Official: Panetta misinterpreted on 'permission' for Syria intervention
March 8th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Official: Panetta misinterpreted on 'permission' for Syria intervention

By Chris Lawrence

The Pentagon tried to clarify remarks made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, when he told a Senate committtee on Wednesday that the U.S. military is seeking "permission" from a foreign organization to intervene in Syria.

"He was re-emphasizing the need for an international mandate. We are not ceding U.S. decision-making authority to some foreign body," a defense official told CNN.

In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta had an exchange with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, who said Congress was circumvented when Obama decided to join the NATO coalition in Libya.

Sessions said, "We spend our time worrying about the U.N., the Arab League, NATO and too little time, in my opinion, worrying about the elected representatives of the United States. As you go forward, will you consult with the United States Congress?"

Panetta replied, "You know, our goal would be to seek international permission. And we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress."

Latching onto the words "permission" and "inform," Sessions ripped into Panetta: "Well I'm troubled by that. I think it does weaken the ability of the United States to lead. I do think ultimately you need the legal authority from the United States of America, not from any other extra-territorial group that might assemble."

But even when Sessions gave Panetta a chance to clarify, Panetta continued to say the U.S. would seek "permission" so that there was a legal basis to act.

"I'm really baffled by the idea that somehow an international assembly provides a legal basis for the United States military to be deployed in combat," Sessions said. "I don't believe it's close to being correct. They provide no legal authority. The only legal authority that's required to deploy the United States military is of the Congress and the president and the law and the Constitution."

After the exchange, committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, tried to help Panetta clarify further.

"I don't think the word permission is appropriate even in that context. By the way, I think what - you really corrected it when you said a legal basis in international law would help you achieve an international coalition," Levin said.

"That's correct," Panetta responded.

After the hearing, Sen. Sessions told Security Clearance in an interview that Panetta's comments were "very revealing of the mindset" of the administration. Panetta "seemed so natural in expressing it as if he didn't understand this went against" the fundamentals of our government.

While Sessions said he does not think the U.S. should act alone, he said there are indications that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is gaining momentum and "the window of opportunity could be closed."

"The delays that are taking place out of a determination to get a major worldwide support, I suppose could be costly," Sessions said in the interview.

The defense official, who did not identify himself because he did not want to speak publicly for the secretary, further explained the rationale for seeking international agreement.

"The legitimacy is greater if there is some form of international mandate. There's a sense that unilateral U.S. action would be perceived in the wrong way, especially in this part of the world. Does the U.S. want to go it alone in another Arab country? That figures into the calculus."

The official said a United Nations Security Council resolution, like the one that authorized action in Libya, isn't necessarily the only way to go about this. "Some kind of mandate from a regional organization could signify this is not just a unilateral effort on our part," he said. This is important not only to the U.S., but to other nations in the region that oppose al-Assad's regime, the source said.

The official also emphasized that international agreement is just one of the concerns. The other part of the equation is the Syrian military and dense population centers, which are big factors in any military intervention, said the source.

"The complexity of that cannot be overstated. This is a very hard problem set we're dealing with."

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Who Cares what Panetta thinks

    I like the sound of the word 'IMPEACH'. The live version of Panetta's conversation with congress isn't misunderstood at all. He specifically told Congress that both he and Obama answer to International sources and will do what it takes... THEN they will tell congress what they are GOING TO DO. Can you say TREASON? The US of A is NOT at war. They want to start another illegal was. I'm sick of the word 'humanitarian' used as propaganda for the public to back these war crimes when no one is ever held accountable for thousands of civilians being killed. He was brave when he said it and now cowers because there's an impeachment bill ready in Congress.

    With whats going on in Afghanistan in the name of 'saving the poppies for money..' is both sickening and disgraceful. We don't have heroes over there... we have an army performing assassinations on innocent civilians. Let Panetta pay for their sins then bring them home. Enough tap-dancing with the money of US taxpayers.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  2. SototG

    It's highly unlikely that a Mossad agent would say negative things about anyone being a Zionist, since Zionists believe the Jews have a God given right to their homeland Israel. Mossad Agent aka AIPAC Agent is no doubt a fraud who seeks to further anti Jewish feelings.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  3. Mossad Agent aka AIPAC Agent

    I like my boys Obama Bin Landen, suck-ass Biden the zionist, and hillary the pp-sucker on their knees and of course the American government does what we tell them to do. They know it and we know it. Congress . . .hummrrup! We own Congress. The UN? We own it, too. We own France, England and we almost have Germany in our pocket. Now, all we have to do is knock out Iran and Russia . . . China won't complain much then.

    Just do what we tell you to do and when we say jump. . . .your job is to ask us how high.

    Remember: tel-aviv is the center of the new world order and Bibi runs the world. Bibi's the man!

    israel forever . . . and keep the money flowing to us. We'll let you dumb Americans know when to start fighting and dying in Iran. Don't worry . . . we know how to handle our cattle/slaves.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Reply
    • mipolitic

      well your claims say that jews own many countries , but we are all certain of one thing and that is that jews occupy your brain rent free. take a real good look in that cell a make sure there is not one over your situation. keep reading that anti stuff , it has taking you far.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Reply
      • Mossad Agent #1

        Mippipoo: Where do I mention Jews?

        You're an idiot!

        March 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  4. suckerforlove

    Panetta you make me sick!!! You could care less about the welfare of the US citizens, you are nothing but a lying criminal. Hey thank you government for the continuation of the useless chemspraying, population control and death

    March 8, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply
  5. mipolitic

    nothing will be done ever until isreal strikes iran in a few months

    March 8, 2012 at 7:22 am | Reply
    • Mossad Agent aka AIPAC Agent

      I can vouch for mippi – she works for us.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  6. Paul

    Maybe not intended, but some of these american leaders need to know that the US does not always need to lead. We do not run the world.. The sooner that is understood, the better off the US will be.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:07 am | Reply
    • Mossad Agent aka AIPAC Agent

      I can vouch for Paulette – she works for us.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply

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