US to deploy missiles, F-16s in Jordan for protection against Syria, official says

Jordanian officials said Wednesday that the U.S. will deploy anti-missile batteries and F-16 jet fighters in the kingdom to bolster its defense capabilities in the face of a Syrian attack.

Two security officials involved in the deployment, expected in the coming days, said that Washington is deploying one or two Patriot missile launchers on the northern border with Syria and a squadron of 12 to 24 F-16 warplanes as part of the international military maneuver "Eager Lion."

The officials said some or all the weapons will remain beyond the June 9-20 exercise. They declined to say how long they would stay.

Both officials spoke anonymously as they were not allowed to make press statements.

A Pentagon spokesman said the idea of leaving the assets behind after the exercise would be considered upon a request from Amman.

"If the Jordanian government, based on their security needs," and particularly in light of the Syrian situation, "requests extending the deployment of those assets, we will consider it," said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman.

Jordan is concerned that Syrian President Bashar Assad may attack neighbors who back the opposition seeking to topple him.

Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani did not confirm the deployment but said at a news conference that the kingdom "wants these advanced weapons because we think they are important for our military and defense capabilities."