Panetta: Obama vacillated on Syria

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Panetta: Obama vacillated on Syria
Assad is dropping barrel bombs on Syrian civilians. US drops anti-ISIS leaflets. http://t.co/dNoRtD8kzo http://t.co/evtxcrZxJC
Syrian boys sift through the rubble of a house in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Destroyed building are seen around a sign that reads, ''Kobane'' in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 24, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26, by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian schoolchildren play at recess time outside their school in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Toys and flowers are laid on gravestones in a cemetery for Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Hezbollah fighters stand next to the coffin of Shiite militant Ali al-hadi Wahbi, killed in fighting with the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria, during his funeral ceremony on March 27, 2015 in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Police used tear gas and water cannon on October 8, 2014 in Ankara to disperse demonstrators protesting against the attacks launched by Islamic State insurgents targeting the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and the lack of action by their government. Turkey's military on October 8 imposed a curfew in parts of the southeast after at least 19 people were killed in pro-Kurdish protests over the government's failure to act against jihadists attacking the Syrian border city of Kobane. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Turkish police intervene protesters taking streets across Turkey to hold unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) stands alongside outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (R) during an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of Panetta at Joint Base Myer-Henderson in Arlington, Virginia, February 8, 2013. Panetta will retire once his likely successor, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, is confirmed by the US Senate. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo released by the Turkish Presidency Press Office, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, speak during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Kerry is in the region to speak with leaders about strategies to address the threat from ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that the US would provide an additional $500 million in humanitarian aid to victims of the war in Syria, bringing total American assistance to $2.9 billion since the start of the conflict in 2011.(AP Photo/Turkish Presidency)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This undated image posted on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows a fighter of the Islamic State group waving their flag from inside a captured government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria on Sunday. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a government soldier bombs neighborhoods near the al-Maza airport, in Damascus countryside, Syria, on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)
In this photo released by the Turkish Presidency Press Office, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, third left, speak during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Kerry is in the region to speak with leaders about strategies to address the threat from ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that the US would provide an additional $500 million in humanitarian aid to victims of the war in Syria, bringing total American assistance to $2.9 billion since the start of the conflict in 2011.(AP Photo/Turkish Presidency)
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest takes the podium at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, where he took questions on ISIS, Iraq, and Syria. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, center, a Guardian correspondent and a spokesperson for both families of Javier Espinosa, and Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, speaks during a press conference with Monica Prieto, left, Espinosa's wife, and, Ayman Mhanna, right, director of Samir Kassir Eyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. The families of two Spanish journalists kidnapped in Syria 11 weeks ago appealed publicly today for their safe and immediate release. Javier Espinosa, bureau chief of El Mundo in the Middle East with 25 years of front line reporting, and Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, award-winning freelance photographer, were abducted on the 16th of September at a check-point near Tal-Abyad, northern Syria. They were taken to facilities belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Raqqa. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
This undated picture released by the family of Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, shows Spanish photographer Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, right, who was kidnapped in Syria 11 weeks ago walks next to a Syrian boy riding a bike in Aleppo, Syria. The families of two Spanish journalists kidnapped in Syria 11 weeks ago appealed publicly today for their safe and immediate release. Javier Espinosa, bureau chief of EL MUNDO in the Middle East with 25 years of front line reporting, and Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, award-winning freelance photographer, were abducted on the 16th of September at a check-point near Tal-Abyad, northern Syria. They were taken to facilities belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Raqqa. (AP Photo/Ricardo's Family)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a prime time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Vowing to target the Islamic State with air strikes 'wherever they exist', Obama pledged to lead a broad coalition to fight IS and work with 'partner forces' on the ground in Syria and Iraq. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
This undated image posted on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters of the Islamic State waving the group's flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Abu Moussa al-Ansari, a fighter from the Islamic State group, who they say was killed in the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Moderate Syrian rebels are buckling under the onslaught of the radical al-Qaida breakaway group that has swept over large parts of Iraq and Syria. Some rebels are giving up the fight, crippled by lack of weapons and frustrated with the power of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Other, more hard-line Syrian fighters are bending to the winds and joining the radicals. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)
FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Moderate Syrian rebels are buckling under the onslaught of the radical al-Qaida breakaway group that has swept over large parts of Iraq and Syria. Some rebels are giving up the fight, crippled by lack of weapons and frustrated with the power of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Other, more hard-line Syrian fighters are bending to the winds and joining the radicals. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)
FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) patrolling in Raqqa, Syria. The ISIL led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is believed to have been operating from inside Syria in recent months, is the main driver of destabilizing violence in Iraq and until recently was the main al-Qaida affiliate there. Al-Qaida’s general command formally disavowed the group this week, saying it "is not responsible for its actions." (AP Photo/militant website, File)
Druze men stand in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights as they look at smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone (UNDOF) use binoculars to watch smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the Islamic State group that captured the Tabqa air base from the Syrian government on Sunday, firing a captured tank, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
A rebel fightercarries homemade mortar rounds on September 3, 2013 in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. UN leader Ban Ki-moon said on September 3, 2013 that a military strike on Syria over the use of chemical weapons could worsen the country's conflict. AFP PHOTO / MEZAR MATAR (Photo credit should read MEZAR MATAR/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE- This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. The Gulf nation of Qatar is hitting back at suggestions that it supports the Islamic State extremist group, saying that “determined, collective action” is needed to end sectarian violence gripping Iraq and Syria. Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah unequivocally denied funding the extremist group. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center- File)
This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a parade with a missile in Raqqa, Syria. Militants from an al-Qaida splinter group held a military parade in their stronghold in northeastern Syria, displaying U.S.-made Humvees, heavy machine guns, and missiles captured from the Iraqi army for the first time since taking over large parts of the Iraq-Syria border. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
FILE - This undated photo posted by the U.S. State Department in their Rewards for Justice website on June 18, 2014 shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The leader of the extremist group that has swept over much of northern Syria and Iraq called on Muslims Tuesday, July 1, 2014 to immigrate to the territory his group has seized to help build an Islamic state. The 19-minute audiotape from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi comes two days after his organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, unilaterally declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it controls. It also proclaimed al-Baghdadi the caliph, and demanded that all Muslims around the world pledge allegiance to him.(AP Photo/U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice, File)
FILE - Undated file picture released on Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claims to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. While his may not be a household name, Al-Baghdadi has emerged as one of the world’s most lethal terrorist leaders. He is a renegade within al-Qaida whose maverick streak eventually led its central command to sever ties, deepening a rivalry between his organization and the global terror network. (AP Photo/Iraqi Interior Ministry, File)
This photo taken on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, shows destroyed police trucks after clashes between fighters of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Iraqi security forces in central Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced this week that it has unilaterally established a caliphate in the areas under its control. It declared the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of its new self-styled state governed by Shariah law and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him. (AP Photo)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, walking down the pulpit after delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
Protesters in Melbourne try to raise awareness of persecution of Christians at the hands of Islamic State fighters
Protesters in Melbourne try to raise awareness of persecution of Christians at the hands of Islamic State fighters Sept-6-2014
Demonstrators hold placards as they protest against the actions of Islamic State in Iraq outside Downing Street in central London on September 7, 2014. The unity rally took place to address the genocide of the minority peoples of Iraq by the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi volunteer soldiers march after graduating from a training camp in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 1, 2014. Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli the previous day which was the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi volunteer soldiers march after graduating from a training camp in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 1, 2014. Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli the previous day which was the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama, sitting next to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, center, and Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood, right, speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Turkish riot police use teargas to disperse protesters on October 8, 2014 in Ankara during a demonstration against attacks launched by Islamic State (IS) group, targeting the Syrian city Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and lack of government action. While air strikes by a US-led coalition fighting IS have helped push back the jihadists, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town. Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the IS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows that local residents watch smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on October 8, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate on October 8, 2014 in Ankara against attacks launched by Islamic State (IS) group, targeting the Syrian city Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and lack of government action. While air strikes by a US-led coalition fighting IS have helped push back the jihadists, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town. Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the IS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the impact of an airstrike next to the hill where Islamic State (IS) militants had placed their flag in the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on October 8, 2014. The Pentagon warned on October 8, 2014 US air power on its own could not prevent Islamic State jihadists from capturing the Syrian border town of Kobane, even as US warplanes kept up bombing raids in the area. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurds living in Greece protest in central Athens during a pro-Kurd demonstration against attacks launched by Islamic State insurgents targeting the Syrian city of Kobane and lack of action by the Turkish government on October 8, 2014. Intensified air strikes helped Kurdish militia push back Islamic State jihadists fighting for Kobane as pressure mounted for more international action to save the key Syrian border town. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, southeastern province of Turkey, shows that smoke rises during the clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed troops in Kobane (Ayn al-arab) city of Syria, on October 8, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - MARCH 17: Members of a Syrian opposition group called Jaysh al-Islam get military training in Idlib, Syria on March 17, 2015. At least 400 people get military training at Jaysh al-Islam's Idlib camp within the combat with DAESH (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant). (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is criticizing President Barack Obama for leaning toward, then deciding against military action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons.

"By failing to respond, it sent the wrong message to the world," Panetta says in a new book in which he reveals his differences with the president over the decision to withdraw completely from Iraq in 2011.

In August 2012, Obama said the U.S. would reconsider its opposition to military involvement in the Syrian civil war if President Bashar Assad deployed or used chemical or biological weapons. "That's a red line for us," the president said. "There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly."

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."

Panetta's book, "Worthy Fights," is scheduled for release next week.

Earlier this year former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton published a memoir in preparation for an expected presidential campaign in which she outlined differences with Obama, including over Syria.

On the deadly 2012 siege of the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, Panetta said the administration had no indication of an attack coinciding with the Sept. 11 anniversary. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the violence.

Panetta, who also served as director of the CIA, said he questioned "from the beginning" the CIA's initial assessment that the attack was the work of a mob of protesters rather than an organized assault. "It seemed to me that most spontaneous demonstrators don't arrive for a protest carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers," he said.

But Panetta defended the intelligence agency, saying such work is difficult and often contradictory. "It was not clear at the time that there were two separate incidents, separated by distance and by several hours," he said.

On Iraq, Panetta chided Obama for not keeping a residual U.S. force behind, which he said could have helped provide training and security to Iraqi security forces and blunt the Islamic State group's recent takeover of parts of northern and western Iraq.

"My fear, as I voiced to the president and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we'd seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S."

Panetta also blamed former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for deteriorating conditions in Iraq, saying he exacerbated sectarian divisions already getting worse in his country.

"The news from Iraq bothered me to no end. In my view, the ISIS offensive in 2014 greatly increased the risk that Iraq will become al-Qaeda's next safe haven," Panetta wrote, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. "That is exactly what it had in Afghanistan pre 9/11. After all we have done to decimate al-Qaida's senior leadership and its core, those efforts will be for naught if we allow it to rebuild a base of operations in the Middle East."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said many former administration officials who have been critical of Obama's foreign policy decisions were involved in and supported strategies when they were developed, including "the fact that we were not going to allow our troops to stay on the ground (in Iraq) without the protections they needed."

"The political situation on the ground was that the Iraqis did not want to have a big troop presence on the ground," Psaki said. "There were political challenges to getting it through, but it was clear they did not want that. So that was what we were dealing with at the time."

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