Gates, Panetta criticize Obama on Syria; Navy Yard

WASHINGTON: Former Defence Secretaries of President Obama, Panetta and Gates are questioning Obama’s policy on Syria and don’t think seeking congressional approval was a good idea.

Speaking at a forum in Dallas, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta disagreed on whether the United States should ultimately carry out a military strike in retaliation for a chemical attack that the U.S. says killed 1,400 people.

But both men said Obama shouldn’t have asked Congress to approve a strike, and both were skeptical and sometimes sarcastic about the current Russia-backed negotiations to have Syria turn over its chemical weapons.

Panetta said he supported a strike because Obama needed to enforce the “red line” he set over Syria’s use of chemical weapons. ‘When the president of the United States draws a red line, the credibility of this country is dependent on him backing up his word,’ Panetta said.

Gates said a strike would be like ‘throwing gasoline on an extremely complex fire in the Middle East.  He brought up past interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as examples of how American military action can lead to unintended consequences. He also dismissed attacking Syria to enforce a red line.

“I believe to blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple of days to underscore or validate a point or principle is not a strategy” Gates asserted.