The U.S. and Jordan will hold their largest military exercise ever in May, according to the state-run news agency Petra.
Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of the Marine component of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is in Amman this week meeting with Jordanian military officials to prepare the 17 nation exercise. One of those participants will be Iraq, sending its military outside the country for the first time.
The theme of the exercise, officials say, is guerrilla warfare and “strategic threats.”
As one Arab commentator asks: “So who exactly will be this “Eager Lion” target?
“Strategic threats”? “Guerrilla warfare?”
The first Eager Lion exercise in this series – Eager Lion 11/Infinite Moonlight 11.2 – was held last year from June 11-30, and involved 14 other countries spread operating at six locations inside Jordan. This exercise also focused, according to CENTCOM, on “irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency.”
But behind the scenes, the Army’s 20th Support Command from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland participated. The official name of the 20th is Support Command (CBRNE) for chemical biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives. The unit was activated in 2004 to consolidate Army WMD response and search capabilities, and in Eager Lion last year, it held biological warfare identification exercises and radiological and nuclear response and civil defense training.
Military exercises happen all the time – check out my list of exercises – and some might just dismiss all of them and this one as well as routine, opportunities for militaries to get together, familiarize themselves with each other, practice basic skills. But every exercise of this size also includes so-called “strategic” purpose, a scenario that is generally made up to guide decision-making. Some country is made up – say Irandia, fighting with another made up country, say Israelandia – and they fight a nuclear war, or some external event in say a place like Syria spreads to Jordan.
Just because Iran, Israel, and Syria are in the news right now, and just because WMD are being bandied about doesn’t necessarily mean that this exercise is intended to mimic an actual real world scenario. After all, if the focus of this year’s exercise is also counter insurgency, one has got to mention the Palestinian population of Jordan or even the Jordanian people themselves, who might just spring into action someday. What “skills” do you think the U.S. is sharing?
The reality is that despite all of these questions, Eager Lion is also just an exercise, scheduled each year in the late spring/early summer, one that takes a year to prepare, to schedule the units to participate, to agree on all of the rules and complete all of the paperwork, etc., etc. In some way, however, it is also the making of foreign policies and the subtle steering of the future.
It once was the case, during the days of Saddam that these U.S.-Jordanian exercises were highly secret, proving cover for preparations for U.S. forces to deploy to Jordan in order to fight Iraq (which they did in 2003). Saddam is gone now, but the neighborhood is ever more complicated. I wonder what they are cover for now?