Panetta says intel on Syrian chemical weapons preparations is leveling off

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said intelligence relating to Syrian preparations of its chemical weapons stockpiles does not indicate any immediate deployment or use of its chemical weapons.

Panetta announced that relevant intelligence has "really kind of leveled off," according to CBS News.

"We haven't seen anything new indicating any aggressive steps to move forward in that way," Panetta said, CBS News reports.

The secretary said that U.S. officials are continuing to monitor the situation and are making it clear to Damascus that the government should not use chemical weapons on its own population or risk facing serious consequences.

U.S. officials recently said that trucks were seen moving to and from bunkers at some of the two dozen bases where the regime is believed to store its chemical arsenal and precursor chemicals. The officials said the evidence that President Bashar al-Assad was preparing to use the weapons was strong, but also circumstantial.

Rebel fighters are close enough to Damascus, the government's capital and stronghold, that Assad seems to be increasingly cornered.

"I'd like to believe he's got the message, we've made it pretty clear and others have as well," Panetta said, CBS News reports. "But you know it's also clear that the opposition continues to make gains in Syria and our concern is that if they feel like the regime is threatened with collapse that they might resort to these kinds of weapons."