News

Pentagon Ready to Help Protect Syrian People, Panetta Says

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, testifies on Capitol Hill, April, 19, 2012, before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on recent developments with the crisis in Syria.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, testifies on Capitol Hill, April, 19, 2012, before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on recent developments with the crisis in Syria.
Cindy Saine

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a congressional panel on Thursday that the Pentagon is providing "nonlethal aid" to the civilian-led opposition in Syria and that it is preparing additional measures if it becomes necessary to help protect the Syrian people.

Amid concern from some members of the U.S. Congress that the United States might be planning a military intervention similar to one in Libya last year, Panetta said there are similarities, but also important differences in the two situations.

He testified before the House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee, saying the United States stands with the Syrian people.

"Our policy towards Syria is very clear.  We support a political and democratic transition that fulfills the Syrian people's aspirations," Panetta said.

Panetta told the panel that the United States is sending "nonlethal" aid to the Syrian opposition, including communications and medical equipment.  The Pentagon also is providing $25 million of humanitarian relief.

Watch related Michael Bowman video report

U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that so far, the U.S. military’s role has been limited to sharing information with regional partners.  But he added: "Should we be called, our responsibility is clear - provide the secretary of defense and the president with options."

The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard "Buck" McKeon, and the committee's ranking Democratic member, Adam Smith, said they are opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria at this time.

"On the other hand, there is much we do not know about the opposition.  Syria also maintains robust air defenses that limit military options.  Therefore, I am not recommending U.S. military intervention, particularly in light of our grave budget situation, unless the national security threat was clear and present," McKeon said.

Several lawmakers expressed concern that the White House is preparing to intervene in Syria militarily, similar to last year's Libya operation that some of them opposed, without first getting authorization from Congress.

Republican Representative Randy Forbes put this question to Secretary Panetta: "It is your position that the [Obama] administration's position would be that we would have to get a consensus of permission from the international community before we would act, but that we would not have to get specific statutory authority from Congress before we would act?"

Panetta said President Barack Obama would act in consultation with international partners, and in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, working with Congress.

Representative Smith said he keeps hearing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's time in office might be coming to an end, but that Assad is still in power.  Smith said he is concerned.

"What is the path for that happening?  Because as I said in my opening remarks, the Assad regime has sort of decided they don't care what the international community thinks - they are going to kill as many people as they need to kill to stay in power," he said.

Panetta said that Syria is different from Libya in several important aspects.  He said President Assad still appears to enjoy the support of a large segment of the Syrian military and that Arab countries are not lined up in support of military intervention.  But Panetta said the intelligence community feels that the insurgency in Syria is so broad-based that Assad ultimately will be forced from office.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs