Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | Leon Panetta | Hillary Clinton | ISIS | White House

Leon Panetta: Obama Ignored Panetta and Clinton's Advice

By    |   Friday, 03 Oct 2014 09:14 AM

President Barack Obama regularly ignored the advice of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and instead made foreign policy decisions based on the opinions of his insular White House staff, Panetta writes in his new book "Worthy Choices," scheduled for release on Oct. 7, according to The Daily Beast reports.

Despite warning Syria that the use of chemical weapons would constitute a "red line," Obama did nothing when the Syrian military killed some 1,400 with them. Panetta writes that the president had initially decided to strike, but "abruptly reversed himself — without consulting his national-security Cabinet members."

"The result, I felt, was a blow to American credibility," Panetta said. "When the president as commander in chief draws a red line, it is critical that act if the line is crossed. The power of the United States rests on its word. [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's action clearly defied President Obama's warning; by failing to respond, it sent the wrong message to the world."

The president also overruled Panetta and Clinton and when deciding not to arm the Syrian rebels in 2012, resulting in the current mess and emboldening the Islamic State (ISIS), according to Panetta. The U.S. waited too long to get involved in Syria and left Iraq too soon,  said Panetta who appeared last month on CBS News "60 Minutes."

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"Hesitation and half steps have consequences as well — and those remain to be determined," he writes in his book.

Panetta and those who agreed with him "viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests," he wrote.

Panetta's fears have been realized about what might happen in Iraq without the stability of residual U.S. forces.

"It was clear to me — and many others — that withdrawing all our forces would endanger the fragile stability then barely holding Iraq together" he writes. "My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we'd seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq's stability was not only in Iraq's interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq's military."

Speaking publicly was a no-no in the Obama White House.

Panetta says he was "chastised" if he dealt directly with Congress or the media without prior White House approval.

Another conflict arose during the 2012 discussions of the swap of kidnapped Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five members of the Taliban held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to Panetta. Obama and his inner circle ignored the recommendation of Panetta, Clinton, and others on the national security team that it was a bad idea.

"I opposed the swap for several reasons," he wrote. "First, I did not believe the Taliban were sincere in their efforts to reconcile with the Afghan government; they were, after all, attacking our forces on the field of battle. Second, I did not believe it was fair to trade five for one," Panetta wrote. "Secretary Clinton and I — and others — did not think we could proceed, and as much as we wanted to bring Sergeant Bergdahl home and reunite him with his family, the deal evaporated."

While that deal fell through, another was struck this year that still included a five-for-one exchange. Panetta writes that U.S. law "had to be changed to weaken the assurances given by the Qatari government that the Taliban would be kept out of the fight going forward," according to The Daily Beast.

"The bigger issue is: Is this a good deal for the security interests of the United States? That depends entirely on the assurance that we received and whether in fact these five very bad men are prevented from returning to the fight," Panetta wrote.

He remains concerned that Iraq — which "U.S. forces had fought and died to secure" — will become al-Qaida's next safe haven.

"That is exactly what it had in Afghanistan pre-9/11," he wrote. "After all we have done to decimate al-Qaida's senior leadership and its core, those efforts will be for naught if we allow it to rebuild a base of operations in the Middle East."

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President Barack Obama regularly ignored the advice of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and instead made foreign policy decisions based on the opinions of his insular White House staff, Panetta writes in his new book...
Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton, ISIS, White House
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2014-14-03
Friday, 03 Oct 2014 09:14 AM
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