June 14th, 2012
05:18 PM ET

Special forces from around the world train together in Jordan

Over one thousand special forces troops from the U.S. and more than a dozen countries trained for dangerous missions in Jordan, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

May 25th, 2012
05:54 PM ET

Exclusive: U.S. and Jordan forces share secrets

Now more than ever Jordan's elite special forces are a key ally for US troops. CNN's Barbara Starr was granted exclusive access to see US anti-terrorism troops and Jordian special forces learn lessons from each other and share the latest secrets on how to capture or kill terrorists.

May 25th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Inside Jordan, worries about Iran and Syria

Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan. Read all her reporting here.

By Barbara Starr

The tiny nation of Jordan may be one of the most important U.S. allies in the Middle East, but these days trouble is brewing from growing al Qaeda threats in the region.

In several days of talking here with senior U.S. military, diplomatic and Jordanian officials, the word most often heard is "instability." What worries Jordan is that regional stability could be shaken even more by unrest in neighboring Syria and also by Iran's nuclear intentions.

And the Syria and Iran problems increasingly may be linked.

FULL POST

May 23rd, 2012
05:34 PM ET

Al Qaeda's growing reach in Syria

CNN's Barbara Starr reports from Jordan on growing worries about an al Qaeda presence in neighboring Syria.  A senior Jordanian official tells CNN that there are nearly 1,500 al Qaeda members and sympathizer in Syria. While some US officials say the Jordanian estimate is high, one U.S. expert on jihadists in Syria agrees with Jordan's view.

Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan.  Read all her reporting here.

May 22nd, 2012
05:29 PM ET

12,000 troops train in massive war game in Jordan

In the Middle East thousands of U.S. and allied forces are training for a nightmare scenario– the region exploding in a full-fledged war. CNN’s Barbara Starr got exclusive access to their mission in Jordan.

Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan.  Read all her reporting here.

May 21st, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Inside Jordan's elite fighting force

Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan.  Read all her reporting here

By Barbara Starr

On top of a desert mountain military post 20 minutes outside the Jordanian capitol of Amman, we are silently greeted by soldiers clad fully in black, heads and faces masked by balaclavas, carrying assault rifles.

There is no enemy here. But for Jordan's 71st Counter Terrorism Battalion, it does not matter. They pride themselves on being one of the premier special operations units among U.S. allies in the Middle East, and so every day, even on their home base, they are ready to fight.

Recommended: Tense times on Jordan's border with Syria

The battalion is taking part in Eager Lion, a massive international military exercise being staged in Jordan and involving some 12,000 troops from 19 nations.

FULL POST

May 18th, 2012
11:41 AM ET

Tense times on Jordan's border with Syria

Editor's Note:  Barbara Starr is in Jordan covering the Eager Lion 2012 exercise.  Read her reporting here.  Watch her reports on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (4pET-6pET)

By Barbara Starr, reporting from the border crossing between the towns of Ar-Ramtha Jordan, and Daara Syria

In the no-man's-land between Jordan and Syria, tensions can be high. Tens of thousands of Syrians have escaped across this remote desert region.

They are being shot at by their own security forces as they try to escape, Jordanian officials tell CNN's Security Clearance. In fact, in a local hospital on the Jordanian side, they tell us they have treated many Syrian refugees suffering from gunshot wounds.

Recommended: The Syrian elephant in the room during military exercise in Jordan

But there is cross-border commerce as well. The Syrian border is an economic lifeline for Jordan. FULL POST

Syria: the elephant in the room amid military exercise in Jordan
May 16th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

Syria: the elephant in the room amid military exercise in Jordan

Editor's Note:  Barbara Starr is in Jordan covering the Eager Lion 2012 exercise.  Read her reporting here.  Watch her reports on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (4pET-6pET).

By Barbara Starr

With a photo of a raging lion over their shoulders, senior U.S. and Jordanian generals opened a massive military exercise dubbed "Eager Lion."

The kickoff came with adamant statements that the 12,000 troops from 19 countries now in Jordan were here only for the training - and it all has nothing to do with the violence now raging across Jordan's northern border inside Syria.

Recommended: U.S. in waiting game on Syria

But it is hard to avoid. Even the exercise name has raised suspicions. In Arabic, the word for lion is asad.

But the name has nothing to do with the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, say Maj. Gen. Awni Ad Adwan, head of Jordanian military operations and training, and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, head of U.S. Central Command's special operations force.

Technically, everyone is correct. The name of the exercise was chosen two years ago, the timing of it set nearly three years ago. Officially, the exercise is about 19 nations training together and, as with all U.S. military training exercises, the threat the troops are practicing to fend off is unnamed.

But there is the technical answer and then there is reality. Syria looms large here.
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Filed under: Assad • Eager Lion 2012 • Jordan • Military • Syria
Thousands amass in Jordan for major military exercise
May 15th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Thousands amass in Jordan for major military exercise

Editor's Note:  Barbara Starr is in Jordan covering the Eager Lion 2012 exercise.  Read her reporting here.  Watch her reports on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (4pET-6pET).

By Barbara Starr

U.S. Department of Defense photo

It couldn't come at a more delicate time in the Middle East. No one will say it publicly, but the Eager Lion 2012 exercise - and the 12,000 multinational forces gathering in Jordan - are sending a not-so-quiet message to others in the region: they are ready for whatever comes.

From now until the end of May, one of the largest multinational military exercises the region has seen is taking place in Jordan. There are more than 19 nations, including the United States and a number of Arab and European allies, gathering to practice their combat skills, just in case.

Several U.S. military officials say while it's not the primary intention, the exercise is meant to be noticed by Syria and Iran especially. The message: even with the United States out of Iraq, and winding up the war in Afghanistan, there is a formidable U.S. presence in the region, and other countries are capable of filling in the gaps.

The U.S. Navy already is keeping two aircraft carriers in the next-door Persian Gulf region, and stepping up the presence of minesweepers in those waters. The Air Force has sent half a dozen F-22 fighters to the United Arab Emirates. The Joint Special Operations Command has conducted several deadly drone strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen. FULL POST