Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, beginning a trip through North Africa and the Middle East, said that the Syrian government’s assault on civilians in Aleppo with armed helicopters “ultimately will be a nail in Assad’s coffin.”
“The key right now is to continue to bring that pressure on Syria, to provide assistance to the opposition, and to provide whatever kind of humanitarian aid we can to assist the refugees and to not — not do anything to show that the international community is other than unified in the effort to bring the Assad regime down,” Panetta said. “I think that’s the key right now to dealing with the tragedy of Aleppo.”
Some 200,000, lacking food and water, have fled Bashar Assad’s air assault on the city.
The defense secretary said he’s “particularly concerned” about Assad’s chemical and biological weapons “into the wrong hands.”
Panetta is visiting other Arab Spring stops of Tunisia and Egypt, as well as Israel and Jordan.
He said the strategy with Tunisia and Egypt will “build alliances and partnerships with countries and develop their capabilities.”
He wouldn’t comment, though, on Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel. “You know, I’m just not going to get into that game of commenting on what candidates do. You know, as secretary of defense I have a responsibility to defend the security of our country,” Panetta told reporters. “And in order to do that I’ve got to have the support of both Democrats and Republicans to get that accomplished. And for that reason I try my best not to get involved in the politics of the moment.”