Panetta: Syrian chemical-weapon preparations have slowed

Asked if Assad had heard the warnings from the West, Panetta said, “I like to believe he’s got the message.

“We’ve made it pretty clear,” he said, according to the AP. “Others have as well.”

Obama administration officials, including Panetta, last week warned Assad that using chemical weapons would cross a red line for the United States that would have consequences. A group of senators also said they would support the use of military action in Syria if it became apparent that Assad’s forces would use chemical weapons.

Panetta said that the biggest concern is as the rebel forces close in and put more pressure on Assad, he might then use the chemical weapons in a last-ditch effort.

“Our concern is that if they feel like the regime is threatened with collapse, they might resort to these kinds of weapons,” he said.