Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the U.S. is now "paying the price" for not arming Syrian rebels in 2012.
Panetta touted his new book, Worthy Fights, Sunday night on 60 Minutes and discussed how the U.S. could have stopped the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) from becoming the threat it is today.
Pelley referenced the passage where Panetta wrote that advisers urged President Obama to arm Syrian rebels in 2012 to contain ISIL:
"In a new book, ‘Worthy Fights,’ former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta writes that in a meeting in the fall of 2012, he, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the director of the C.I.A., and the chairman of the joint chiefs all urged President Obama to arm moderate Syrians who had started the revolution against the dictatorship to begin with. That might have left no room for ISIS to grow."
"The real key was how can we develop a leadership group among the opposition that would be able to take control," Panetta said of Syria’s crisis in 2012. "And my view was to have leverage to do that, we would have to provide the weapons and the training in order for them to really be willing to work with us in that effort."
But while Panetta and other advisers unanimously agreed on arming Syrians, President Obama decided not to. Panetta said Obama was afraid of who would ultimately get the weapons. "My view was, ‘you have to begin somewhere,’ Panetta said.
"I think that would've helped," he added. "And I think, in part, we pay the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS."