Leon Panetta: US military planning for greater role in Syria conflict
The Christian Science Monitor
By Anna Mulrine
April 19, 2012
US military officials are crafting possible new strategies to ‘protect the Syrian people’ from the Assad regime, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday on Capitol Hill. NATO’s Libya intervention may be a model.
The Pentagon is “reviewing and planning for a range of additional measures that may be necessary to protect the Syrian people,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday, with top US military planners using the recent US intervention in Libya as a potential template for action.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Panetta said the violence in Syria has been “brutal and devastating,” putting the Syrian people “in a desperate” situation.
Iran is helping to prop up Syrian strongmen, Panetta contended, supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “with material, financial, and technical assistance.” That’s because “no other country stands to lose more than Iran from the eventual fall of the Assad regime,” he added.
For now, the US is in the process of sending “nonlethal” aid, including communications and medical equipment, to the civilian-led opposition in Syria. The Pentagon is also providing humanitarian relief to the tune of $25 million.
These measures are putting pressure on the Assad regime, Panetta argued. He acknowledged, however, that more may need to be done.
“There are legitimate questions” about what steps are needed to bring an end to the Assad regime, he said, “with some arguing for an approach similar to the one we took in Libya.” …