December 7th, 2012
04:09 PM ET

Intel chair warns U.S. must act if Syria moves to use chemical weapons

By Elise Labott reporting from Manama, Bahrain

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Friday warned the Obama administration it must act more urgently to prevent Syria's government from using chemical weapons.

Rep. Mike Rogers told attendees at the IISS Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrian that the United States has a moral obligation to act immediately if there is concrete proof chemical weapons are loaded and being readied for launch.

Recent U.S. intelligence suggests the Syrian government has started mixing chemical weapons compounds and loading them into bombs, though the bombs are not being moved to any delivery devices, CNN's Barbara Starr reported.

Visibly frustrated, Rogers argued the United States and the international community were way behind in acting to prevent use of chemical weapons, saying there was a robust debate in Washington on what constitutes a red line for military action - before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad moves to use weapons or after the weapons are launched.

President Barack Obama said this summer that any effort to move or use chemical weapons was a red line.

"A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized," Obama said. Though he prefaced that remark by saying the concern was the weapons falling into others hands. With the new intelligence, administration warnings have focused not on moving, but on using the weapons.

Rogers' sense of urgency was reflected by others at this influential Middle Eastern meeting.

There was a sense among attendees, especially among representatives of the Syrian opposition in attendance, that the al-Assad government was growing ever more desperate - making it more dangerous. The recent reporting about how the leader's military is preparing chemical weapons was a subject of much discussion in the hallways.

The intelligence chairman from Michigan also seemed to be softening his own stance about arming the Syrian rebels.

Rogers said the United States still needs to better understand who they would be providing arms to, and to ensure they don't end up in the hands of extremists.

But he said he believes the United States should be much more involved in arming, training and providing intelligence to rebels to ensure that the rebels are acting in a proper way and not working to closely with extremist groups such as al-Nusra.

Rogers suggested the prospect of arming the rebels could be a matter of discussion at the upcoming Friends of Syria meeting next week in Morocco, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is attending. This sentiment was echoed by other diplomats at the conference.

Mustapha Sabbagh, one of the leaders of of the new Syrian opposition coalition, said that procrastination and reluctance of the international community to get involved militarily has led to further militarization and radicalization of the conflict. He urged the world to do more.

Sabbagh called on Russia and Iran to stop supporting the 'killing machine' of al-Assad's government.

"I would be very embarrassed for Russia when the file is opened about their involvement in Syria," he told the delegates.

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Rev Dr Felix Nwosu

    THE QUESTION HERE DO THEY TRUELY HAVE CHEMICAL WEAPONS. IF TRUELY THEY DO OBAMA SHOULD ACT FAST BECAUSE THAT MAN IN SYRIA IS HEARTLESS AND TERRIBLELY WICKED.

    December 9, 2012 at 5:42 am | Reply
    • Lyndsie Graham

      Good grief Dr Felix Nwosu, do you really think that that man in Syria as you call him is any more heartless and terribly wicked than Barack Obama is himself? I don't think so since Obama keeps on using those ungodly drones over in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, dropping 500 lb. bombs on defenseless people!

      December 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  2. massoud

    Where is the balanced reporting from the MSM on Syria? The NY Times said the most successful element of the rebels had ties to a terrorist organization. The rebels leading the way do not want democracy for Syria they want power at all costs including committing atrocities in Damascus and Aleppo against innocent civilians. The USA should retire its badge from being the police men of the world and let some other country spend money on global conflicts, give us a break already we are going broke and our military could use a rest for awhile after 2 wars the past decade.

    December 8, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  3. lucas mbuthia

    If at all the u.s intelligence have enough information about the bombs,then the u.s government should not be considering use of military confrontation but should be working on diplomatic grounds to settle this.why?,because if they decide to use military force they will trigger hostility from syria's allies and the consequences will be fatal beyond any man's imagination and in that case syria will trigger the bombs just to prove a point!

    December 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  4. SayanIndia

    However lack of force multipliers in Syrian Air Force is a welcome relief.

    Sayan.

    December 8, 2012 at 9:43 am | Reply
  5. SayanIndia

    In case of a confrontation the United States Navy (USN) airborne platforms will have to operate over an intense Syrian Integrated Air Defence (IAD) network.

    The combat effectiveness of USN EA-18G ‘Growler’ electronic warfare platforms will be tested to their limits.

    Sayan.

    December 8, 2012 at 9:20 am | Reply
    • Da Pops

      Great techno-speak.. but the first strick would not come from naval assets ... we would hit them from the air.. and then the AF in Turkey will show why they have been stationed there for over 50 yrs. The naval assets will be used once we send ground troops.

      December 8, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Reply
  6. StanCaif

    Syria is not Iraq. GW and Dick fabricated intelligence to justify "Shock and Awe". Their goal was Iraq's oil, nothing else! Our invasion of Iraq was supposed to be paid for afterwards with oil! GW was nothing more than an idiot guided by Dick and all his oil buddies. When Dick's plan to get Iraqi oil failed, he secretly met with oil companies and turned them loose in the Gulf of Mexico. Result? You know.
    GW delivered his "Mission accomplished" statement aboard a US aircraft carrier at sea. Why didn't he deliver this message personally from Baghdad?
    Can you imagine where we would be today if McCaine/Palin had won? McCaine ready to fight anyone, Palin ready to drill for oil anywhere!
    Hey, Romney lost the election! All of the GOP billionaire donors failed to "buy" the presidency! There is hope!
    Obama may not be the best president, but I am very pleased he is NOT a GW nor a Romney! Most Americans are not millionaires and bilionaires represented by the GOP! Now the GOP is scratching their heads wondering why they failed.
    Simple answer: When you destroy middle class, hard working people's lives – you lose!

    December 8, 2012 at 9:11 am | Reply
    • jonny

      How does a trillion dollar deficit help anyone??? rich or poor ????

      December 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Reply
  7. Kyle H. Davis

    This is an obvious ploy to pull American sentiment into justifying military action in Syria.
    Months ago, Obama made the same statement about "the line", and specifically stated "chemical weapons".
    Weeks ago he came out with the same thing, out of the blue.
    Days later, the Pentagon stated that there was no evidence whatsoever of chemical weapons being mixed and/or loaded.
    The SAME DAY, the "intelligence" community claimed they had proof.
    Now it isn't a "if they are used", they are speaking of doing something BEFORE they are used.

    SHEEPLE... open your eyes.

    December 8, 2012 at 8:44 am | Reply
  8. Yob Vashu Mat

    Do they see 800 000 tons of WMD CLEARLY – again, on satellite photos?
    As clear as Iraq fiasco?

    December 8, 2012 at 5:14 am | Reply
  9. jacky sinha

    As the news coming about use of chemical but yet it has remained left to any evident that syria is going to use it in the weapon one thing is very clear that it all will create so much unrest to people of syria as well as it will be very disastrous too for environment

    December 8, 2012 at 3:01 am | Reply
    • Da Pops

      Like father like son ... his dad killed 20K in Homs back in the 80s.. oh wait, you probably weren't born yet.. do your research fool.

      December 8, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  10. Sam

    DOES ANYONE STILL REMEBER ALL OF THOSE NON-EXISTING "MOBILE WMD LABS CRUISING DESERT AT HIGH SPEED" – WHICH ACTUALLY TURNED OUT TO BE A LIE.

    December 8, 2012 at 2:09 am | Reply
  11. Sam

    INCUBATOR BABIES ALL OVER AGAIN! STOP LYING TO US.

    December 8, 2012 at 2:08 am | Reply
  12. Sam

    'No confirmed reports' Syrian govt preparing to use chemical weapons – UN chief

    December 8, 2012 at 2:07 am | Reply
  13. diego lee

    this guy, the president in tears, has no balls i'm sure; remember how he appealed Medvedev not to bother him for missile system so after election he could handle it. America values are fading and fading under this ridiculous president. leave syria behind, i think if another 9/11 occurs the only thing he will do would be apologizing muslims and assuring Americans to punishing terrorists by drones! black days for America.

    December 8, 2012 at 1:17 am | Reply
    • Doug

      Perhaps the money would be better spent on furthering your English education.

      December 8, 2012 at 5:08 am | Reply
      • MC

        Haha! Love it!

        December 8, 2012 at 6:14 am |
      • diego lee

        oh DoughDab! been annoyed? what's the matter? you black or under Fed food stamp? rubbish 50% Mitt hinted no matter to ignore cos they dont understand pure values America built upon.

        December 9, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  14. Jeff

    December 2st is just around the corner.

    December 8, 2012 at 12:57 am | Reply
  15. durak

    The Rebels aren't any better than the bad guys in power. Now what?

    December 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  16. Quigley

    Here goes another right-wing thug( Sen. Mike Rogers) preaching the "glory of war" and why we must butt into that civil war in Syria! No wonder we can't balance the national budget with these right-wing nutjobs running things on Capitol Hill! This is truly nauseating!

    December 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Reply
    • robtemery

      You are too kind

      December 8, 2012 at 12:38 am | Reply
    • massoud

      Apparently you have no problem with obama violating the war powers act in Libya by using our missiles against them where 30,000 civilians were killed. obama without a congressional vote attacked a country that posed no threat to the USA 's security. Be consistent or you no credibility.

      December 9, 2012 at 12:04 am | Reply
  17. 200 TON HAMMER

    cnn thank you for letting people really know whats going on.

    December 7, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  18. Nick

    While I'm musing though...lets play HYPOTHETICAL PAST! Ok, Occupy Wall St. was protesting. Cops starting firing rubber bullets, beating people with batons, forcibly evicting people from a location of protest, and overall just trampled human rights left and right.

    Instead of fizzling out, like what did happen, they FOUGHT BACK. The police force would ramp up pressure, and then real bullets start flying. The OCCUPY OPPOSITION starts fighting back with weapons funneling in from up and down the east coast. All of a sudden, we have "ARMED CRIMINALS" who are attempting...OVER THROW OF THE GOVERNMENT for OPPRESSIVE control of it's citizens ability voice it's opinions. Our government wouldn't stand down in the face of armed insurrection...so why would they expect ASSAD to do so.

    December 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Reply
    • Doug

      Because the those little tree huggers that were hiding in the bushes calling for one of those Big gun selling Oil soaked Republicans to save us from ourselves were disrupting day to day life of the MAJORITY and becoming a danger to themselves.

      December 8, 2012 at 5:15 am | Reply
  19. Nick

    And the final act is starting. This long term strategy will ensure WWIII.

    December 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  20. FrankO

    What, NOW you care about the people being killed? Or is it just HOW they are killed? What's the difference? War has become very weird.

    December 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  21. Tim

    Bring the house down on these dirt bags!

    December 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  22. wmd

    could these be the same wmd's that Saddam had when g w wiped out Iraq???

    December 7, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • Syria is not Iraq

      Um, no. Syria is not iraq, Syria definitely has chemical weapons and is backed by Iran, China, and Russia. These are actual chemical weapons. Also, Iraq did have WMD's at one point, which actually used to gas and kill 5,000 Kurds.

      December 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply

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