Syria Chemical Weapons Proposal Requires Threat of Military Action, House Leaders Say
By Stew Magnuson
Recent proposals to waylay the threat of U.S. strikes against Syria by removing chemical weapons stockpiles requires that military options be left on the table, the top ranking leaders on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said Sept. 12.
"I believe there must be a credible military threat in order to continue to have a negotiated success," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the committee, said at an Intelligence and National Security Alliance conference in Washington, D.C. Otherwise, the Assad regime, which been accused of using chemical weapons against its own people, can stall for time, Rogers said.
The Syrian regime's main ally, Russia's leader Vladimir Putin, has asked that any proposal to remove chemical weapons stockpiles from Syria be accompanied with an assurance that there would not be any military strikes. Rogers said negotiations on how this disarmament plan would take place could drag on for months.
"This gives Assad time to dig in, to engage in a deception and denial campaign," Rogers said.
Ranking member on the committee, Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md., agreed. If this is a stalling tactic, the United States has to continue on with the threat of military action to maintain leverage, he said.
Rogers said that if there is some kind of international effort to go in to remove the chemical weapons, the Russians will probably want to be "the first ones in the door." He predicted that a lot of the equipment will have cyrillic writing on them.
And there are larger implications of the United States not following through on its threats, he said. "North Korea is eager to see us fall on our face," he said.
Rogers said the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Syria "wants to get their hands on these chemical weapons," which makes the weapons a threat to U.S. forces in the Middle East. He asserted that Arab allies in the region, for the same reason, would be willing to supply ground troops in any effort to secure the stockpiles.
There are new technologies that make destroying sarin nerve gas, which was the agent believed to have been used in an attack that killed some 1,400 in Syria last month, easier to do. Mustard gas would still require bringing in incinerators, he added. A surgical strike against the means used to deliver the weapons would be possible, he said.
Meanwhile, there are about 10,000 al-Qaida affiliated rebels operating in the eastern side of Syria, Rogers said. There has never been such a large pool of the group's fighters in one place, he said. They are coming from all over the world, including Europe and the United States, he said.
They have travel documents, and have been radicalized "When this is over ... Guess what? They are going home," Rogers said.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock, U.S. Congress