Assad warns Jordan against holding a war game like Turkey and Israel
DEBKAfile Special Report October 7, 2011, 1:14 AM (GMT+02:00)
Tensions peaked again around Syria's borders with Israel, Turkey and Jordan as the first two embarked on large-scale mobilization maneuvers near those borders Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 5-6 and the Jordanian armed forces prepared to follow suit.
debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that the United States and Turkey urged Jordan's King Abdullah to hold a similar maneuver or reinforce his units on the Syrian border. But Bashar Assad decided that being forced to build up his forces on Syria's borders with Turkey and Israel was enough and a Jordanian exercise must be stopped.
Thursday, he sent his powerful brother-in-law Gen. Asef Shawqat to Amman with a stern warning for the king: If the Hashemite Kingdom lines up with Turkey and Israel and deploys extra troops on the Syrian border, Assad will order his air force to bomb Jordanian towns.
And if Israel intervenes to engage Syrian bombers, Damascus would launch surface missiles against Jordanian cities.
It was the second time this week that the Syrian ruler had threatened to punish an enemy with ground-to-ground missiles. Tuesday, Oct. 4, debkafile revealed that Assad had threatened to demolish Tel Aviv by missiles within six hours of an attack on Syria.
Jordan's Abdullah told Gen. Shawqat he agreed to give up his planned military exercise, but not his opposition to Assad actions.
In Washington, Ankara and Jerusalem, the Syrian message to Jordan was taken as an implied warning to Turkey and Israel alike that Assad had no intention of taking their military exercises lying down either and a military response was coming.
The Turkish war game is taking place in the Hatay province which borders on northern Syria. It is scheduled to last nine days. Israel ended its two-day maneuver Thursday, deploying troops within sight of southwest Syria and Jordan.
Israeli and Turkish military movements were coordinated by NATO's European commander Gen. James Staviris who he visited Tel Aviv and Ankara for this purpose in the last week of September.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave the exercises a seal of approval during his visit to Israel Monday, Oct. 3.
The next day, both armies were in the field. The United States informed both governments that US warships had been deployed in the eastern Mediterranean against any unforeseen events.
Turkish-Israeli military ties remain frozen and relations sour. But Ankara did not refuse American mediation for coordinating their exercises for the first time in more than a year.
The two-day Israeli war game was not announced. It entailed the call-up of the Northern and Central Commands reserve brigades without prior notice. The units were directed to collect the men and officers from home and drive them to their units on the assumption that a missile attack on Israel was already underway and road disruptions prevented them from making their own way.
Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, summed up the exercise by telling the troops: "In the current instability around us, we must be sure that our forces are on the highest level of readiness and keep on enhancing it."