—On Syria, Dempsey said the Pentagon does not have a clear picture of the opposition challenging President Bashar Assad. He said the United States is working in the intelligence community to develop a better understanding.
"The Free Syrian Army, which is, generally speaking, the centerpiece of the opposition, is for the most part domestic, although we also know that other regional actors are providing support. That complicates the situation," Dempsey said.
McCain and a few other senators have called for arming the Syrian rebels.
—Panetta said he will not approve the release of any Taliban from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison as part of Afghan peace talks unless he's sure they won't return to the battlefield. He said no decisions have been made on such a release.
—Dempsey said he pleaded with Egypt's ruling generals to resolve the crisis with Washington over the crackdown on American nonprofit groups that promote democracy in the Middle East, warning that the simmering dispute threatens billions in U.S. aid and the relationship between the two nations. He stopped short of saying whether his appeals during a recent trip to Egypt swayed the generals to drop charges against pro-democracy workers.
—Panetta said he does not think Israel has made a decision to launch a military strike on Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions.
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