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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Tracking the Issues: Obama’s Syria Message Heard on the Hill

by Newsteam Staff
March 8, 2012

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta went before Congress Wednesday to discuss the ongoing violence in Syria, carrying President Obama’s message for continued diplomacy over calls for air strikes. Panetta said (NYT) that Syrian air defenses are five times more robust than that of Libya, where a no-fly zone was quickly and easily established during the uprising against former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi. There are also questions about  who is leading the forces opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he said.

In a press conference Tuesday, Obama called the situation in Syria “heartbreaking and outrageous” but insisted U.S. military action there is not the answer. “For us to take military action unilaterally, as some have suggested, or to think that somehow there is some simple solution, I think is a mistake,” Obama said.

Panetta said current U.S. course is diplomacy providing an initial $10 million in emergency humanitarian assistance (WashingtonTimes) to the Syrian people.

Rick Santorum told TIME magazine earlier in the week that he would consider air strikes against Syria as well as arming the rebels. GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney has said he would not looking for military action in Syria at this time.

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on Democracy Promotion in the Arab World and this new Issue Tracker on Defense Policy.

Suggested Other Reading:

In an editorial, the Washington Post calls on the Obama administration to take the lead in coalition-building for eventual inevitable military action in Syria.

CFR’s Stewart M. Patrick discusses the role of UN Human Rights Council in the Syrian crisis.

In Foreign Affairs, Tony Badran explains how Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has stayed in power.

—Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor

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