Panetta Downplays Syria Chemical Weapons Fears
Says there's no new intelligence pointing to their preparation
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2012 9:44 AM CST
Leon Panetta listens during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

(Newser) – Non-news has never been so satisfying: Leon Panetta this morning announced that there's no new indication that Bashar al-Assad is preparing to use chemical weapons, explaining that related intelligence has "really kind of leveled off. ... We haven't seen anything new indicating any aggressive steps to move forward in that way." But CBS News reports that Panetta said Washington is continuing to monitor any movements "closely."

As for whether our "thin line" warnings are paying off, "I'd like to believe he's got the message," said Panetta. "But you know it's also clear that the opposition continues to make gains [like, potentially, this one] in Syria and our concern is that if they feel like the regime is threatened with collapse that they might resort to these kinds of weapons." Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency today said that the number of Syrian refugees who have registered or are in the process of doing so has passed the half-million mark, reports Reuters. It stands at 509,559.

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Dec 12, 2012 8:45 AM CST
still say he looks like al from happy days!
Dec 11, 2012 2:26 PM CST
I dont see how we should be made to believe these reports are anything but fear mongering. They did such a good job with 9-11 fore-warnings.......................Even with intelligence beckoning the fate of our nation well before the first tower was hit....We still watched the Leading Circus scratch their heads and question the who done it.........When the who done it was in connection to the tragedy.......... I read this stuff to kinda get an idea of what the power's that be want us to believe and think......They use sheep media to then keep their idea center and focused.
Dec 11, 2012 2:23 PM CST
Al-Zoubi: Terrorists' Victories Imaginary, US-Western Statements on Chemical Weapons Caused by Inability to Achieve Gains on Ground Minister of Information Omran al-Zoubi said that the victories claimed by some media outlets of the armed terrorist groups are "baseless and imaginary victories." In an interview on the Lebanese al-Manar TV on Monday, Minister al-Zoubi said that there are clashes in specific areas in Damascus Countryside and attempts by the terrorist organizations to achieve any kind of progress, adding that the life is normal in Damascus. Al-Zoubi added that these terrorist groups are extremist Takfiri organizations, stressing that "When the US places Jabhat al-Nusra on the international terrorist organizations' list, that is because it realizes the nature of these groups which are fighting the Syrian Armed Forces." He highlighted that Syria realizes the nature of the confront with the enemy plot and is working on protecting the state institutions and infrastructure. He pointed out that the suffering of the Syrians in securing some materials is caused by the acts of the terrorist groups which are attacking the vehicles transporting wheat, petroleum and other goods. He noted that the terrorist bombings in residential areas aim at terrorizing people, embarrassing the security and military system and alluding the public opinion to the idea that they can do whatever they want whenever they want, adding that these acts are part of media and military policy for those sides. Al-Zoubi said that the US-western repeated talks on the chemical weapons in Syria are caused by their inability to achieve any progress on the ground, "Syria doesn't own any internationally-banned weapons, whether chemical, nuclear or biological", he stressed, adding that "Even if Syria possessed such weapons, it will not use them for moral reasons." "Statements on this topic resemble those issued against Iraq and other countries. We don't ignore any possibility, including the Iraqi scenario. The world can't bear the consequences of such risk. The western countries should realize that Syria isn't a simple or easy country. Damascus has friends and there are regional and international balances." Minister al-Zoubi added that there are intelligence agencies operating on the Syrian soil since the beginning of the crisis, embodied in the existence of advanced equipment and technologies among the terrorist groups and in high-tech sabotage acts committed by the terrorists. He considered the Turkish talks on Syrian threats against Turkey as naïve, adding that Syria never threatened, attacked or interfered in any neighboring countries' affairs. "Deployment of the Patriot missiles doesn't target Syria only, it is part of radars and early warning systems established by the US with cooperation with the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These systems target Iran, Syria, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and other countries," he noted. Minister al-Zoubi stressed that the USA sat at the table with Russia when it felt that its project is falling, adding that "Yet, the dialogue between the two sides is positive if the talks are based on respecting the Syrian independency and as long as the talks will lead to a political process based on supporting the national dialogue." Al-Zoubi stressed the need to adhering to Geneva statement and the initiative of the former UN envoy Kofi Annan, that are based on respecting national independence and not meddling in the countries' internal affairs. Minister al-Zoubi said Russia's stance towards Syria is "firm, not contradicted, rather clear and frank" as it shows keenness on the interest of Syrian state and people. " Russia also rejects any foreign interference in Syria's internal affairs, mainly in a sovereign issue and calls for the necessity of unifying efforts to support a political process based on dialogue, the participation of all Syrian sides without exception and halting violence, " he added. Minister al-Zoubi said "Doha coalition is a political gathering that has been already existed and reproduced and its members are the same who had formed Istanbul Council. He added that the Syrian opposition abroad, including Doha coalition don't behave in Syria's interest because pursuing the path of violence, rejecting dialogue and adopting foreign agendas mean that the opposition has no political project. The Minister underlined that the formation of the so-called military councils for the armed groups will only lead to more violence, killing and destruction. He pointed out that Syria has well-documented information that confirm that Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) encompasses several armed groups with different names, asserting that the US inclusion of the Front in its international list of terrorist organizations is not enough and doesn't reflect the US commitment to the UN Security Council's resolutions on combating terrorism...