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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Do you want to see the Syrian military preserved, even after Assad falls, if he falls?

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it's important when Assad leaves, and he will leave, to try to preserve stability in that country. And the best way to preserve that kind of stability is to maintain as much of the military, the police as you can, along with the security forces, and hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government. That's the key.

STARR: What is your thinking, if Assad comes down? Do you want to see the Syrian military preserved? Do you think that's a lesson we learned from Iraq? Don't disband the military?

PANETTA: I think it's very important that we don't make the same mistakes we made in Iraq and that particularly when it comes to things like the chemical sites. They do a pretty good job of securing those sites. If they suddenly walked away from that, it would be a disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands, hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in that area.

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