Despite calling the available options to secure Syria’s chemical weapons “pretty awful,” House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said it was possible to transfer the country’s massive stockpiles to international control — especially with Arab League troops on the ground.
“I do think you can get a good percentage of them, because the Assad regime is also worried these things could fall in the wrong hands and could be used against the regime,” Rogers told the Intelligence and National Security Alliance summit on Thursday.
President Obama this week asked a wary Congress to postpone a vote authorizing force to punish Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against his people to pursue diplomatic options instead. These options include a resolution at the United Nations Security Council requiring Assad to place his chemical arsenal under international control to be destroyed. Syria, one of the few countries that never signed the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, is believed to have one of the largest stockpiles of these weapons in the world — and securing and destroying them would be an arduous task even without a bloody civil war still raging.
To wade into Syria, where more than 100,000 people have died in the conflict, chemical-weapons inspectors would surely need protection. Rogers insisted there’s no need for U.S. boots on the ground in Syria. Instead, the Arab League is “willing to provide the support we need, including troops to go in and help secure those weapons systems, because they know how dangerous it is if it proliferates around the Levant,” he said.
“So I kind of hope we shake ourselves out of this malaise, and the administration regroups about how we could impact that with a plan that’s meaningful and embraces our Arab League partners eager to do it,” Rogers said. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey are the partners “eager” to take on the task, Rogers said.
By contrast, Rogers says no Republican or Democrat on his committee, or even on the Armed Services Committees, is interested in trying to put thousands of U.S. troops on the ground. “That’s nuts. It would be a horrible decision.”
Even with a concerted mission to protect and destroy the chemical weapons, there are dangerous consequences. “We do think there’s going to be some further dispersal of the chemical weapons,” Rogers said. This is especially worrying because — as ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., noted — other groups might like to get their hands on these weapons. “There’s al-Qaida on one side, Hezbollah on the other.”
Syria, Ruppersberger says, cannot be trusted to fully cooperate. “They have to be totally held accountable. I’m sure they’re moving [their stocks] right now knowing that this is coming at this point,” Ruppersberger told National Journal. “The only reason they’re agreeing to anything at this point is because of the threat of power.” Ruppersberger agrees Washington cannot take on this mission alone. “The United States can’t be the sheriff of the whole world; it’s got to be a coalition.”
Sarin, the nerve agent suspected of killing hundreds of people last month and sparking Washington’s call for military action, can be destroyed in a short period of time. “In the old days, it was a much more complicated process,” Rogers says. By contrast, mustard gas and other weapons “are going to take a lot longer; you’ve got to do it with incinerators.”
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."