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Top Defense Chiefs Testify on Syria

Washington, DC
Thursday, April 19, 2012

As the decrease in violence brought on by U.N. demands continues in Syria, the House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing to discuss the country's security situation.  Defense Department Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testified.

Secretary Panetta emphasized that the U.S. could not take any option off the table, but that there was a possibility that outside military intervention could make the situation in the country worse, and that he and Secretary Clinton were monitoring the situation closely.

"Make no mistake," he said, "this regime will meet its end."

In March, as violence gripped Syria, the two went before Senate lawmakers to offer their views on the role of the U.S. with the changing dynamics within the Syrian government.

They told the Committee that the Pentagon is reviewing its options in the country, but said the situation in Syria is much more complicated than Libya and an international consensus would be required before any military strikes.

Speaking about the region as a whole, Secretary Panetta told the Committee that the unrest in Syria has weakened Iran’s position in the region. Both witnesses confirmed that Iran is supplying the Assad regime with weapons and other assistance.

The Obama administration has committed to provide direct assistance to the internal opposition in Syria, signaling a change in U.S. policy toward current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Defense Secretary also answered questions about the budget and the sequestration that will take place if Congress fails to pass a new budget this year, and about the recent missile launch in North Korea.

Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 12:26pm (ET)

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