The chairman of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence suggested Thursday that Russia’s plan to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons was prompted by Moscow’s fear of being exposed as a supplier of the illegal arsenal.
Rep. Michael Rogers, Michigan Republican, said that if there is any prospect for international inspections of Syria’s arsenals, the Russians “want to be the first ones in the door, because there might be some stuff with Cyrillic writing” on it that they want to secure.
“I’m just guessing,” Mr. Rogers told a day-long summit organized by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
The intelligence committee chairman said that Russia’s proposal was not based on humanitarian motives but on Moscow’s desire to retain control. The offer averted U.S. plans to strike Syria’s chemical stockpile, thought to be one of the world’s largest.
Noting that President Bashar Assad’s government is one of Moscow’s key clients, Mr. Rogers said that Russian forces have been in Syria before and during its civil war, “and they want to be [there] after.”
“I’m skeptical, I hope it works,” he said of the Russian plan.
His comments were echoed by his committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, who noted the Russian proposal was prompted by public threats from President Obama to punish Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
“We are here because of the threat of military force,” Mr. Ruppersberger said of the situation, in which the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are weighing the Russian plan.
Both men expressed the concern that Syria, and perhaps Russia, might try to stall the plan to give Mr. Assad time to consolidate his recent military gains against the insurgents, and urged their colleagues to be ready to again take up discussions on a U.S. strike.
“If this is a stalling tactic, we have to carry on with the threat of war,” Mr. Ruppersberger said.
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