Elite Israeli, British, US forces on Jordan-Iraqi border
The Jerusalem Post
17 March 2003
LONDON. -- Members of Israel's elite Sayeret Matkal are believed to be operating alongside a secret deployment of special forces from the United States and Britain on the border between Jordan and Iraq, the London Times reported on Monday.
"It is a very discreet operation, but the special forces are certainly there," a Western military expert told the paper. "You may not see any tanks dashing across the border from Jordan when the war begins, but there will be significant special forces activity.
"These forces are already providing targeting information on Iraqi assets - so called Scud-hunting - and as they push east toward Baghdad, you can expect to see a very fluid front line."
The Times notes that, "intriguingly, members of Sayeret Matkal. . . are also said by Western military experts to have carried out covert reconnaissance operations inside the Western Iraqi desert. They are thought to be pre-empting a repeat of the first Gulf War when Saddam fired 39 Scuds at Israel.
An official source in Amman said that in return for the political gamble, Washington had promised Jordan an economic aid package worth hundreds of millions of dollars or more.
Jordan is highly sensitive about military activity in a 75km ribbon of land along its border with Iraq, where local residents have reported the rumble of transport aircraft at remote airstrips.
Jordan acknowledges that American troops are there, but insists they are to defend its own territory and airspace.
An official source in Amman said at least 5,000 US troops are already in Jordan, although a Western diplomat was quoted as saying the number is actually closer to 7,000.
Thousands more are scheduled to arrive soon. Some will be training the Jordanian army and manning Patriot anti-missile systems, but about half are expected to be special forces.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher has conceded that the number of foreign troops may have risen to 2,000 or 3,000. "We are not denying that there are special forces troops in Jordan, we are not denying that there are US troops in Jordan . . . but I want to make it absolutely clear that their presence is for purely defensive purposes," he said.
"There are no troops for any offensive operations, and there are no troops in the tens of thousands, as has been reported in the press. We have made it clear that we are not participating in this war."
Scattered among the Americans are an estimated 100 British special forces and, according to the paper's sources, an undisclosed number of Israelis.