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December 8, 2022

U.S. defense secretary notes ‘enhanced’ capabilities amid Mideast unrest

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Sunday that American forces can “deal with any potential contingencies” in the Middle East, especially after the military’s capabilities were recently “enhanced” after attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions, CNN informs. Speaking to reporters en route to Tokyo, Panetta said recent unrest underscores the importance of having vibrant, flexible U.S. military capabilities in the region. “The events of this week remind all of us of the need to maintain a strong presence in the Middle East,” Panetta said. Some of that comes from U.S. forces’ extensive roots in the region, including bases in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and elsewhere. Those troops make it easier to respond to crises in the region, which Panetta acknowledged, as do other recent moves, which include calling on members of small Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams, or FAST, teams and moving warships in the region. “Earlier last week, vigorous and sometimes violent protests broke out near U.S. embassies around the world over the “Innocence of Muslims,” an obscure film mocking the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer.Outpourings soon spread like wildfire across the Muslim world. As a result, Western diplomats found themselves and their missions under siege, even as American leaders criticized the film and emphasized the U.S. government had nothing to do with it.The influential leader of the Lebanon-based Shia Muslim militant group, Hezbollah, has called for fresh protests over an anti-Islam film, the BBC informs. The world needed to know Muslims “would not be silent in the face of this insult”, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said. He branded the video an “unprecedented” insult to Islam – worse, he said, than Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses and the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which were published in a Danish newspaper in 2005. Also on Monday, Iran vowed to track down and punish the makers of the film. “The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran condemns … this inappropriate and offensive action,” First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said, according to the Mehr news agency.

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