Real intentions of US exercise in Middle East
Over 12,000 troops from the United States, Jordan, and 15 other Middle Eastern countries are taking part in a massive three-week joint military drill dubbed “Eager
Lion 2012” that started on May 15, involving elite ground, air, marine, and special
forces from the United States.
Many countries in West Asia and North Africa have undergone regime changes in recent years, and the region’s geopolitical landscape is going through unprecedented changes. Furthermore, the prolonged Iranian nuclear issues, touch-and-go situation in Syria, and frequent U.S.-led massive military exercises have jointly exacerbated an already complicated situation in the Middle East.
The Eager Lion 2012 exercise involving 17 countries started just over 20 days after the United States and nine Middle Eastern countries held a joint military exercise dubbed “Main Connection 2012” in Bahrain from April 8 to April 18. It is obvious that the United States directed and participated in two drills in a month mainly for the purpose of forming a regional alliance in the Middle East.
The United States has adjusted its strategy toward the Middle East to contain Iran and increase pressure on Syria. The Iranian nuclear issue continues unabated. Although Iran and six world powers resumed negotiations on the issue in Istanbul last month, and agreed to more in-depth discussions in Baghdad on May 23, the United States and certain European countries have not relaxed their economic sanctions against Iran, and have even asked other countries to reduce oil imports from Iran. The United States has also decided to send F-22 Raptors to the Al Dhafra Air Base south of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in
order to enhance deterrence against Iran.
Eager Lion is an annual, multi-national exercise, and attracted the participation of almost all Arab countries except Syria this year. The situation in Syria has been turbulent since the beginning of this year. After certain Western powers and Arab countries failed in their attempt to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime, U.N.-Arab
League joint special envoy Kofi Annan managed to broker a ceasefire in Syria. However, the ceasefire is fragile, and terrorist attacks still occur from time to time.
A U.S. Central Command spokesperson said that the exercise is aimed at strengthening military-to-military relationships between the United States and related Arab countries, integrating all military instruments, and preparing participating nations for current and future “security challenges,” and has nothing
do with the situation in Syria. However, certain Middle Eastern media outlets have associated the military drill with the Syrian situation, saying that the purpose of the exercise is to ensure the security of Jordan’s borders.
The Syrian crisis, which started more than a year ago, has caused a sharp deterioration in the country’s relations with its neighbors. Jordan, which borders Syria, is playing host to the Eager Lion 2012 exercise. Jordanian media said that it was the largest military exercise ever held in the country. As a major recipient of U.S. military and economic assistance, Jordan has received assistance worth 2.4 billion U.S. dollars from the United States in the past five years. It is worth noting that Saudi Arabia has also participated in the drill. The country delivered an eye-catching performance in the wave of regime changes across West Asia and North Africa, and adopted a tough stance on the Syrian issue. While providing financial support to the Syrian opposition groups, Saudi Arabia has been purchasing advanced weapons and equipment, and promoting the development of domestic arms industry, in order to maintain its status as a regional power in the Middle East.
The United States has taken a multi-pronged approach to increasing its control over the Middle East by hyping up Iran’s nuclear threat, intervening in the civil wars in Libya and Syria, launching a series of military drills, selling large amounts of weapons to regional countries, and increasing military deployment in the
Furthermore, the United States has withdrawn troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and shifted its strategic focus to the Western Pacific region, in order to achieve global “rebalancing.” A senior Pentagon official said on March 27 that the United
States was seeking to build missile defense systems in both Asia and the Middle East akin to the existing one in Europe in cooperation with Japan, Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and some other countries in the two regions to deal with missile threats from Iran and North Korea. This will undoubtedly further complicate the security situation in Asia and the Middle East.