Tags: Russia | Syria | russia | vladmir putin | syria | bashar al-assad | attack

Panetta: Russia, US Do Not Want Confrontation on Syria

(CBS News)

By    |   Tuesday, 11 Apr 2017 10:37 AM

Neither the United States or Russia wants direct confrontation with each other over Syria, but there remains some "tough negotiating ahead," former Obama administration CIA Director Leon Panetta said Tuesday, all the while trying to get Moscow to exert influence so that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not conduct more chemical attacks, .

"In the world of foreign policy, the name of the game is to obviously send all kinds of messages to each other, recognizing that we're still a long way away from any kind of direct confrontation," Panetta, who also served as White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, told "CBS This Morning" anchor Charlie Rose.

However, Russia bears responsibility for a deadly chemical attack last week, agrees Panetta, as it negotiated an agreement to remove chemical weapons from Syria but did ont enforce the arrangement.

"They have a great deal of responsibility to do what is right," Panetta said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will arrive in Moscow on Tuesday, and Panetta said it's important to him to convey the message that Russia "has a fundamental choice to accept some responsibility here for what happened in Syria, to try to influence not them to do it again."

He also called for Tillerson to call on Russia to join the rest of the nations of the world in the hopes of making sure there are no more chemical attacks.

"For that to happen, Russia has to really make a choice, whether it's going to stick with Assad and Iran and Hezbollah, or whether it's going to join with the United States and promote a more peaceful world," said Panetta.

Panetta also said he does not agree with contentions that Assad has won the country's civil war.

"There's no question that Assad has been reinforced by the Russians, by Iran, by Hezbollah, by the fact that no one was willing to take him on directly," Panetta said, "He's exerted some strength here in term of trying to retain control of Syria. But the fact is that there is no future in Syria with Assad."

The Syrian president has "killed his own people; he's committed atrocities," said Panetta. "There is no way that a future Syria is going to continue under an Assad regime. That's a reality. And I think the Russians need to understand that and work with us to ultimately remove Assad from power. I don't think we ought to give up on that."

Panetta said a report stating Russia knew of Syria's plans to launch the chemical attacks does not surprise him, but Russia does need to decide what is in its fundamental best interests.

"Is it to take on the united States?" Panetta asked. "Is it to take on other Arab nations in the Middle East? Take on the world community that has made it clear and not tolerate additional chemical attacks or do they want to try to work with the United States and others?"

Russia generally does know when it has the opportunity to move in the right direction, though, said Panetta, and the talks with Tillerson mark an opportunity to do what is right.

Also on Tuesday, Panetta said he is concerned that North Korea may try something "provocative" this week, given that April 15 is the nation's birthday celebration of their founder in North Korea.

"Every time they have a celebration like that, they tend to do something provocative," said Panetta. "I suspect that they're working on either an additional missile shot or a nuclear test or something to show the rest of the world that they can influence what happens in that region."

For that reason, a show of force is necessary for the region, "to show that we're prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that North Korea does not engage in any deliberate attack in that region," Panetta said.

"We've got to be tough with them. We've got to make clear that we're not going to tolerate this kind of provocation. But at the same time, we have to continue to try to see if China can pursue the kind of pressure that will bring us back to the negotiating table."

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Neither the United States or Russia wants direct confrontation with each other over Syria, but there remains some "tough negotiating ahead," former Obama administration CIA Director Leon Panetta said Tuesday, all the while trying to get Moscow to exert influence so that...
russia, vladmir putin, syria, bashar al-assad, attack
Tuesday, 11 Apr 2017 10:37 AM
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