US 1st Brigade departs Iraq
As the US completes its final withdrawal from Iraq, American special forces troops have been diverted to positions in Jordan opposite a Syrian tank concentration building up across the kingdom's northern border, DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources report.
As of last Thursday, as of last Thursday Dec. 8, military convoys, air transports and helicopters have been lifting US troops across the border from Iraq. They have been deployed in position to ward off a possible Syrian invasion in the light of President Bashar Assad's warning that he would set the entire Middle East on fire if the pressure on his regime to step down persisted.
Syria's other neighbors have taken precautions against this contingency but this is the first time US boots have hit the ground directly opposite Assad's army.
The incoming US contingents are disclosed by our sources as having been housed at the King Hussein Air Base of al-Mafraq, 10 kilometers from the Syrian border. US troops were sighted Monday, Dec. 12, building surveillance towers and army posts in the Jordanian villages of Albaej, Zubaydiah and al-Nahdah al-Houshah as well as near the Sarham dam of the Yarmoukh River which runs down the international border between Syria and Jordan.
Three months ago, the Syrian ruler cautioned Jordan's King Abdullah II to stop granting asylum to Syrian military deserters and allowing his country to serve as a conduit for pumping arms to the opposition.
The king was not deterred by this threat. Seen from Damascus, Jordan would be easier to take on militarily that either Turkey or Israel. Saturday, Dec. 12, Jordanian surveillance units confirmed that Syrian armored units were gathering opposite the Jordanian town of Bura Al Hariri.
Iraqi sources report that the American units came from the big Iraqi Ain al-Assad air base in the western province of Al Anbar opposite the Jordanian border. This base is in the process of evacuation as the US military drawdown in Iraq approaches completion. Most of the troops are flown to US bases in the Persian Gulf and Europe.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, when he met US President Barack Obama at the White House Monday, approved the transfer of American contingents from Iraq to Jordan across their common border. Obama was therefore able to state after their talks: "We share the view that when the Syrian people are being killed or are unable to express themselves that's a problem. There's no disagreement there."
By this comment, the White House sought to stress that the Baghdad government is not letting Tehran twist its arms on the Syrian question.