Editors Notes: Turkey and Jordan have been strategic staging platforms for western special forces and intelligence agencies to conducted military operations within Syria. Western vision for Syria- no fly zone and regime change. “American and French special forces have been at Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey for weeks, according to security sources. Since early summer, the Nato base has been a nerve-centre for Western nations and regional allies. Agents for Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also at the site, working to channel weapons and cash to the rebels.“
Source: The Times UK
Britain has sent military personnel to Jordan, where US army experts are helping to contain the fallout from the war in Syria, as well as being ready if the Syrian regime loses control of its large chemical weapons stockpile.
The United States has special forces stationed close to the Syrian border in Turkey as the civil war threatens to spill over and draw in its regional allies.
The presence of an initial contingent of 150 US planners and a very small number of British personnel could raise the possibility of “mission creep” as the Syria conflict becomes a regional proxy war, with Damascus supported by Iran and Russia and the rebels backed directly by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and indirectly by the US.
Britain’s National Security Council, chaired by David Cameron, is due to meet next week, with Syria high on the agenda, amid growing concern over the crisis.
As part of a US-led “containment strategy”, the American troops have set up base north of the Jordanian capital Amman, just 35 miles from the Syrian border. It is understood that the British element is trying to establish what more the UK could do to help.
One of the main concerns in both Whitehall and Washington is that some of President Bashar al Assad’s chemical warheads will fall into the hands of hardline Islamist groups that have joined the fight against the regime. Meanwhile Israel has threatened to intervene if the regime tries to transfer chemical weapons to Hezbollah, its enemy in neighbouring Lebanon.
“We are working with international partners and countries neighbouring Syria to improve border controls to reduce the risk of weapons proliferating to third parties,” said a Foreign Office spokesman. “We have made clear to Assad, directly and through other parties, that any use or proliferation of CBW [chemical and biological weapons] would be completely unacceptable.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said that Jordan was a key partner in Britain’s regional policy for the Middle East, which included efforts to curtail the Syria crisis. “This work and relationship includes the deployment of UK military personnel to Jordan on a regular basis,” he added.
There is also mounting concern about the stability of Jordan itself, one of the last pro-Western bastions of relative calm in a region where uprisings have swept away the old order. Facing protests from an Islamist opposition, King Abdullah yesterday appointed a new prime minister and charged him with organising parliamentary elections, the first since the Arab Spring began. It is feared external pressure on the Kingdom, similar to the cross-border artillery exchanges that Turkey has engaged in, could make the monarchy vulnerable as it struggles with the economic impact of the war, andat least 100,000 refugees.
The US deployment consists of 150 military planners and logistics personnel. Their initial focus has been helping Jordan cope with the expanding refugee problem, but they are also working on “unilateral” American contingency plans, US officials said. Although they would not be more specific, the planning includes possible US military intervention to prevent extremist militant groups from seizing chemical weapons located in more than 30 sites across the country.
In May, US troops joined units from Jordan and 17 other countries in an exercise called Eager Lion 12, which rehearsed scenarios involving future conflict in the region, and included chemical warfare drills. More than 100 senior US planners stayed on in Jordan and were later joined by other specialists to continue contingency planning.
American and French special forces have been at Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey for weeks, according to security sources. Since early summer, the Nato base has been a nerve-centre for Western nations and regional allies. Agents for Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also at the site, working to channel weapons and cash to the rebels.