With the news that more than 150 US forces have been deployed to Jordan, in part to “be positioned” as a contingent force “should the turmoil in Syria expand into a wider conflict,” it’s important to note the risk involved. As the New York Times reported:
American officials familiar with the operation said the mission also includes drawing up plans to try to insulate Jordan, an important American ally in the region, from the upheaval in Syria and to avoid the kind of clashes now occurring along the border of Syria and Turkey.
…The Obama administration has declined to intervene in the Syrian conflict beyond providing communications equipment and other nonlethal assistance to the rebels opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But the outpost near Amman could play a broader role should American policy change. It is less than 35 miles from the Syrian border and is the closest American military presence to the conflict.
Carrying out contingent operations in Jordan could have serious implications for a conflict down the road. Washington seems concerned about the outbreak of war beyond Syria’s borders, but even if skirmishes crop up along the Jordanian border as they have along the Turkish border, it doesn’t necessarily mean international war will break out. However, if US forces are there and ready to jump the gun, it might.
Small skirmishes with Syria’s neighbors are not desirable, but nor would it threaten the US, so its a wonder why President Obama sees fit to send US troops to Jordan, especially when its technically done in secret (the Pentagon would not acknowledge the mission, or comment on it, nor will the administration) and without the approval of Congress.
This deployment reminds me of the major US-led military exercise in Jordan this past May. At the time, Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Military and Security Studies program at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, said he “suspect[ed] they’re trying to get kind of a psychological operations bump by [publicizing] this exercise now; it puts more pressure on the regime in Syria.”
And Michael Rubin, an adviser to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from 2002-2004 and now an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute said the exercise was meant to reassure America’s puppet dictators that we have their back. “One of the perceptions we’re trying to reverse is the perception among many of the Gulf monarchs, and the king of Jordan, that we dumped Hosni Mubarak way too quickly.”
“What this does is send a signal to many of the GCC states that we’re not simply going to turn our backs on all the monarchs,” Rubin says. Building this kind of military-to-military relationship with allied Middle Eastern dictatorships “is an important check against Iran’s military ambitions, and has been a US goal since the 1980s,” he added.
Addendum: Just to add, it’s worth remembering that the US has CIA teams on the ground in Turkey, right on the Syrian border, and they are helping organize and support Syrian rebel fighters, along with our ally in Ankara. If this contingent force in Jordan does anything of the sort, Damascus will feel surrounded and deliberately subverted. How is this not a provocation?