Nightly News   |  August 30, 2013

Panetta: The intelligence on Syria is clear

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Assad regime was involved in deploying chemical weapons against civilians.  He adds that strikes could deter the Syrian government from continuing assaults against its own people. NBC’s Lester Holt reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> poisz poised to punish syria without international support the cia director and most recently secretary of defense leon panetta is telling nbc news the u.s. must act saying its credibility is at stake. i spoke to him about the justification for any punitive attack. we've seen this movie before, the presentation of evidence of weapons of mass destruction and we know how iraq ended up. are you firmly listening to this intelligence? do you buy it?

>> i do. i think the intelligence here is pretty clear. i recognize that the american people are exhausted by war. we all are. but at the same time, we continue to have a responsibility to exercise leadership in the world. it would be nice if the u.n. acted. it would be nice if our allies acted. it would be nice if others were willing to take that action. but when that line has been drawn and action needs to be taken, then the united states ultimately has to do that for the sake of the world and for the sake of world peace .

>> what's the best outcome of a u.s. military strike, in your view?

>> if we do a limited and tarnthtarnth targeted attack that goes after his capabilities and deters him from any further use then it hopefully can set the groundwork to be able to pursue a diplomatic strategy that can ultimately result in a negotiated settlement there.

>> what's the worst possible outcome of an attack, in your view?

>> i think the key here is to be able to make sure that the targets that we're going after are there, that the intelligence is after it with regards to where those targets are and that we do an effective job of being able to destroy these targets. that's going to be a key. if for any reason we fail to do that, then we have to go back and make sure we do it. will be the biggest calgary.

>> former defense secretary leon panetta acknowledging a first round of strikes may not be enough. our entire conversation can be found on our website tonight.