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Real intentions of US exercise in Middle East

By Ruan Zongze (People's Daily Overseas Edition)

08:20, May 18, 2012

Edited and Translated by People's Daily Online

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.

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