Soldiers from 18 countries are set to participate in a large military exercise hosted by Jordan in the coming weeks.
Roughly 15,000 troops from Arab and other “friendly countries,” will take part in the drill, named Eager Lion 2013, Jordanian sources said. The United States and several European countries are participating, but Israel is not. The IDF Spokesperson’s Office confirmed Sunday that Israel had no role in the exercise.
Among the armies participating in the drill will be those of the United States, Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
According to the US Central Command, the exercise will promote cooperation among participating forces, build functional capacity, practice crisis management, and enhance readiness.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Jordanian armed forces, Lt.-Gen. Mishal Mohammed Zabin, met with American, French and Turkish army chiefs and the Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, Alexander Vershbow, two weeks ago to prepare for the exercise, Jordanian media said.
Similar, though smaller, exercises took place in Jordan in 2011 and 2012.
Reports of the drill surfaced at a time of tension in Israeli-Jordanian relations, though security coordination between the two countries is good, Israeli military sources say.
Two weeks ago, the Jordanian parliament voted unanimously in favor of petitioning the government to expel Israel’s ambassador in Amman and recall Jordan’s ambassador in Tel Aviv in protest of alleged Israeli desecration of holy sites in Jerusalem.
Last month, a majority of Jordan’s parliament petitioned the government to pardon a Jordanian soldier who murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls during a school trip at the border in 1997. A source in the Jordanian parliament said King Abdullah II did not intend to grant the request to free Ahmad Musa Mustafa Daqamseh, who is serving life imprisonment with hard labor for the murders.
This weekend, the king is hosting a meeting of the World Economic Forum on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, attended by world and regional leaders, including a sizable Israeli delegation. President Shimon Peres was set to travel to Jordan on Sunday to participate in a panel at the conference, and was to meet with the king, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, other Arab leaders, and US Secretary of State John Kerry.