PENTAGON — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that the United States has no plans for imposing a no-fly zone over Syria as the government of Bashar al-Assad steps up air attacks on the city of Aleppo.
Pentagon officials have noted what they describe as a troubling increase in air attacks on Aleppo that are claiming civilian lives daily, raising questions of whether the United States will move beyond its current policy of providing only non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters Tuesday that Washington will also continue to provide humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey and Jordan, and monitor Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
“With regard to the no-fly zone, that is not a front-burner issue for us,” Panetta said.
But U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Jordan and Turkey might be considering imposing a no-fly zone.
“We have been in discussion with Jordanians and the Turks, and they’re both interested mostly in the effects that could spill over from Syria into their countries. Both have examined the possibility of a safe haven. And with a safe haven would probably come some form of no-fly zone, but we’re not planning anything unilaterally,” Dempsey said.
Panetta also expressed concern about what he called Iran’s growing presence in Syria, where he said Iranians are training and advising a Syrian militia in support of President Assad’s forces.
“We do not think that Iran ought to be playing that role at this moment in time, that it’s dangerous, that it’s adding to the killing that’s going on in Syria and that it tries to bolster a regime that we think ultimately is going to come down,” Panetta said.
Panetta said he does not believe that Israel has made a decision on whether to launch a preemptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. General Dempsey said such action might be able to delay, but not destroy, Iran’s nuclear program.