Reprinted from WSWS
Some ten thousand troops began military exercises in Jordan on Tuesday, in the fifth annual "Eager Lion" war games led by the Pentagon. The drills are in preparation for a greatly expanded military conflict in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
A total of nine Arab countries -- Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, and Iraq -- join the US, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Poland, Australia and Pakistan for the exercise.
But the US military will dominate Eager Lion, supplying 5,000 of the 10,000 troops, including headquarters, air, land, sea and special operations forces. During the two-week-long exercise, from May 5 through May 19, there will be more American troops in Jordan than in neighboring Iraq, where President Obama has dispatched some 3,000 troops to train Iraqi forces and conduct special operations warfare and airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Maj. Gen. Rick Mattson, Director of Exercises and Training at the US Central Command, said the 2015 version of Eager Lion was the largest military exercise involving US and Jordanian armed forces since the series of drills began in 2011.
The military exercise is focused on counter-terrorism, although that term has been stretched to include almost every facet of military operations short of using nuclear weapons. Mattson said, "Everything available is dedicated to the success of the exercise," including B-52 strategic bombers, which will participate for the first time.
One element of the exercise will be a simulated bombing raid by a new US plane that will take off from the United States and fly directly to Jordan to drop bombs on a desert target.
Jordanian Brigadier General Fhad al-Damin told reporters the exercises would focus on border security and "combating terrorism," clearly linking the war games to the ongoing conflict with ISIS, the fundamentalist Islamist group whose forces are just across Jordan's borders with both Syria and Iraq.
According to a report Monday in the Christian Science Monitor, Jordan has stepped up its intervention against ISIS and the Al Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which recently took control of Nassib, on the border between Jordan and Syria, the last crossing point still in widespread use.
The Jordanian monarchy views the presence of ISIS and al-Nusra along its borders as the main threat to its security and continued rule, and has sought allies among tribal sheiks whose extended families live on both sides of the Syria-Jordan border, a vast and largely desert region.
According to the Monitor, "Jordan is reaching out to Syrian tribes and civilians. It's offering support in their fight to regain towns and villages overrun by IS -- a preemptive step to prevent jihadists from threatening Jordan's borders." Jordan has offered air support from the US-led coalition that is bombing ISIS targets in both Syria and Iraq.
Perfecting his technique of telling barefaced lies to reporters who know he is lying and take dictation anyway, General Mattson declared, "Eager Lion has nothing to do with what is currently happening in the region," a reference to ongoing US-led or US-backed military operations in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the Strait of Hormuz and across North Africa.
A look at the map demonstrates how preposterous that claim is. Jordan is of central importance to the US-led imperialist intervention in the Middle East. It lies just south of Syria and west of Iraq, both key battlefields against ISIS, east of Israel and north of Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, nearly all the countries joining in Eager Lion are engaged in one or another of the US-led and US-supported military operations throughout the Middle East.
In Iraq, Britain, France, Canada, and Australia are participating either in airstrikes against ISIS or training of Iraqi combat units, or both.
In Syria, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan have joined in US-led airstrikes, mainly against ISIS targets but in a few cases against the al-Nusra Front. On Friday, a US airstrike killed at least 64 civilians in the Syrian Arab village of Bir Mahali.