Panetta Calls Syrian Situation ‘Intolerable’
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, May 31, 2012 Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta called the situation in Syria “intolerable” and said the United States will continue to work with the international community to get Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta briefs the press in flight from Hawaii to Singapore during a 10-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region to meet with defense counterparts, May 31, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Assad’s troops allegedly massacred thousands of Syrians since demonstrations began there last year.
“There’s no question that we are very concerned about the atrocities that are taking place in Syria,” Panetta said. “It just makes clear how important it is to remove Assad from power and implement the political reforms that are necessary in that country.”
Panetta spoke during a news conference aboard his plane en route to Singapore.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have stressed the need for the international community to work together to continue to put economic and diplomatic pressure the Assad regime. The U.S. will work with others to “take whatever other steps need to be taken in order to make very clear that Assad has to step down,” Panetta said.
The secretary said this includes continuing to put pressure on Russia so that country will use its influence on the regime. “It means continuing to explore every other possible option to try to continue the effort to get Assad to step down,” the secretary said. “This is an intolerable situation, we cannot be satisfied with what’s going on.”
Panetta stressed it is always important for the U.S. to project every possible option for taking action. “But I think it is very important right now to continue to work with the international community because we all share the same concerns and the same goals here,” he said. “My hope is that the international community becomes much more aggressive at deciding what additional steps are necessary.”
Panetta did not speak directly about what military steps are possible, but he did allude to further options.
“One thing we do at the Pentagon is we plan for all contingencies, and we’ve done that here,” Panetta said. “I’m not going to go into what we briefed the president on, but suffice to say we are prepared for any contingency or any action we are called on to do.”