report on leaked images of U.S. military equipment arriving in Jordan’s Aqaba Industrial Port via the vehicle carrier vessel “Liberty pride” for the upcoming participation in the annual war drill “Eager Lion.”
To conclude, we asked a straightforward question: with the return of John Bolton, is war imminent in Syria?
“Jordan is a major player bordering southwestern Syria but has been silent as the Russian-backed Syrian regime expanded territorial gains from terrorist groups in the eastern Ghouta region. Now, Jordan seems like it is preparing for a conflict with Syria, as the United States Armed Forces have recently unloaded large amounts of tanks and personnel carriers. Nevertheless, with the return of John Bolton, is war imminent on the Jordan–Syria border?”
Fast forward to today when two days after the United States, Britain, and France lobbed more than 100 missiles into Syria, the Jordan Armed Forces- Arab Army (JAF) kicked off the twelve-day Eager Lion 2018 military exercise with the United States at its side.
In a joint press conference on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Jon K. Mott, Director of Exercises and Training U.S. Central Command and Brigadier General Mohammed Al-Thalji of the Jordan Armed Forces, told reporters “the exercise is carried out for the eighth consecutive time with the participation of land, sea and air forces of about 7,000 troops, representing the Jordanian and American forces,” as quoted by the Jordan News Agency.
In total, nearly 4,000 US servicemen will participate in the drill.
“Today marked the official opening of Eager Lion 2018, the premier US-Jordanian joint military training exercise,” stated U.S. Embassy Jordan.
Brigadier General Mohammed Al-Thalji of the Jordan Armed Forces and Major General Jon Mott of the U.S. Air Force, the co-directors of Eager Lion, met with journalists today to talk about the exercise.
Brigadier General Mohammed Al-Thalji of the Jordan Armed Forces and Major General Jon Mott of the U.S. Air Force, the co-directors of Eager Lion, met with journalists today to talk about the exercise. Here are some of their key remarks. #USAinJO #EagerLion18 pic.twitter.com/3FtxpkpDlt— U.S. Embassy Jordan (@USEmbassyJordan) April 15, 2018
Al-Thlaji said, “this year’s exercise aims at improving operational alignment between the Jordanian armed forces and the US military, training in counterterrorism, border security and humanitarian operations, crisis management, strategic communications and future planning.”
Al-Thlaji further told reporters that the exercise deeply focuses on “search, rescue, and joint logistics operations and other goals that are in line with the armed forces’ strategy to develop their operational, training and humanitarian capabilities.'”
Gen. Mott said, “around 3,500 American troops are taking part in the drill, which is a part of the US-Jordanian strategic partnership, and will help boost preparedness of the two countries’ armies.”
“This is a golden opportunity to tackle specific threats to regional security at the operational level,” he underlined, spurring participants to develop new ideas and scenarios “that improve our ability to think and act faster than our strongest opponents”.
The exercises are being conducted around Jordan's capital Amman, which is about 100km (62 miles) from the Syrian border. During the drill, there will be a variety of war scenarios playing out, which we think the most fascinating will be the simulated attack of chemical weapons. The exercise is extremely convenient and comes about a week after the West has blamed President Bashar Assad for an apparent chemical weapons attack against his civilians. While Russia tells the world, the Syrian gas attack was staged, U.S. officials are making the case that the Assad regime is the responsible actor behind the attack.
Gen. Mott, detailed to reporters that a mobile scientific team will respond to a simulated chemical event during the exercise. He said that it is a “threat all too real, as we have seen recently in Syria.”
While it is still not clear who the responsible actor was during the gas attack in Syria, what is quite evident and disturbing, is that the United States and Jordan have been planning this military drill next to Syria’s border for quite some time.
With more than 7,000 troops in total, including 3,500 U.S. troops, and dozens of tanks, this is currently the most massive U.S. military drill in the region.
What is social media’s response? “Apr 15th Eager lion begins “coincidentally” scheduled for April this year and not may like the last 3,” said one Twitter user.
Apr 15th Eager lion begins "coincidentally" scheduled for April this year and not may like the last 3— NRUnion (@NRU4pt) April 15, 2018
"It’s just Eager Lion. We’ve been doing that one for many years,” a combat veteran said.
It's just Eager Lion. We've been doing that one for many years.— Chris Alexander (@cmalex79) April 14, 2018
The good news is that president Trump already declared that the US adventure in Syria is over and that “Mission Accomplished!”, which means there is no risk of those 4,000 US troops in Jordan deciding to launch an invasion on the proxy and civil war torn country...