US Patriot missiles, F-16 jets arrive in Jordan as part of long term defence strategy
A picture of Patriot missile systems, like those that will be deployed in the north of Jordan. Image for illustrative purposes. (AFP file photo)
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US-provided Patriot missiles and F-16 fighter jets have arrived in Jordan, Jordanian and US officials said on Friday, amid a reported military build-up along the Jordanian-Syrian border.
According to Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communication and Government Spokesperson Mohammed Momani, several Patriot missile batteries and F-16 fighter jets arrived in Jordan last week as part of the “Eager Lion” military exercises in the southern desert.
“We reached an agreement with the Americans last week that after the exercises, the Patriots and F-16s would remain in Jordan to improve our national defence,” Momani told The Jordan Times.
"Secretary (Chuck) Hagel has approved a request from the Kingdom of Jordan for a detachment of F-16s and Patriot Missiles to remain in Jordan following the conclusion of the Eager Lion Exercise next week," spokesman George Little said in a statement, according to AFP.
"All other US personnel assigned to Jordan for Eager Lion will depart at the conclusion of the exercise. The United States enjoys a long-standing partnership with Jordan and is committed to its defence."
The dispatch fulfils an appeal to Washington made by Jordan in April for the missiles, which Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said would bolster the Kingdom's "national security".
According to a Jordanian military source, several of the Patriots have already been deployed along the Jordanian-Syrian border, with the remaining missiles to be installed across northern Jordan by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, Momani dismissed as baseless reports that Jordan is set to serve as a staging ground for a potential international intervention in Syria, stressing that Amman’s opposition to military action against Syria remains unchanged.
“Jordan does not and will not support any military action against Syria,” Momani said.
Momani’s comments came in response to a series of Western media reports claiming that Washington is preparing to use Jordan as a base for a potential no-fly zone over Syria, a speculation triggered by claims US made on Thursday that Damascus has engaged in chemical warfare.
A US defence official earlier this week said the military will also keep a unit of US Marines on amphibious ships off the Red Sea coast after consultations with Jordan, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, military sources and local residents in the northern region reported a mass military build-up across the border area late Friday amid growing concerns over the Syrian regime's potential use of chemical weapons and Hizbollah’s alleged arrival in southern Syria.
According to a military source stationed in the border region, military forces were placed on “high alert” late Thursday, with a doubling of patrols and battalions placed across the area.
“As of Friday we have been on the highest level alert since the start of the Syrian crisis,” said the official, who was not authorised to speak to the press.
Eyewitnesses across northern Jordan reported several fighter jets and military convoys stationed along the border region late Friday.
“Although we are prepared, we are concerned that any use of chemical weapons near the border will affect thousands of Jordanians,” said Brigadier General Hussein Zayoud, head of the Jordanian border guard.
As of late Saturday, some 8,000 Hezbollah and Iranian fighters had encircled the southern city of Daraa, rebel officials and local residents claim, a few kilometres away from the Jordanian-Syrian border.
By Taylor Luck