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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 9th, 2013
06:44 PM ET

House Intel. Chair: Thousands of al Qaeda now in Syria

House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers says Syria "is a disaster waiting to happen."

"The estimates now are thousands...[of] al Qaeda in a destabilized country," Rogers told CNN's Jake Tapper Tuesday.

Rogers said intelligence sources now believe the number of al Qaeda-affiliated soldiers, members of the al Nusra Front, fighting alongside Syrian rebel sources against Bashar al-Assad's government has swelled from hundreds to thousands. The congressman described a perfect storm of anti-American elements encircling the embattled capital of Damascus, adding he is "very" concerned al Nusra, Hezbollah, and even Hamas, could get their hands on chemical and conventional weapons stockpiles.

This news out of Syria comes amid ever-escalating tensions in North Korea.

Rogers said Kim Jong Un's latest actions – cautioning foreigners in South Korea to evacuate – break the pattern of tamping up tensions before ultimately backing down established by his father.

In other words, Un isn't your father's North Korean dictator.

"His father used to do this but you could tell when he was getting ready to back down," Rogers said. "As aggressive as he has been, it's a little bit out of the box of where his father was."

Earlier Tuesday, Pyongyang issued a warning to foreign nationals in the south of the peninsula, urging them to flee the country lest they "fall victim to the war." Rogers said the North Korean dictator's rhetoric and the latest provocations at the joint North Korean-South Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex might mean Un is hoping for a "small" fight.

"Our concern is [Kim Jong Un] may even be looking for...some small skirmish to embolden his credentials with the military," Rogers said.

While saying the White House was initially slow to react to Kim Jong Un's statements, the Republican praised the Obama administration for its handling of the Korean response.

"I'm glad they did it," Rogers said, referring to the Pentagon's decision to move interceptor missiles into the region. "I thought that was absolutely appropriate."

More on Rep. Mike Rogers political ambitions  

Rogers intimated the next step for the Obama administration should be to apply pressure on Beijing. The Michigan Republican said the Chinese government could stop the "black market fuel purchases" occurring near the Chinese and North Korean border. Though Rogers is confident such a move would deflate Kim Jong Un's military push, the congressman said that would only happen if the White House intensifies its diplomatic efforts.

"If China wants, they can stop all of that," Rogers said. "That will hurt North Korea more than anything."

For more of this interview, including Rep. Mike Rogers views on gun control, click on the video above.

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