By NICK SIMEONE
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Iran is increasing its presence in Syria, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, through apparent efforts to bolster the Bashar Assad regime by training a militia and other tactics.
“There’s now indications that they’re trying to develop or trying to train a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the regime,” Panetta said. “So we are seeing a growing presence by Iran and that is of deep concern to us.”
The secretary said he hopes Iran thinks again about how much it wants to get involved in Syria. “The Syrian people ought to determine their future, not Iran,” he said.
Iran’s interference is adding to the killing in Syria, Panetta said, and “tries to bolster a regime that we think, ultimately, is going to come down.”
The secretary noted the increasing number of defections and problems within the Syrian military as further signs of collapse. Assad’s former prime minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, fled the country last week and a number of key generals have defected in recent months, as well.
Speaking alongside Panetta at the briefing, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the 18-month uprising is taking an obvious toll on the Syrian army.
“I actually think that’s why Iran is stepping in to form this militia, to take some of the pressure off of the Syrian military,” Dempsey said.
The fighting, Dempsey said, has left pro-Assad forces with resupply and morale problems. “Any army would be taxed with that kind of pace,” he said.
Panetta said U.S. efforts to end Assad’s rule are being worked primarily through diplomatic channels, with a focus on ensuring the security of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons as well as providing humanitarian aid to refugees and non-lethal aid to the opposition.
The Defense Department plans for “a number of contingencies,” Panetta said, but any notion of establishing a no-fly zone over Syria, as some rebels have called for, is “not a front-burner issue for us.”
Still, he said, “we are prepared to be able to respond to whatever the president of the United States asks us to do.”
By CHERYL PELLERIN
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today pledged to explore ways to continue U.S. help in providing humanitarian aid to those affected by violence in Syria.
A meeting between Panetta and King Abdullah in Amman, Jordan, focused on regional security challenges, most notably Syria and recent refugee flows into Jordan, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
“They talked not only about how to deal with the current crisis that is being fueled by the intolerable acts of the Assad regime,” Little said in a written statement, “but also the prospects for political transition in a post-Assad Syria.”
Panetta and King Abdullah agreed that strong international pressure must be sustained to make it clear that Syrian leader Bashar Assad must go, and that the Syrian people deserve to determine their own future, the press secretary said.
Panetta also reiterated the U.S. commitment to its strategic relationship with Jordan and to the strong defense relationship between the two countries, Little added.
Leon Panetta, the U.S. secretary of defense, in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urgng him to let sanctions against Iran take effect. But Netanyahu, standing next to Panetta at a joint appearance before reporters, said flat out that the sanctions have failed. And are an indication to Iran that the international community lacks the willpower to do what is necessary to stop that nation’s nuclear program.
Israeli officials have recently lamented that the sanctions against Iran haven’t been effective. An indication that they might favor military intervention to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons program – a nuclear program that Tehran insists is for the development of energy only and is peaceful.
But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking in Tunisia, says it’s not yet time to abandon sanctions – that they need time to work.
By VICTORIA JONES
Talk Radio News Service
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, on a five-day swing through Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, said Sunday “We respect Israel’s sovereignty and their ability to make decisions with regard to their own security.”
“The sanctions (against Iran) in these next few weeks are going to be ratcheting up to a whole new level of impact,”
he added. “It is basically sending a very strong message to [the Iranians] that they can’t continue to do what they are doing,”
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said over the weekend that he didn’t think sanctions had had an effect.
Panetta also discounted speculation that Israel is planning an imminent attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
“My view is that they have not made any decisions with regards to Iran and they continue to support the international effort to bring pressure against Iran,” he said. Panetta arrives in Israel tomorrow, on the heels of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s trip there.
Panetta also spoke about the Syrian civil war, saying that that nation’ss use of helicopter gunships to counter the civil uprising “ultimately will be a nail in (Syrian President) Assad’s coffin.”
The White House cautioned Syrian rebels not to repeat the mistakes of Iraq and completely disband Assad’s hated security and government apparatus if he’s killed or forced from power. The dismantling of the Iraqi Army following the fall of Saddam Hussein unleashed additional turmoil.
By JIM GARAMONE
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Iran will be the biggest loser when Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime falls, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the committee on the situation in Syria today.
The Syrian people want what the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have – a chance at freedom and a democratic future, the secretary said. Assad and his people are indiscriminately killing those pushing for peaceful change in the nation. The fighting in the country is causing a humanitarian crisis of the first order, and thousands of Syrians are fleeing from the country to Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.
A stable Syria is vital to the Middle East and the world, Panetta said. “But perhaps most notably, Syria is a pivotal country for Iran,” the secretary said. “Syria is Iran’s only state ally in the region and is crucial to Iran’s efforts to support those militants throughout the region who threaten Israel and threaten regional stability.”
The unrest in Syria already has weakened Iran’s position in the Middle East, and it will be further weakened if the regime falls, the secretary said. “As groups such as Hamas distance themselves from the Assad regime, Iran is quickly becoming the Assad regime’s lone backer,” he added. “This shows the world the hypocrisy of Tehran.”
Panetta told the senators that the United States is on the side of the Syrian people. “They must know that the international community has not underestimated either their suffering or their impatience,” he said. “We all wish there was a clear and unambiguous way forward to directly influence the events in Syria. That, unfortunately, is not the case.”
The only clear path is for the international community to act as one against the regime, the secretary said.
Dempsey told the panel that Syria’s internal convulsions are having consequences. In addition to the refugee problem, the general said, “we also need to be alert to the movement of extremists and other hostile actors seeking to exploit the situation.”
“And we need to be especially alert to the fate of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons,” the chairman added. “They must stay exactly where they are.”
The U.S. military role to date has been limited to sharing information with regional partners, Dempsey said. “But, should we be called on to help secure U.S. interests in other ways, we will be ready,” he told the senators. “We maintain an agile regional and global posture. We have solid military relationships with every country on Syria’s borders.”
And the military is prepared to provide U.S. government leaders with options, Dempsey said. “All options will be judged in terms of their suitability, their feasibility and their acceptability,” he added. “We have a further responsibility to articulate risk and the potential implications for our other global commitments.”
Panetta told the senators that unilateral U.S. action in Syria does not make sense.
“As secretary of defense, before I recommend that we put our sons and daughters in uniform in harm’s way, I’ve got to make very sure that we know what the mission is,” he said. “I’ve got to make very sure that we know whether we can achieve that mission, at what price, and whether or not it’ll make matters better or worse. Those are the considerations that I have to engage in.”
The United States needs to build the same type of coalition that worked in Libya, Dempsey said.
The senators asked Dempsey specifically about an air campaign over Syria. “We’ve demonstrated the capability to penetrate air defense systems for a discrete purpose and a very limited amount of time,” he said. “We still have that capability.” To conduct a sustained campaign, the U.S. military would have to suppress Syria’s air defense.
“In closed session, we do have an estimate based on gaming and modeling of how long it would take to do that, given the density and the sophistication of their air defense system,” Dempsey said. “But it would be an extended period of time, and a great number of aircraft.”
Such an air campaign would be led by the United States, at least initially, Dempsey said, noting that only U.S. forces have the electronic warfare capabilities to take down those defenses.
By BENNY MARTINEZ
Talk Radio News Service
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Tuesday reaffirmed the administration’s claims that Israel has not yet committed itself to carrying out a military strike against Iran.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to defend the White House’s budget request, Panetta faced questions over a recent David Ignatius column in the Washington Post that suggested the Secretary believes there is a “strong likelihood” for a strike within the coming months.
“As the president has suggested, we do not think that Israel has made that decision,” Panetta said.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) pressed the secretary further, asking if he had a personal position on the feasibility of a strike.
“I do not,” Panetta replied.
Tension surrounding Iran’s nuclear capabilities has put possible military actions between the two nations on the forefront. The Obama administration has sought to defuse the standoff by applying stricter sanctions against Iran’s central bank.
Panetta reiterated that the Obama White House shares a common cause with Israel in ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, but said that the international community should continue to work to isolate Iran as an alternative to military action.
By DONNA MILES
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Expressing “deep concern” about raids earlier this week on non-governmental organizations operating in Egypt, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is telling the leader of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that it’s time to move the democratic process forward.
Speaking by phone with Egyptian Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Panetta condemned the December 29 raids and expressed appreciation for Tantawi’s decision to stop them and make it easier for NGOs to operate in Egypt, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little reported.
Egyptian police and judicial officials reportedly raided the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Freedom House as well as other NGOs that have been critical of strong-armed practices by Egyptian officials.
Panetta underscored the need for the democratic process that began when a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February to proceed. “After two successful rounds of parliamentary elections, the secretary emphasized that it is critical for Egypt to continue on the path to democratic transition,” Little said.
The secretary also reaffirmed the importance of the longstanding U.S.-Egyptian security relationship, Little said. He “made clear that the United States remains committed to the strategic partnership and stands ready to cooperate with Egypt as it continues its democratic transition,” he said.
Visiting Cairo in October, the secretary said he has full confidence in Egypt’s ability to transform itself to a civilian-led democracy following 26 years of being ruled under a dissent-suppressing emergency law.
Panetta said such a transition would be a “tremendous signal” to the region about moving in a positive direction.
By AVI PERRY
In his latest speech at the Brookings Institute, Leon Panetta offered Israel his words of wisdom. “Just get to the damn [negotiating] table, reach out and mend fences with the Palestinians, or risk facing even greater isolation. If the gestures are rebuked, the world will see those rebukes for what they are, and Israel’s moral standing will grow even higher.”
Echoing these words so that Panetta could benefit from his own wisdom would sound like this: “Just get to the damn [negotiating] table, Mr. Panetta, reach out and mend fences with al Qaeda, Iran, North Korea, or even the Republican Party back in D.C., or risk facing even greater foreign policy failures, and further political deadlock at home…”
There are two traits, which point to the core of the faulty doctrine held by the leader of the western world.
a. The Obama administration does not seem to comprehend the meaning of extreme ideology. It believes that all humans are reasonable rational people who could be convinced once the truth is presented in a clear, transparent form, supported by facts, reinforced by historical or scientific evidence.
Obama fails to understand that fervent insistence on ideology (including deep-seated religious beliefs) makes evidence, expertise, or any line of reasoning irrelevant: If some people believe that they possess the absolute truth, they view those who disagree with them as wrong and misguided (in many cases they deem those who disagree with them as criminals). Evidence contradicting their beliefs becomes irrelevant, a violation. Respectful arguments not in line with their ideology are of no use. Compromise is a bad word since it shows frailty.
Obama seems to understand this simple truth when it applies to his own situation concerning al Qaeda. Yet he fails to apply the identical logic when Israel enters the picture. Hamas and the Palestinians are to Israel what Iran and al Qaeda are to the US. These Islamic extremists are trapped inside their own ideology. Peace and compromise are deemed blasphemy. The more you concede to these adversaries the bolder they become. It’s a war they started; they won’t end it unless Israel is destroyed, unless the US is defeated. It’s an all-or-nothing guiding principle where no other middle ground settlement is possible. This conclusion is supported by so much evidence that to list it would require another volume.
b. The Obama administration believes that compromise is always possible because both sides to a conflict or the argument always swear by a common goal like world peace or global economic growth. The president and his team believe that all people are reasonable; they all strive for the same goals of bettering the lives of their fellow citizens.
Obama fails to appreciate that many of his adversaries do not share his goals. If the other side wants you dead; if they want you to disappear, to be wiped off the map—even at the cost of their own welfare; if their talk concerning peace and cooperation is designed to mask their true intentions, they will never compromise. Iran and North Korea deem Obama’s attempts at compromising a weakness and stupidity (can’t this idiot see what we are up to? They ponder); they will never admit failure of their policies. Instead, they will double down. The Palestinians will never accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Instead, they keep promoting hate speech and glorification of terrorist murderers; they keep firing rockets at Israeli civilians. They brainwash the young generation, employing Nazi style anti-Semitism, so that real peace will be precluded from taking any roots for the next century and beyond.
The Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world’s Islamists do not see peace with Israel as their objective. Their only aim is to see Israel wiped off the map whereas Israel’s objective comprises a peaceful co-existence. These two ends could never intersect. Accordingly, no compromise can take roots and no negotiations around the “damn table” can bear fruits.
Obama’s olive branch offer to Iran’s leaders at the commencement of his government’s rule was, still is viewed as weakness and stupidity. Iran will not pull away from their path toward becoming a nuclear-armed power by the soundness of Obama’s logical arguments. Their intentions collide with Obama’s. Iran does not look forward to world’s peace; they are lying in wait for Armageddon; it’s their crazy religious dogmas and their Islamic ideology that stand in the way of any compromise or logical undertaking.
And finally, Obama’s own neighbors here at home, the Republican Party, have professed via their leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell that their foremost objective is to see Obama out of office. This goal may even come at the expense of seeing to an improvement in the country’s economy. In fact, since “it’s the economy, stupid” that may decide the fate of Obama’s success in securing his second term, the goal of removing him from office is contradictory to the goal of seeing to an improved economy. Still, Obama continues to seek bipartisan support; he continues to offer compromise where compromise is unacceptable, rather than declaring an all-out war, employing al the weight his position can muster.
Obama, Panetta, Clinton have failed to recognize that negotiations—with those whose goals are diametrically opposed to theirs, or with those whose ideology prevents them from accepting any compromise—would achieve the exact opposite of what they are intended to. A willingness to negotiate with fanatics who reject compromise can only make those fanatics tougher and more confident that their position is spot-on since it weakens the other side.
When the ideologues, the ones who want to see you expire declare an all-out uncompromising war on you, Mr. President, the only way you have a chance of surviving is not trying to “get to the damn table and negotiate” with those who reject negotiations and compromise, but rather, draw on every weapon in your disposal to strike back and win.
Do not confuse cause and effect; do not put pressure on Israel to keep conceding; do not let the Iranian mullahs gain time by pretending that peace is on their mind, because when your adversaries’ goals are dichotomous to yours, when their ideology stands in the way of reason, the only option left on the table is an unwavering confrontation.
“And that’s the way it is,” Mr. President.
Dr. Avi Perry, a talk show host at Paltalk News Network, is the author of “Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks,” and more recently, “72 Virgins,” a thriller about the covert war on Islamic terror. He was a VP at NMS Communications, a Bell Laboratories distinguished staff member and manager, a delegate of the US and Lucent Technologies to UN International Standards body, a professor at Northwestern University and Intelligence expert for the Israeli Government. More information is available at www.aviperry.org