Top military leader - Syria risky for US

2012-03-07 22:38

Washington - Defence Secretary Leon Panetta pushed back on Wednesday against fresh demands for US military involvement in Syria to end President Bashar Assad's deadly crackdown on his people.

"What doesn't make sense is to take unilateral action right now," Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee about advising President Barack Obama to dispatch US forces. "I've got to make very sure we know what the mission is... achieving that mission at what price."

The panel's top Republican, Senator John McCain, said the estimated 7 500 dead and the bloodshed calls for US leadership that a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, displayed during the Bosnian war in the 1990s and that Obama eventually showed on Libya last year.

"In past situations, America has led. We're not leading, Mr Secretary," McCain told Panetta.

The Pentagon chief later added that the United States is not holding back and is leading in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and fighting terrorism.

Testifying before the committee, Army General Martin Dempsey and Panetta offered a cautionary note to the call by McCain to launch US airstrikes against Assad's regime.

"This terrible situation has no simple answers," Panetta told the panel.

Obama has resisted calls to step into the turmoil in Syria to stop Assad's crackdown on protesters. He told a news conference on Tuesday that the international community has not been able to muster a campaign against Syria like the one in Libya that ousted Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Five times stronger

"For us to take military action unilaterally, as some have suggested, or to think that somehow there is some simple solution, I think is a mistake," Obama said.

"What happened in Libya was we mobilized the international community, had a UN Security Council mandate, had the full co-operation of the region, Arab states, and we knew that we could execute very effectively in a relatively short period of time. This is a much more complicated situation."

Obama's strategy has been to use sanctions and international diplomatic isolation to pressure Assad into handing over power.

The Pentagon chief said the United States is currently focused on isolating the Assad regime diplomatically and politically, arguing that it has lost all legitimacy for killing its own people. He left open the possibility of military action, saying the Obama administration continues to assess the situation and would adjust its strategy as necessary.

Dempsey said among the military options are enforcement of a no-fly zone and humanitarian relief. He said a long-term, sustained air campaign would pose a challenge because Syria's air defences are five times more sophisticated than Libya's.

He said Syria's chemical and biological weapons stockpile is 100 times larger than Libya's.

"We also need to be alert to extremists, who may return to well-trod ratlines running through Damascus, and other hostile actors, including Iran, which has been exploiting the situation and expanding its support to the regime," Dempsey said.

"And we need to be especially alert to the fate of Syria's chemical and biological weapons. They need to stay exactly where they are."

McCain, along with Sensators Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman, an independent, have called for US military involvement.

But the issue has divided Republicans, with House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, insisting on Tuesday that the situation is too muddled and US military involvement would be premature.

Committee Chair Carl Levin, a Democrat, said there is no consensus on how to get Assad to leave.

  • Fidel - 2012-03-08 07:48

    Do the US alone get to decide who is a nice dictator who they can sell weapons too and who is an evil dictator who needs sanctions against him. If the US fleet was in Lattakia then Assad would be getting the Bahrain treatment.

      Fred - 2012-03-08 08:06


      Africa21stcentury - 2012-03-08 08:09

      Wrong again !!!!! Not just the USA, but 113 members of the 115 members of the UN Security Council decided on this !!!!!!!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-03-08 08:35

      UNGA resolutions are none binding but merely symbolic and as such useless. No country's legitimacy has ever been decided by the UNGA..

      Fred - 2012-03-08 08:38

      Massively symbolic is what 134 countries out of 151 is. And the 17 that were left were all rogue regimes, out there on the perimeter. Perhaps you saw them there Fidel?

      Edwhynot - 2012-03-08 09:21

      Yes Fidel, You prove again how blind you are... He MUST be a good dictator if his people have been rioting for him to step down for 12 months. He MUST be a "Good" dictator, because c'mon, how many people killed in Syria because of him? Oh wait, what does Dictator mean again? a person exercising absolute power, especially a ruler who has absolute, unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession. Yes, google'd the exact meaning for you Oh Great Fidel. Now, doesnt that almost sound like Adolf Hitler? Or like the old Apartheid Regime(Difference being that that was not just 1 person) Guess you could then support bringing back the old Apartheid Regime eh? I mean, you have shown us that your ideals are no different... Well, my last post directed at you or in response to you. You have proven that you are too full of sh1t and too entoxicated by the drug of the fairytale to actually debate with on any matter. As for the article now: Have to agree with Africa21stcentury... Personally I think more direct action is needed by the rest of the world, things are getting really bad up there for the people of Syria and obviously sanctions etc arent doing the trick... Time to get your hands dirty world powers...

      Fidel - 2012-03-08 10:51

      One cannot speed up historical democratisation processes by bombs and intimidation. This argument is so tiresome, the moment anyone questions western motives, behaviour, or discourse, you automatically become a supporter of the other side, cowboys and injun mentality, not interested in learning, just winning, good against evil, no matter the cost. USA protects Bahrain , Saudi Arabia and Karzai = GOOD. Russia protects Syria = BAD.

      Fidel - 2012-03-08 11:14

      @Ed What, no pithy response? You should try and learn some manners, it will make you less ill-bred.

      Fred - 2012-03-09 00:08

      If only you knew how dumb you sound Fidel. The bombing and killing is being done BY ASSAD. Hello!! Wakey wakey. Zzzzzzzzzzzz! That's all you do, numb yourself.

  • Africa21stcentury - 2012-03-08 07:48

    Military intervention, nor arming the opposition, is a solution. Also, a targeted bombing campaign would not give the right results. The idea of a , Bin Laden, type covert operation, by special forces ,seems the most logical step forward. They would take out this assad and his ever so violent brother. That would be the end of the assad dynasty, and an end to 46 years of terror by this corrupt family of thugs. Only than , will the Syrians, like the Libyans, go on the long hard road, to decide what kind of government THEY would like to governed by.. Only the cynical and the lunatics would suggest, that they will opt for another family to rule them, unelected , for the next 45 years !!!!!!

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