Thursday afternoon, during a press briefing at the Pentagon with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta publicly knocked down the idea of a U.S. attack on Syria without the backing of the "international community." In response to a reporter's question regarding the Emir of Qatar's call, earlier this week, for an Arab military intervention into Syria, Panetta said that the most effective course would be the one the U.S. is on, that is, bringing diplomatic and economic pressure on Syrian president Bashar al Assad until he steps down. To that end, the U.S. is doing a number of things, to include helping to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, monitoring Syria's chemical weapons sites, and providing assistance to the opposition.
It "would be a serious mistake for the United States to embark on that kind of intervention on our own," Panetta said. "If the international community decides that that's a step that the international community would like to move forward, then obviously we would be part of that. But absent that kind of broad support, I think for the United States to do it would be a mistake."
Panetta, it turns out, will be meeting with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, tomorrow. The GCC includes not only Qatar, but also Saudi Arabia, both of which are playing dirty roles in the violence in Syria. Though the agenda of the meeting has not been announced, it is likely to include discussion of both Syria and Iran. Dempsey met with his Saudi counterpart at the Pentagon, this morning, Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Huseen ibn Abdullah al-Gubayel. Dempsey reported that the discussion covered Saudi Arabia's concerns about the Iranian influence in both Syria and Yemen, and they also discussed closer U.S.-Saudi military cooperation in both the maritime and air defense domains.
The subject of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, also came up at the briefing. Panetta claimed that it didn't become clear what had happened in Benghazi until all the "details" had come in, and "it took awhile" before it was determined that it had been, indeed, a terrorist attack. As for the who did it, he said it wouldn't be known if Al Qaeda was behind the attack until the FBI conducted their investigation, and he was a bit taken aback when told by a reporter that the FBI isn't even on the ground, there, yet, because they've decided it's too dangerous.