“All we heard for months was that Eager Lion had nothing to do with regional events and that the Patriots had nothing to do with Syria,” said one Jordanian journalist, who said that had been banned from writing about the Patriots by his editors. “But you would have to be very naive to accept that as truth, and now we see that the U.S. has conveniently left behind systems that would help Jordan and the rebels.”
Eager Lion, which is touted as the largest multilateral exercise in the region, has been celebrated by U.S. officials as an example of the close relationship between the U.S. and Jordan.
“This exercise provides us with the opportunity to develop relationships and capabilities,” said Army Maj. Gen. Robert Catalanotti, the U.S. Central Command director of exercises and training. “We have a very strong relationship with Jordan that we are very proud of.”
He stressed that the decision to send the Patriots to Jordan as part of the exercises was made more than a year ago, and that the decision over whether or not they would remain in Jordan would be handled by Washington.
U.S. military officials in Jordan worked hard last week to stress to the media that the entire Eager Lion exercise had nothing to do with regional events. In a press conference held by Catalanotti and his Jordanian counterpart, Maj. Gen. Awni Edwan, both were forced to repeatedly distance the exercises from events in Syria. In private briefings officials told reporters – often without being asked – that the “exercise is about multilateral cooperation, not about specific regional threats.”