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House Intel Chairman: Syria ‘Serious As It Gets’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, who told ABC News Thursday that “our national security interests do lie in Syria right now,” is nevertheless disappointed by a perceived lack of engagement between the White House and Congress. He implored President Obama Thursday to undertake a heavy dose of congressional consultation before launching a potential strike on Syria. Rogers is scheduled to participate in a White House briefing Thursday evening.

“The president should get buy-in from members of Congress. He needs buy-in from the American people and the best way to do that is consult, the way the law requires for the president, especially when something this serious as a military strike is in the discussion realm,” Rogers, R-Mich., told ABC News in an interview at the Capitol. “The president will not do himself or the American people well if he decides to act without trying to get that buy-in.”

“Candidly, I haven’t seen a strategy here, I think the American people haven’t seen a strategy here, and I know Congress hasn’t,” he added.

Rogers said nobody from the White House has formally consulted with him, although he said he has sought out classified briefings from the intelligence community. The White House has not yet provided Congress with its own intelligence report regarding the purported chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21; it’s still expected to come out this week.

“I have a separate string of review that I have the ability to participate in, but there’s been no formal consultations,” Rogers stressed. “This is not a ‘check the box’ exercise. This is as serious as it gets. You’re going to engage the U.S. military.”

Rogers warned not only of the consequences of engaging militarily, but also of repercussions of inaction following the “red line” the president set last year regarding the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. He pointed to escalating threats from al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists spreading throughout Syria like al Nusra and al Sham, as well as Hezbollah, a Shia-based faction that is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group.

“Do you risk getting sucked into something that you don’t want the country to be sucked into, and does [a military strike] cause an inflammation in the region?” Rogers said. “We know that al Qaeda wants to get their hands on chemical weapons. They’ve talked about it for years. [Not acting] presents their best hope and opportunity to get their hands on chemical weapons. That’s why I think our national security interests do lie in Syria right now.”

While Congress is not scheduled to return to session until Sept. 9, Rogers said depending on the president’s timeline for possible military force, the president should call on Congress to reconvene.

“We need to have full consultation to understand that this isn’t a one-time event and then you sail away.”

Rogers said he believes the president is “legally obligated” to consult Congress, but argued the War Powers Act “fully” provides the commander-in-chief the ability to launch a military strike without a vote for congressional authorization.

“This is not the first chemical attack in Syria. There have been multiple chemical attacks in Syria,” Rogers said, counting “nearly 10″ chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime. “Through those [attacks] you collect intelligence and you learn exactly how command and control works on who decides and how that decision translates from ‘go use it’ to somebody moving out and using those chemical weapons.”

The Assad regime, added Rogers, used chemical weapons to deny the opposition forces access to areas that were important strategic battlefields and could give them tactical advantage: “A rational, reasonable person could look at all of those streams of information and come to the conclusion that the regime used chemical weapons to gain a tactical advantage on the battlefield. And that’s what I believe is exactly what happened.”

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