Jordan Seeks U.S. Help, Drones At Syrian Border By Jim Michaels

USA Today
August 15, 2013
Pg. 5

Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Dempsey hears ‘list’ of requests from leaders

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan is seeking U.S. help in bolstering security on its border with Syria in an effort to prevent the civil war there from spilling over and destabilizing this key regional ally, the top U.S. military commander said during a visit here.

“I came over here to literally ask, ‘What can we do?'” Gen. Martin Dempsey said Wednesday after a round of meetings with King Abdullah and Dempsey’s counterpart, Gen. Mashal Al-Zaben. “He gave me a list of things, and I’ll carry those back.”

Jordan is interested in having manned U.S. surveillance aircraft help monitor the border. The United States has the capability to merge surveillance video with other information to provide a comprehensive intelligence picture.

Jordan also wants the U.S. to keep providing training for Jordan’s special operations forces and assistance in caring for about 500,000 Syrian refugees who have streamed across the border since the fighting in Syria began more than two years ago.

Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is meeting with leaders this week in Israel and Jordan, key regional allies. Concerns about violence in Syria weigh heavily on officials in both countries.

Unlike in Washington, where the debate over Syria centers on establishing no-fly zones or arming rebels, officials in the region seemed skeptical of direct military intervention.

“We didn’t talk about direct military intervention,” Dempsey said after a round of meetings in Jordan.

Talks instead focused on bolstering defenses of allies and efforts to support moderates among disparate opposition groups fighting to overthrow Bashar Assad in Syria.

Officials see that as a way to counterbalance the power of extremist groups, including some affiliated with al-Qaeda, and a way of preparing the way for a post-Assad government.

Although leaders in the region have expressed concern about chaos that would likely follow Assad’s ouster, analysts say opposition groups are too fragmented to assume control.

“After Assad is going to be a lot worse than what’s happening now,” said Ramzy Mardini, an independent analyst based in Jordan.

Syria already resembles a failed state in the grips of competing warlords, said a senior Israeli defense official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The official voiced skepticism that any direct military intervention would be helpful.

“You always have to ask yourself … ‘Then what?'” he said. “Does it create a better reality?”

Dempsey said those close by viewing the Syrian conflict see a more complex problem than those looking at a great distance. “This is not about choosing one side or the other,” he said. “It’s about choosing potentially one side among several others.”

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