Thousands of American troops are participating in a 12-day military exercise in Jordan that reflects regional security concerns about the conflict in neighboring Syria.
The Tower reports that the exercises include air operations involving contingency plans for dealing with chemical weapons, which the Syrian regime is believed to possess in large quantities:
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, 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 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.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) recently visited Jordan and Syria and advocated U.S. intervention to prevent the civil war from spilling across its borders in a speech at the Brookings Institution.