Large-scale movements of several Europe-based U.S. military units are continuing as first reported by WorldNetDaily last week, when sources said the entire U.S. V Corps was being moved “en masse to Grafenwoehr,” Germany — a sprawling training center near Nuremberg — and that the threat condition for U.S. forces had been increased.
According to sources who spoke to WND on condition of anonymity, “there are two complete deployments” currently under way in EUCOM — the United States’ European Command — that have been described as “a Corps-wide exercise … if you will.”
The deployments carry the names “Victory Focus” and “Juniper Cobra,” sources said, and reportedly involve the 1st Armored and 1st Infantry divisions, along with two aviation brigades, eight separate corps brigades and supporting artillery units.
Sources said the only unit missing from the operations — “both of which are being called ‘training,'” one source said — “is the 69th Air Defense Brigade,” a Patriot missile unit reportedly aboard ship earlier this week bound for Israel, which is scheduled to arrive Feb. 4 or 5 — right before Israel’s hotly contested Feb. 6 election for prime minister.
U.S.-manned Patriot missile batteries are currently deployed in Kuwait and Israel.
But one source said about 435 Patriot missile battery personnel would also be departing Germany today, ostensibly to link up with the new batteries once they arrive in the Middle East.
Sources said the Patriot batteries “will set up [and] they will practice fire (live),” but that “no end of mission date is set,” and “no redeployment date is set.”
The source said V Corps was currently “being heavily augmented by reserve units … and individuals.”
“Looks like establishing a secure air corridor is first,” one source added, hinting that the Patriot deployment would provide air cover for follow-on forces before they were deployed.
Last week, the Pentagon confirmed that EUCOM forces had been placed on higher alert status, but did not directly address the reports.
Yesterday, Pentagon officials again denied knowledge of any large-scale exercises or operations currently under way in Europe, though typically the Pentagon does not disclose the details of such operations in advance of objectives being met.
“I couldn’t add anything to what we discussed last week,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Phillips told WND.
Regarding the deployment of reserve forces, National Guard/Reserves spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Milord said he didn’t know of any large-scale reserve unit call-ups or deployments in support of operations in EUCOM.
“Typically, reserve units are deployed in support of operations in Bosnia and Kosovo,” he said, but indicated that he had “no information” about pending reserve U.S. military operations in the Middle East.
Spokesmen for EUCOM, based in Germany, could not be reached yesterday.
However, another source said, “Currently there are two exercises … both called training,” and that they “could easily be morphed into one,” referring to that possibility as the “Hail Mary plan,” which would “not be training.”
Sources said last week that the divisions reportedly being deployed to Grafenwoehr are “taking with them more than just enough stuff for a weekender. They’re taking contamination outfits, protection gear, all of it — lock, stock and barrel.”
Meanwhile, there are other indications that the continuing unrest between Israel and the Palestinians could eventually have a role in a wider regional conflict.
Yesterday, published reports said that Israel, through intermediaries in the U.S. and some European countries, sent word to the Syrian government that the Jewish state would hold Damascus responsible if attacks being planned by Hezbollah guerrilla forces against Israel’s northern border were carried out.
The warning came in response to Israeli intelligence warnings that said Iran had stepped up shipments of weapons to Hezbollah guerrillas operating in Lebanon and had increased training for guerrillas in preparation for attacks against the Jewish state.
Prior to issuing its warning through diplomatic channels, Israel had already begun beefing up security on its northern border.
Matthew Baker, a Mideast analyst at Stratfor, a Texas-based military and economic intelligence forecasting firm, said that although “there’s a lot going on in the Middle East” at the moment, more than likely any such large-scale U.S. military exercises would be designed for little more than a “diplomatic” show of support for Israel.
“There’s a lot going on in the region. But chugging inexorably toward war — or at least toward a large Arab-Israeli war,” didn’t seem likely, he said.
“Egypt would be the keystone” in any such conflict, Baker said. “We saw [Arab neighbors of Israel] style back from the brink” of renewed regional conflict in the Middle East “a while ago, when Egypt backed off its hostile rhetoric” towards the Jewish state.
In any new military push against Israel, Arab countries “would need Egyptian participation,” Baker said.
Other reports yesterday said that recent deployments of three to four divisions of Iraqi troops near the border with Syria were carried out by Saddam Hussein only after consultations with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
According to the Daily Ha’aretz: “A concentration of Iraqi troops was recently deployed on the Syrian border under an agreement between Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Saddam moved the troops into position after consulting Assad and securing his permission.”
Assad used the Iraqi troop deployments as an opportunity to “warn Israel” that “if it enacts its threat to attack Syria as a response to a strike by Hezbollah, then Israel would have to face a much larger-scale threat of Syrian forces backed-up by Iraqis,” the paper said.
Iraqi troops have been amassed at the Syrian border twice in recent weeks, reports said, with Saddam proclaiming that the deployments were “exercises.”