At a time when Syrian President Bashar al-Al-Assad warned his southern neighbour, Jordan, about the repercussions of allowing “terrorists” to infiltrate Syria, he has also expressed his hope that Jordanian politicians “be more aware of what is going on,” because “the fire will not stop at the borders of his country, but will include neighbouring countries as well.”
In a statement to Ashraq Alawsat, Jordanian sources in Amman confirmed the presence of an American force, made up of 300 soldiers, in Jordan who have been training in advanced communications technology devices for several months with the help of their Jordanian counterpart. The preparation is part of the second phase of a joint project called the “border security initiative.”
The sources added that “the initiative” is an advanced and qualitative development in border security and safety. They also said that it will effectively contribute to the reduction of infiltration and smuggling, especially since it includes the installation of additional cameras, radars, and other sensors to support and strengthen the capacity of the security system, particularly along the Jordan -Syria border.
In a televised interview with a government television station on Wednesday, Al-Assad said that he sent a political envoy to Amman in secret two months ago to clarify the situation of the large numbers of insurgents and weapons entering Syria via the Jordanian border. He added that his envoy reported “denials of these facts.”
However, the losses suffered by the army in Daraa during the past few weeks meant that it was necessary to send a security envoy to Amman to learn more about Jordan’s role. But the security envoy heard the same thing from the Jordanian leaders as was heard from the politicians, which Al-Al-Assad has described as “unconvincing.”
Following Al-Assad’s accusations, Amman rushed to confirm its position of rejecting any military intervention in Syria. The official spokesperson for the Jordanian government, Mohammad Momani, told Asharq Alawsat, “The Kingdom’s position on what is happening in Syria has not changed and is firmly against any military intervention. It calls for a comprehensive political solution to stop the cycle of violence and bloodshed there.” Momani declined to comment directly on Al-Assad’s words, noting that “the situation must be discussed because it has political and security repercussions” on the Kingdom, which hosts nearly half a million Syrian refugees.
In a comment on the conflicting information from Damascus and Amman, retired Major General Mamoun Abu Nawar said “The official policy is still non-interference in Syrian affairs, but the actual policy is different because the Kingdom has started to respond to the pressures resulting from the different concerns.”
He added that gathering troops and suggesting the preparation for military action will provoke the Al-Assad regime and drive it to make “pre-emptive strikes, and it will most likely use chemical weapons.”
The sources that spoke with Asharq Alawsat confirmed that the number of American troops will rise in the coming days to 500 soldiers with the arrival of a force made up of 200 soldiers. They will be assigned to study the geography of the region and oversee radar devices to track the movement of Al-Assad’s forces and the opposition forces; particular attention will be paid to Nusra Front, “which has made significant progress in the villages adjacent to the occupied Golan Heights and the neighbouring city of Daraa.”
The sources also said that the topographic study of the region aims to identify potential locations to set up missile batteries that would thwart Syrian ballistic missiles in the event of an attack by the Al-Al-Assad regime on Jordan. It also aims to train some Jordanian units on the use and handling of chemical weapons and securing the chemical weapon sites in the event of the fall of the Al-Assad regime.
The sources also said that Jordan asked Washington for Patriot batteries during the recent visit by President Barack Obama to Jordan, and the U.S. administration promised to secure two batteries from Qatar and Kuwait during the next week. U.S. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel is expected to arrive in Amman in the coming days as part of a Middle Eastern tour in which he will visit Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel.
Hagel made some remarks before his tour that were considered the most recent indication that the US Administration was still planning for a number of scenarios in Syria. During a statement on Syria before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hagel said that the likelihood of intervening in Syria to secure the stockpile of chemical weapons in this country is increasing by the day.
Hagel also stressed that his ministry has “plans ready to respond to all possible scenarios regarding the chemical weapons.” He said that Al-Al-Assad and those under his command would be held responsible if they resorted to the use of chemical weapons or have neglected their duty of securing them. However, he did not reveal the “consequences” or mention the claims to use chemical weapons in Syria.
In a related context, an official source in the Jordanian Armed Forces confirmed that the media reports and statements – which indicated the US would send 200 soldiers to Jordan – are not related to the status quo in Syria. Moreover, in a press statement released yesterday the Armed Forces of Jordan stated that these soldiers are the first of a number of groups participating in the “Eager Lion” exercise held in Jordan annually. They also said that this year’s exercise will be carried out in the upcoming weeks, with the participation of over 15 Arab and foreign countries until now. The media will also be invited to attend it.