"Eager Lion": Pentagon leads unprecedented exercises on Syrian border

The Pentagon is this week leading the largest multinational military exercises in the history of Jordan, with maneuvers planned along the Syrian border as well as in the Gulf of Aqaba, across from Israel. The "Eager Lion 2012" exercises are bringing together army units from 17 countries, including Jordan, the United States, France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In response to the obvious question from journalists, officials said that the war game scenarios are not directed at any particular enemy, and that Operation Eager Lion was planned three years in advance. Maj. Robert Bockholt, public affairs officer at US Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), said: "Execution of Eager Lion 2012 is not connected to any real-world event. It has nothing to do with Syria. It is just a coincidence."

The US Central Command press release on the exercise says: "The focus of Eager Lion is to strengthen military-to-military relationships of participating partner nations through a joint, whole-of-government, multinational approach, integrating all instruments of national power to meet current and future complex national security challenges. The exercise scenarios are designed to portray realistic, modern-day security challenges. The scenarios are designed years in advance to fulfill collaborative training goals." (The Media Line, May 10; TASS, CentCom Public Affairs, May 9)

On May 10, just as the exercises were announced, Syria suffered its worst terrorist attack since the start of the uprising over a year ago, as 55 people were killed and nearly 400 injured in twin car bomb blasts near a government intelligence building in Damascus. Syrian officials and media blamed foreign-backed terrorist groups for the attack, saying it was carried out "in the service of the interests of Israel and its allies in the region."

The targeted building is part of the compound of the feared "Palestine Branch"—a military intelligence unit originally set up in the 1950s to interrogate suspected Israeli spies, but which has evolved into the regime's counter-terrorism unit, and is infamous for interrogations and torture. (BBC News, The Guardian, May 10

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