US rules out Syria presence
US Defense Secretary Panetta (L) and Gen Dempsey say the US won’t send troops to secure Syrian chemicals. AFP photoThe U.S. has largely ruled out sending in ground troops to secure Syrian chemical weapons under hostile circumstances, but the Pentagon could provide some forces if the al-Assad regime ever agrees to a peaceful transition, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Jan. 10.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that it will be nearly impossible to prevent Syria from using its chemical weapons, so the U.S. must rely on deterrence and continue warning the country that using them would be unacceptable.
“The act of preventing the use of chemical weapons would be almost unachievable,” Dempsey said during a Pentagon press conference. “You would have to have such clarity of intelligence, persistent surveillance, you’d have to actually see it before it happened, and that’s, that’s unlikely, to be sure.”
Panetta also said his biggest concern is how the U.S. and allies would secure the chemical and biological weapons sites scattered across Syria and ensure the components don’t end up in the wrong hands if the regime falls. He said the U.S. is preparing no options for having U.S. ground troops in that country if the regime falls while under attack.
But, he added, “you always have to keep the possibility that, if there is a peaceful transition and international organizations get involved, that they might ask for assistance in that situation.” President Barack Obama has said the regime’s use of chemical weapons against the rebels would be a “red line.”