U.S. Defense Secretary: 'Red Lines Are Political Arguments'

In an interview with Foreign Policy, Leon Panetta discusses recent attacks on U.S. presence in the Middle East. 'Red lines are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner.'

Following the spread of anti-American protests that are raging over the film defaming the Prophet Mohammed, American Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that the United States would station forces in 17 or 18 places that the Pentagon is "paying particular attention to."

In an interview with Panetta published by Foreign Policy on Saturday, Panetta said that "One demonstration of extremists, any more than a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in the United States, is not necessarily reflective of what the rest of the country feels."

Panetta also discussed the ongoing debate between the U.S. and Israel regarding the setting of "red lines" for Iran. He said, "Leaders of these countries don't have, you know, a bunch of little red lines that determine their decisions. Red lines are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner."

Panetta told the magazine that the Middle East was going through "convulsions" following the far-reaching changes in leadership that took place during the Arab Spring, which Al-Qaida and other radical groups are trying to take advantage of. But these convulsions do not represent a real change in the status of the Middle East.

 A senior official in the American defense department told Foreign policy that the Pentagon is contemplating sending an additional 50 marines, to protect the U.S. ambassador in Sudan, but has yet to make a decision on the matter. The U.S. has already sent roughly 100 soldiers to Libya and Yemen. We have to be prepared in the event that these demonstrations get out of control, said Panetta in the Foreign Policy report.

Panetta did not point out what he believes to be behind the attack on the U.S. representation in Benghazi, though he did say that the anti-Islamic film was the center of the other protests. "It's something that's under assessment and under investigation, to determine just exactly what happened here," he said.

Panetta expressed concern that the fall of dictators throughout the Middle East will leave a vacuum to be filed by radical elements, ready to strike at weak points. He admitted that Al-Qaida has become more active in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and throughout North Africa.  He refused to back down, however, from a claim he made last year, that Al-Qaida is nearing a "strategic defeat, as apparently he was referring to the groups central leadership and not its various branches throughout the area.

 No, no. Clearly Al-Qaida, the Al-Qaida that attacked the United States of America on 9/11, we have gone after in a big way," he added, stating that Al-Qaidas leadership and ability to execute terror attacks were greatly diminished.

"We always knew that we would have to continue to confront elements of extremism elsewhere as well, added Panetta.

These elements, according to Panetta, are forced to resort to desperate tactics because of American pressure and a lack of public support, according to Foreign Policy.

"Just like the Taliban in Afghanistan makes use of insider attacks, makes use of IEDs, largely speaks to their inability to regain any of the territory that they've lost," claimed Panetta.

 "They're going to resort to these kinds of tactics, because in many ways I think they have lost their voice in the Middle East."


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Tunisia - AP - July 30, 2012