House Intel Chair Volunteers Arab League to Help Secure Chemical Weapons

Rogers: Snowden is a "felon."
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
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Sara Sorcher
Sept. 12, 2013, 8:41 a.m.

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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