- GOP outraged Obamacare investigators able to get coverage with fake IDs
- Family removed from Southwest flight over tweet about rude agent, dad says
- Michael Bloomberg thumbs FAA ban, plots course to Israel
- California bans full-contact football practices in off-season
- Thune: Downed fighter jets show more evidence of separatist capabilities
- Obama tells DNC fundraising crowd: ‘I’m not overly partisan’
- Chambliss: Downed jet ultimately goes back to Putin
- Perdue strategy: Run against Reid, Obama, Pelosi
- White House: More changes to contraception mandate coming
- ‘Operation Normandy’ set to send 3,500 volunteers to border to ‘stop an invasion’
Syria secret: Panetta reveals rejected Pentagon plan to send weapons to rebels in push to oust Assad
Question of the Day
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has revealed that he and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey originally backed a plan to send weapons to rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad in Syria - but the White House blocked it.
The revelation Thursday, which exposes a previously unknown rift within the Obama administration over policy toward Syria's bloody and nearly two-year-old civil war, came during Senate testimony focusing on the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Mr. Panetta told Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, that he and Gen. Dempsey had backed a secret plan put forth by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus to arm opposition rebels under the assault of Syrian military forces loyal to Mr. Assad.
In another exchange, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mr. Panetta said there “were a number of factors that were involved” in President Obama’s ultimate decision not to go through with the plan, but to instead make U.S. assistance to the rebels “nonlethal.”
“And I supported his decision in the end,” Mr. Panetta said. He is expected to soon retire as defense secretary.
His testimony Thursday will likely be his final appearance on Capitol Hill before he steps down — though it's unclear whether his chosen replacement, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, will win confirmation to the post.
Channeling aid into Syria, meanwhile, has presented political and strategic challenges for the Obama administration, which has expressed concerns about the presence of Islamists among those battling the regime of Mr. Assad.
Administration officials, including Mrs. Clinton, have expressed concern that U.S. aid could end up in the wrong hands.
The New York Times first reported last Sunday that as the fighting raged in Syria last summer, Mr. Petraeus developed a plan, which Mrs. Clinton supported, calling for vetting rebels and training fighters who would be supplied with weapons.
The White House, however, was worried about the risks of getting more deeply involved in the crisis in Syria, the newspaper reported.
And with Mr. Obama in the midst of a re-election bid, the White House rebuffed the plan, rejecting the advice of most of the key members of Mr. Obama’s national security team.
The White House instead ramped up “nonlethal” support for Syrian rebels and refugees late last month, committing a fresh $155 million in humanitarian aid and bringing the total U.S. monetary response to the Syrian civil war to $365 million.
Mr. Obama has directed $15 million of the new aid toward helping some 700,000 Syrians who, the United Nations estimates, have fled their homeland as a result of the two-year-old war that has claimed more 60,000 lives.
With the U.N. estimating 200,000 refugees have left Syria just in the past seven weeks, Mr. Obama signed an order Tuesday authorizing aid from the United States “for the purpose of meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.
His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.
Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...
- U.S. intelligence nearly certain pro-Russian separatists downed Malaysian Airlines flight
- Israel's ambassador praises Obama, slams Human Rights Watch report
- U.S. scrambles as violence escalates in Israel-Hamas conflict
- MH17: Fear of ground-to-air missile strike becomes nightmare reality in Ukraine
- U.S., China to participate in unprecedented joint ground force exercise
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Retailer pays a price for getting too close to Obama
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down
- HURT: The cost of 'free' water in Detroit
- David Perdue defeats Jack Kingston in Georgia Republican Senate primary runoff
- Beretta moving to Tennessee over Maryland gun laws
- DEACE: How to go from civil rights icon to bigot in one quote
- D.C. appeals panel deals big blow to Obamacare subsidies
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq