U.S. military officials recently announced they were deploying Patriot missiles and other U.S. military equipment and personnel in Jordan. The missiles were originally to be sent there as part of a joint U.S.-Jordanian military training exercise codenamed “Eager Lion,” and were to be withdrawn upon completion. Now, it's been decided the missiles are to remain in Jordan alongside a deployment of F-16 fighter jets and an additional 200 “military planners” separate from the training exercise. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the change in plans, officials say, in reaction to the worsening civil war inside neighboring Syria. Officials say they are there to assist with relief efforts for refugees from that war-torn country.
More likely, this deployment is evidence that the violence of Syria’s civil war has not only begun to spill beyond its borders but that there is a very grave concern that it may widen further. Late last year, Patriot missiles were also deployed in Turkey. Jordan and Turkey, both neighbors to Syria, have recently found their security threatened by that country’s civil war. Earlier this year, Syrian missiles fired by the Assad regime hit Jordanian border villages. Syrian fighting has also threatened Turkey. In October of last year, Syrian artillery shelled a Turkish border village, killing five. As a result of these threats, both countries have accepted deployments of U.S. Patriot missiles (in spite of the fact that the missiles wouldn’t have helped Turkey).
The U.S. isn’t the only outside power involved in this conflict; far from it. A tangled and intricate web of countries is now increasingly involved. The Syrian rebels have been supplied with arms from Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, often with the help of CIA operatives. Their efforts could possibly be joined by Great Britain and France, who were prevented from arming the rebels until an EU arms embargo recently expired. Meanwhile, last week, Russia announced its intention to sell its Syrian ally S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. That, in turn, drew the ire of the Israelis, who fear that those missiles could fall into the hands of Hezbollah, which is fighting on the side of the government. It has made veiled threats to destroy the missiles, when and if they are delivered. Three previous airstrikes within Syria have been made just this year this year for similar purposes.
Seeking to exploit the chaos, terrorist groups have jumped into the fray. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have aligned themselves with (some elements of) the rebel forces. Hezbollah, as mentioned, has been openly assisting the Assad regime and is currently engaged in fierce battles with the Free Syrian Army inside Lebanon.
As a result of this complicated and murky mix of national governments and paramilitary groups, Syria’s civil war no longer represents an internal struggle, but has become the site of a massive proxy war, one reminiscent of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Ironically, what was once a struggle between Syrians to determine their nation’s future has become part of a much larger chess game between the great powers of the world.