WASHINGTON, D.C.– Retired General David Petraeus appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday to discuss the administration’s current Mid East strategy.
He also apologized for his unprofessional handling of classified information and his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell.
His remarks Tuesday were the first time Petraeus had given public testimony since resigning as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in late 2012.
“Four years ago, I made a serious mistake – one that brought discredit on me and pain to those closest to me,” he said of his affair and spilling of classified info. “It was a violation of the trust placed in me and a breach of the values to which I had been committed throughout my life.”
After apologizing, Petraeus moved on to discuss American foreign policy in the Middle East, and shared some particular critiques regarding the Obama administration’s regional strategy.
Citing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s mass murder of his own citizens, Petraeus called for the U.S. to intervene and stop the despot from carrying out the attacks. “We could tell Assad that barrel bombs need to end or we could stop their air force from flying,” Petraeus suggested. “We have that capability” and “it would demonstrate that America has the power to stand against Assad,” he added.
Petraeus noticeably did not bring up the surge in Russian forces making their way into Syria to defend the Assad regime. Russia now has 28 military aircraft in Syria to support Assad’s fight against the rebels, ABC News has reported.
The former CIA director said that the U.S. should move its Mid East operations headquarters from Kuwait to Baghdad, advocating that such a move would providing the U.S. with greater influence in the region.
He called the fight against ISIS “inadequate” and recommended a comprehensive strategy to work alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces, and to try to garner the support of Sunni tribes, an endeavor that he succeeded in when Petraeus was previously commanding U.S. forces in Iraq.
“The Middle East is not part of the world that plays by Las Vegas rules: What happens in the Middle East is not going to stay in the Middle East,” he said of the global ramifications of the regional turmoil.
Syria is a “geopolitical Chernobyl – spewing instability and extremism over the region and the rest of the world,” he explained. “Like a nuclear disaster, the fallout from the meltdown of Syria threatens to be with us for decades, and the longer it is permitted to continue, the more severe the damage will be.”