Panetta Slams Obama, And Clinton, On Syria

Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made news this week with an excerpt from his upcoming book criticizing the President’s handling of Iraq. But its new excerpts criticizing Obama’s inaction in Syria that are aiming fire at the judgment of a close ally, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

In excerpts obtained by The Associated Press, Panetta slams the President for having “vacillated” rather than enforced his “red line” threat against Syria’s Bashar Al Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Panetta calls Obama’s request for congressional authorization “an almost certain way to scotch any action,” adding that it “was a blow to American credibility.”

But while Panetta is critical of Obama reneging on his red line threat, Hillary Clinton, then a private citizen, publicly and forcefully backed the President’s decision:

“Clinton supports the president’s effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime’s horrific use of chemical weapons,” the adviser said in a statement.

AP on Panetta’s book:

But even after Assad used chemical weapons, killing hundreds of Syrian civilians, Obama planned a Rose Garden address in which it was widely expected to announce airstrikes against Assad, Obama instead said he would consult with Congress.

“President Obama vacillated, first indicating that he was prepared to order some strikes, then retreating and agreeing to submit the matter to Congress,” according to an early copy of the book purchased by The Associated Press. “The latter was, as he well knew, an almost certain way to scotch any action. By mid-2013, a majority of Congress could not agree on what day of the week it was, much less a resolution authorizing the use of American force in the Middle East.

“The result, I felt, was a blow to American credibility. When the president as commander in chief draws a red line, it is critical that he act if the line is crossed. … Assad’s action clearly defied President Obama’s warning.”