News Column

Hagel to Visit Jordan on Tuesday

April 23 2013
Chuck Hagel

The U.S. defence secretary is set to visit Jordan on Tuesday in his first official visit to the country since assuming his post earlier this year.

According to a US Defence Department official, Hagel is set to arrive in Amman on Tuesday afternoon for a series of talks with Jordanian officials before continuing on to Riyadh as part of a week-long regional tour.

Syria is widely expected to dominate the talks, which will be attended by Jordan Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Mishaal Al Zaben and several intelligence officers, according to a Jordanian government official who was not authorised to speak to the press.

Among the issues to be raised during the brief meeting will be increased technical support for Syrian opposition forces and a joint US-Jordanian response to Damascus' potential use of chemical weapons, the source added.

Hagel's visit comes amid a flurry of reports over alleged US -- Jordanian preparations for a potential greater involvement in the Syrian crisis.

Last week Hagel announced Washington's pending dispatch of 200 military advisers and specialists -- in a bid to "improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios" in Syria.

Several media outlets have alleged that the dispatch comes as a first step to a wider military build-up along the Jordanian-Syrian border including the deployment of up to 20,000 special forces and Patriot missiles, reports denied by Washington and Amman.

According to various sources, Jordan and the US have recently stepped up an alleged ongoing military training programme for Free Syrian Army officers in a bid to bolster non-Islamist rebel forces in the country.

Jordanian officials have repeatedly rejected any potential international intervention in Syria, reiterating calls for a peaceful solution to the two-year-old conflict.

On the second day of his regional tour on Monday, Hagel underlined Washington's steadfast support for Israel's national security in the face of potential spill over from the Syrian crisis and a nuclear Iran.

During a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon in Tel Aviv, Hagel reiterated Washington's "ironclad pledge" to ensure Israel's military superiority in the region, confirming the two had agreed on a multibillion-dollar military cache including anti-radiation missiles, fighter jet radars and the V-22 Osprey aircraft, the AFP reported.

Following his Jordan stopover, Hagel is to travel to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where he is expected to wrap up some $10 billion worth of arms deals to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Source: (c)2013 the Jordan Times (Amman, Jordan). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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