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The Eager Lion – OpEd

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By Tariq Alhomayed

The above title is the name of the joint military exercises that are set to take place this May in Jordan between the US and 17 “Arab and friendly” states, according to the statement issued by the Jordanian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This is a military drill in which every category of weapon — land, sea and air — will be utilized: So who exactly will be this “Eager Lion” target?

A worthy question, particularly as Syria is in flames thanks to the “vicious Al-Assad” (Assad in Arabic means “Lion”), however one might say that these military exercises are not the first of its kind, and this name is not new, as there were previous “Eager Lion” military exercises in 2011. However information reveals that the 2011 Eager Lion exercises took place in June last year, whilst the Syrian revolution broke out in March, which means that the exercises occurred after the revolution, not before.

It is interesting to note that these exercises were joint US–Jordanian military exercises, whereas the 2012 Eager Lion exercises will include 17 “Arab and friendly” states. I do not think the objective of these military exercises is to deal with Iran, for the Arab states will not work side by side with Israel to strike Iran, even if there can be no doubt that some of these states would like to see Iran being struck; this is because Iran is the real enemy of the Gulf states, and this is something that Tehran has openly stated, both in words and actions. I previously asked a high ranking Gulf official if the Gulf states had reviewed the consequences of a military strike against Iran, the official immediately replied that “for the Gulf states, the consequences of militarily striking Iran will be less than the consequences of a nuclear Iran.”

Therefore, the Gulf states will be glad to see Tehran’s wings being clipped, however they will not take part in this, rather the Gulf states will take a position of “we did not order this, but it does not harm us.” Therefore, it is most likely that the “Eager Lion” will target the “vicious Al-Assad” in Damascus. This does not necessarily mean military intervention — although this is not out of the question — but rather is based on the standpoint of the famous proverb attributed to former US President Theodore Roosevelt, who said “speak softly and carry a big stick.” When we say that foreign intervention is not out of the question, this is for a number of simple reasons, namely that voices are being raised in America, not calling for the Syrian opposition to be armed, but rather for the US to carry out airstrikes against the Assad forces who are carrying out crimes against humanity in Syria, which is something that cannot be tolerated in any way, shape or form.

From here, it seems that the “Eager Lion” military exercises are a message to the “vicious Al-Assad” in Syria, and if not, then this should certainly be the case, particularly as this is the only language that the tyrant of Damascus — who is backed by Iran and its agents with hardware and money to kill the people of Syria — understands. It is sufficient here to look at the statement issued by a “Lebanese Shiite leader with strong ties to Damascus” who was quoted by Reuters as saying that “there is no Syria after Al-Assad” which represents explicit threatening language. Therefore, so long as what is happening in Syria indicates that we are living by the law of the jungle, then I welcome the “Eager Lion”, particularly if it is seeking to eliminate the “vicious Al-Assad”.

— The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Write to him at [email protected]

Arab News

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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