Panetta, Dempsey: Obama Rejected Plan for US to Arm Syrian Rebels

Thursday, 07 Feb 2013 09:15 PM

 

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
 Pentagon leaders told Congress on Thursday that they had supported a recommendation to arm Syrian rebels promoted by the State Department and CIA but which President Barack Obama ultimately decided against.

Obama's government has limited its support to non-lethal aid for the rebels who, despite receiving weapons from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are poorly armed compared to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army and loyalist militias.

Syria's 22-month-long conflict has killed an estimated 60,000 people.

Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, has championed greater U.S. involvement and chided the Obama administration at a hearing, asking Pentagon leaders: "How many more have to die before you recommend military action?"

He then pressed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, about whether they backed the recommendation by the State Department and CIA chiefs last year to arm the rebels.

Panetta and Dempsey said they had backed the recommendation, and later in the hearing, the defense secretary elaborated.

"Obviously there were a number of factors that were involved here that ultimately led to the president's decision to make (the aid) non-lethal," Panetta said, adding he supported Obama's decision.

The comments were the first public acknowledgement of Pentagon support to arm the rebels since the New York Times reported on Feb. 2 about the plan developed last summer by Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus, who have since left their jobs at the State Department and CIA, respectively.

The defense chiefs' testimony also suggested that White House opposition alone may have been enough to override the position of most major U.S. foreign policy and security agencies - the State and Defense departments, and the CIA.

 

CONCERN ABOUT DEEPER U.S. INVOLVEMENT

The Times said that the plan to arm and train rebels was rebuffed by the White House over concerns it could draw the United States into the Syrian conflict and that the arms could fall into the wrong hands.

The questions about U.S. policy in Syria came during a hearing focusing on Libya, with Pentagon leaders defending their response to last year's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Republican lawmakers raised questions about whether the reaction was too slow and whether Obama was not engaged enough during the incident, choosing to get updates on the crisis from staff instead of military leaders.

Panetta and Dempsey said U.S. forces could not have reached Libya in time to prevent the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012, and assured that Obama was kept in the loop.

Panetta also stressed that it was also not the U.S. military's responsibility to be able to immediately respond anywhere in the world to a crisis. There was no intelligence about a specific plan to attack the consulate, he and Dempsey noted.

"The United States military ... is not and, frankly, should not be a 911 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world," he said, referring to the 911 U.S. emergency phone number.

Panetta, who is soon retiring, also used the hearing as an opportunity to take more parting shots at Congress over its inability to reach a budget deal needed to avert automatic spending cuts that will hit the military.

Panetta warned those cuts, due to start kicking in next month, could create a "readiness crisis" for the military and urged lawmakers to strike a deal.

"I cannot imagine that people would stand by and deliberately hurt this country in terms of our national defense by letting this take place," he said.

It was likely to be Panetta's last hearing before he retires, and despite a sometimes accusatory tone from lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats praised his work as Pentagon chief and, previously, as CIA director.

The man nominated to be Panetta's successor, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, faces stiff Republican resistance but is expected to win Senate confirmation.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Retype Email:
Country
Zip Code:
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

Miami Archbishop Wenski: Jeb Bush's 'Act of Love' Comment 'Is Right'

Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 15:14 PM

The archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski,has applauded Jeb Bush for saying illegal immigrants are committing an "act of lo . . .

Ukrainian Jews Told by Pro-Russian Fighters To Register Or Be Deported

Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 15:07 PM

Ukrainian Jews leaving Passover eve prayers were handed leaflets ordering them to either register with an interim govern . . .

Putin: Obama Would Save Me If I Was Drowning

Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 13:58 PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he thinks President Barack Obama is a decent man and would save him if he wer . . .

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved