The Obama administration has now publicly announced that it deployed U.S. troops near the Syrian border in neighboring Jordan without ever seeking congressional permission, supposedly in an effort to help the Jordanian government deal with refugees from Syria while ensuring that the civil war does not spill over into the broader region. Concerns about chemical and biological weapons falling into the “wrong hands” were also cited to justify the latest deployment, but some lawmakers are upset, warning that the U.S. is now even closer to overt military intervention in Syria.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking at a NATO conference in Brussels, said the Obama administration had been cooperating closely with the government of Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Apparently both sides are concerned that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles could end up in the hands of al- Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists currently battling the secular Bashar al-Assad regime with support from the Western establishment and assorted Sunni dictatorships.
“We continue to be concerned about security at those sites,” Panetta said after the NATO meeting of defense chiefs. “We want to ensure that security is maintained and we want to be very sure that those [weapons] do not fall into the wrong hands.” The embattled Syrian dictatorship has reportedly tried to secure its stockpiles, but fears about them remain, especially in neighboring Turkey. “They are obviously concerned about the (weapons storage) sites as well,” Panetta said about the Turkish government. “So we’ve worked with them to do what we can to monitor the situation.”
Also part of the U.S. mission, according to officials from both countries, is supporting the Jordanian government. “We have a group of our forces there, working to help them build a headquarters and to ensure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one so we can deal with all of the possible consequences,” Panetta explained after the summit. “We’ve also been working with them to try to develop their own military and operational capabilities in the event of any contingency there.”
Numerous reports have suggested small teams of U.S. and Western government forces may already be operating in Syria. It remains unclear exactly how large the now acknowledged U.S. government presence along the Syria-Jordan border may be, butnews reports citing officials claimed there were some 150 American Special Operations troops as well as so-called “trainers.” Also uncertain is where the Obama administration believes it found the lawful or constitutional authority to deploy U.S. troops to Jordan or Syria.
Some lawmakers, though, are outraged that the administration apparently thinks it can simply deploy American forces wherever it pleases without even obtaining permission from Congress. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who blasted the decision, also warned that the lawless deployment means the U.S. government is now “immeasurably” closer to being directly and overtly involved in the long-running Syrian war.