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Jordan pressed by U.S. into becoming primary base for Syrian rebels

Special to WorldTribune.com

AMMAN — Jordan has been transformed into the main base of the Sunni
revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Western diplomatic sources said Jordan has been hosting thousands of
foreign fighters recruited to fight the Assad regime. They said Jordan,
aided by Saudi Arabia and the United States, has also helped train the
rebels.

Syrian rebels, backed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, are using Jordan as a main base of operations.

Syrian rebels, backed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, are using Jordan as a main base of operations.

“As Turkey withdraws from its role as the lead supporter of the rebels, Jordan has filled that position,” a diplomat said. “Jordan does not relish this and is concerned of a Syrian backlash.”

The diplomats said the Hashemite kingdom has been under U.S. pressure to expand its role to help the rebels. On Aug. 14, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, held meetings with King Abdullah and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Masha’al Al Zaben.

“Here in Jordan, they’re particularly interested in what we can do to help them see and secure their very long border with Syria,” Dempsey said.

In a briefing, Dempsey did not detail his talks with the Jordanian
leadership, concerned over the 560,000 Syrians who found refuge in the
kingdom. But the U.S. defense chief Israel and Jordan share concerns over
the continuing civil war in Syria and a backlash by the Assad regime and his
Iranian allies.

“They [Jordan] are concerned over the possibility this movement in Syria
will be hijacked by extremists groups like [Al Qaida-aligned] Al Nusra and
Ahrar Al Sham,” Dempsey said.

Over the last year, both Saudi Arabia and the United States have
expanded their military presence in Jordan. Washington was said to have
deployed about 1,000 troops, with specialists in border security, air
defense, while the Saudi military sent special operations officers to
instruct rebels in urban warfare.

The diplomats said Washington and Riyad were sending rebels recruited
by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army to Jordan. They said FSA, struggling
against powerful Al Qaida militias, was allowed to deploy along the border
to help supply their colleagues in southern Syria, particularly Dera.

The diplomats said Riyad and Washington were laying the groundwork for
the transformation of Jordan into the leading rebel launching pad. They said
Jordan was increasingly supplying rebels in southern and central Syria,
particularly around the city of Dera.

“The United States wants to ramp up the conflict without direct U.S.
military intervention,” another diplomat said. “Jordan, because of its
vulnerability and location, is the only real option.”

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