Rep. Schiff Statement on Russian Proposal on Syrian Chemical Weapons

Washington, DC –Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, released the following statement on the recent developments with the Russian proposal on Syrian chemical weapons:

“Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that a U.S. strike on Syria’s chemical weapons infrastructure could be avoided if Assad gave up his chemical weapons stockpile.  Within hours, the idea was picked up by the Russian foreign minister who called on Syria to put its arsenal of poison gas under UN supervision and control. The offer may be merely a delaying tactic, or an attempt to sow division in the international community in an effort to fend off a military strike. Nevertheless the Russians were shrewd to make this offer, and it would be equally wise for the U.S. to pursue this option with great vigor.

“We have a compelling moral and humanitarian interest in seeing that Bashar Al-Assad never uses chemical weapons again, not against Syrian civilians, not against anyone.  The images of the dead and dying, men, women and children are indelibly fixed in our minds.  We also have a core national security interest in making sure that when the Assad regime comes to an end, his chemical weapons stockpiles do not fall into the wrong hands. The worst case scenario for the United States would be to see Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, Hezbollah or similar terrorist organizations gain control of these weapons and use them against us. In the inevitable chaos that would follow the collapse of the Assad regime, this is not an insubstantial fear.

“A targeted military strike would have the capacity to deter and degrade the Assad regime's further use of chemical weapons.  But as I raised in a meeting yesterday with Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Rice, General Dempsey and others, it would not address the core concern that ultimately these stockpiles may fall into the wrong hands.  United Nations’ custody and control of the chemical weapons stockpiles may be a more effective way of ensuring that neither Assad nor Al Qaeda ever uses these weapons again.

“The Russians have a poor track record when it comes to Syria, the U.N., and the use of chemical weapons.  They have repeatedly used their veto in the UN Security Council to thwart international action to hold the Assad regime accountable for its use of chemical weapons and failed to support even the most anodyne statements in the UN condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  It must be acknowledged that the credible threat of military force is the only reason they are now advancing this proposal – which goes far beyond anything they have thus far been willing to support.

“But whatever the motivation, we should seize the opportunity – as difficult as it may prove in the middle of a civil war – to bring about UN control over one of the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpiles.  The effort to place, and ultimately destroy, these stockpiles under UN supervision will once again put the United States and all of our traditional allies including the British on the same page.  

“The Assad regime still needs to be held accountable for its war crimes.  A hundred thousand people have been killed and the regime has violated a century old prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.  But our immediate, overriding concern must be the cessation of the use of chemical weapons and the imposition of UN control over them as soon as possible. Working with the international community, including the Russians, to bring about the cease fire necessary to secure these weapons holds the potential of putting the conflict back on the track of a negotiated resolution – the only true hope of ending the civil war.”