US does not want to see Syrian regime 'collapse': CIA
NEW YORK – Agence France-Presse
AA photoCIA Director John Brennan said on March 13 the United States does not want to see a chaotic collapse of the Syrian regime as it could open the way to Islamist extremists taking power.
The spy agency chief said Washington had reason to worry about who might replace President Bashar al-Assad if his government fell, given the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other jihadists in Syria.
"I think that's a legitimate concern," Brennan said when asked if the U.S. government feared who might succeed Assad.
Speaking at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations, he said that "extremist elements" including ISIL and Al-Qaeda veterans are "ascendant right now" in some parts of Syria.
"The last thing we want to do is allow them to march into Damascus. That's why it's important to bolster those forces within the Syrian opposition that are not extremists," Brennan said.
The U.S. military is funding the training and arming of "moderate" Syrian rebel forces but the effort is only now getting off the ground. Washington's stance is that Assad should have no role in Syria's future but
President Barack Obama's administration and other governments wanted to see a political solution that would ensure a representative government, he said.
"None of us, Russia, the United States, coalition, and regional states, wants to see a collapse of the government and political institutions in Damascus," Brennan said.
Interviewed before a live audience by PBS television journalist Charlie Rose, the CIA chief also described the viral nature of the threat posed by the Islamic State group, saying it represented a change from previous terror organizations.
ISIL is skilled at exploiting social media to spread its propaganda and recruit, enabling it to extend its reach in a way that was difficult to track and deter, according to Brennan.
"ISIL demonstrates a very worrisome development. It has been a phenomenon that has snowballed in terms of its resonance and appeal," he said.
The emergence of the ISIL extremists in Iraq has seen Washington and Tehran waging war against the same common adversary.
Asked about possible coordination between Iran and the United States against the ISIL, Brennan suggested the two arch-foes are cooperating indirectly through Iraqi partners to defeat the jihadists.
"There's an alignment of some interests between ourselves and Iran" when it comes to fighting the ISIL jihadists in Iraq, he said.
"We work with closely with the Iraqi government. The Iranians work closely with the Iraqi government as well," he said.
Brennan also defended negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, saying the U.S. government has weighed key aspects of a potential agreement with great care.
"This is not something that's being done in any haphazard way," he said.
He added he was confident that the United States and other powers taking part would insist on "minimum requirements that we are not going to reduce."