Rep. Mike Rogers said on Thursday that the White House "took too long" in declaring that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military had used chemical weapons against opposition forces in the civil war that has killed more than 93,000 people.
"They tried to outsource it to the United Nations," Rogers, the Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Bret Baier on Fox News. "There's no substitute. You cannot outsource U.S. leadership. It just doesn’t work.
"Our Arab League partners wanted U.S. leadership on this — and, again, this is not about boots on the ground and military action," Rogers added. "There's a whole host of things that U.S. credibility brings to very hard decisions that are being made in a place like Syria. None of that really happened.
"We lost credibility with our Arab League partners. We lost credibility with the opposition, which is why the Secretary of State [John Kerry] is having a difficult time trying to get some agreement on a diplomatic solution.
"You have to show that leadership role in order to corral all the forces on the ground in Syria into a difficult agreement. We don’t have that yet."
The Obama administration said on Thursday that it had definitive evidence that Assad’s regime had used sarin and other chemical weapons against opposition forces.
"The Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including Sarin, on a small scale multiple times in the last year," Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said in a late-afternoon news conference with reporters. "We have a high degree of confidence in this information.
"This is a high-confidence assessment," Rhodes said, adding: "The use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. This is a clearly evolving situation is Syria."
Rhodes, who said that as many as 100 to 150 people had died from chemical weapons use, said that the U.S. was increasing military support to the main Syrian rebel group in light of the revelation.
"The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition, that will involve providing direct support to the [Supreme Military Council], that includes military support," he said. "This is going to be different in both scope and scale in terms of what we are providing to the SMC than what we have provided before."
The Supreme Military Council is the military wing of the main civilian opposition group.
In March, Rogers said there was a "high probability" that chemical weapons had been used by Assad's regime.
"Many have said that there's clear evidence that chemical weapons have been used, maybe as long as a year or a year and a half ago," he told Fox. "This thing is deteriorating to a regional conflict, which is dangerous to the national security of the United States.
"The problem is, the announcement comes today; we still don’t have a plan."
He added that White House officials have been asked to meet with the Intelligence Committee to detail its plans for Syria.
"The Arab League is looking for leadership — not necessarily boots on the ground — but leadership," Rogers said. "We can bring unique capability to the situation.
"This is important. They have chemical weapons. Clearly, we've now seen that they've used them. We know that every flavor of terrorist in the world is in Syria right now, fighting and gaining experience, and they want to get their hands on those chemical weapons.
"We need to make sure that those groups do not get armed with something that causes a world-wide crisis."
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