US troops sent to Jordan to counter Syrian attack on kingdom
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Wednesday, April 17, that 200 troops of the US 1st Armored Division had been ordered to deploy in Jordan. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that they are being sent on arrival to the north and ranged on the Jordanian-Syrian border.
According to the Pentagon statement, the force will give the United States the ability to “potentially form a joint task force for military operations, if ordered.”
The new deployment will include communications and intelligence specialists, who will assist the Jordanians and “be ready for military action” if President Barack Obama orders it.
Small US units, mainly special forces and special groups trained for chemical warfare, have been have been quietly present in Jordan for the past year. The new deployment makes the US military presence official.
DEBKAfile’s Washington sources disclose that President Obama ordered the new deployment to the kingdom when he discovered that Syrian President Bashar Assad was about to publicly and sharply condemn Jordan’s King Abdullah in a special Syrian TV broadcast Wednesday night and accuse him of responsibility for sending hundreds of armed fighters into Syria to oppose the regime.
Whole of Syria has become a battlefield, says church leader
The head of an ancient Middle Eastern Church has described how “the whole of Syria has become a battlefield” and has appealed to world leaders to intervene in a bid to stop the fighting.
In a statement, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham says that the country’s “suffering has gone beyond all bounds” and that the conflict “has mown down thousands and thousands” of people – both civilians and military.
The Damascus-based patriarch estimates that, since the conflict broke out two years ago, up to 400,000 Syrian Christians – possibly more than 25 per cent of the total – are either displaced within the country or have fled abroad.
In the statement, which was sent on Monday to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregorios reports that since early 2011 more than 1,000 Christians have been killed, that “entire villages have been cleared of their Christian inhabitants” and that more than 40 churches and other Christian centres (schools, orphanages and care homes) lie damaged or destroyed.
He states that key to the country’s problems are chaos and insecurity, as well as an influx of “fundamentalist Islamists”.
The patriarch declares that the threat to Christianity in Syria has wider implications for the religion’s future in the region because for decades the country has provided a refuge for faithful from Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.
He states that the conflict poses a severe threat to Muslims, pitting one Islamic tradition against another.
Patriarch Gregorios believes that, in spite of the worsening violence, peace remains possible and, in his statement, calls for action from leaders of Arab nations, Europe, the Americas, world organisations and Nobel Peace Prize winners.
He states: “We are sure that, despite our woes, all [of us] Syrians – government, political parties, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Alawites, Christians and Druze – are capable of engaging in dialogue.”
Saying that “there is no safe place left in Syria”, he adds: “The whole of Syria has become a battlefield… Every aspect of democracy, human rights, freedom, secularism and citizenship is lost from view and no-one cares.”
He states: “Suffering has gone beyond all bounds. The crisis has mown down thousands upon thousands of soldiers, opponents, civilians, men, women, children, Muslim sheikhs and Christian priests.”