Rep. Rogers warns that Syria is ready to use chemical weapons
Rogers said the international community should not accept assurances from Syrian officials that chemical agents will not be used, and called the recent developments a shift in posture and a major concern, according to Reuters.
"I believe that they have put elements of their chemical weapons program in a condition of which they could be used at a moment's notice, which is very different from before," Rogers said, Reuters reports. "And some notion that they have promised not to use them, I don't think the international community...should take that on face value."
Damascus has called recent warnings issued by Western governments against the use of chemical weapons a pretext to intervene in the conflict on the side of the opposition.
Rogers' comments came amid reports that the Syrian military used Scud ballistic missiles against the rebels for the first time. The Scud, a Soviet-era missile, is not believed to be an overly effective weapon to use against small numbers of troops fighting from dispersed positions. Because they can be fitted with chemical payloads, however, their use is being seen as an escalation in the nature of the fighting, according to Haaretz.com.
"So Scuds, and I make the next leap of chemical weapons, I think is of real concern," Rogers said, Reuters reports.
Rogers indicated that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is facing an increasing desperate situation and the United States must be ready to handle the eventual fallout.
"And again that doesn't mean boots on the ground," Rogers said, Reuters reports. "It does mean that we have unique capabilities that we should at least offer as a part of the discussion of how we prevent the use of these chemical weapons and the sheer humanitarian crisis in the region that I think would be created by their use."