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A look at the US-Russia agreement on Syria weapons

Highlights of the U.S.-Russian deal establishing a framework to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.


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—The U.S. and Russia agree to work together on a U.N. Security Council resolution that would ensure verification of the agreement to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stocks and remove its capability to produce such weapons.

The resolution would come under Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter, which allows for military action. But U.S. officials acknowledge Russia would veto such a step and they do not contemplate seeking authorization for the use of force.

U.S. officials stress that President Barack Obama retains his right to conduct military strikes to defend American national security interests in the absence of U.N. authorization.

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—The U.S. and Russia give Syria one week, until Sept. 21, to submit ‘‘a comprehensive listing, including names, types and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and locale and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.’’

—The U.S. and Russia agree that international inspectors should be on the ground in Syria by November and complete their initial work by the end of the month. They must be given ‘‘immediate and unfettered’’ access to inspect all sites. The destruction of chemical agent mixing and filling equipment must be completed by the end of November.

—The U.S. and Russia agree that all of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, material and equipment must be destroyed by mid-2014.


—Despite Russia’s close relationship and influence with Syria, there is not yet any indication that the Assad government will sign off on the details of the agreement. It contains requirements that are above and beyond the normal criteria for countries bound by the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria agreed to join earlier this week under pressure from Moscow.

—Although Russia has accepted the U.S. intelligence estimate that Syria has about 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons and precursors, the two sides have not agreed on the number of sites where they are manufactured and stored.

U.S. officials say they believe Syria maintains roughly 45 sites associated with chemical weapons, about half of which have ‘‘exploitable quantities’’ of chemicals. The Russian estimate is considerably lower, but U.S. officials would not say by how much. This could be an issue in determining where the inspectors are to work.

—Details about the composition of the inspection teams and their security must still be determined. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which technically is in charge of the inspections, has never mounted an operation as complex as this and will require assistance from outside parties to conduct the work. Nationalities of inspectors as well as the guards who will provide security for them must still be determined.

—No specific penalties for Syrian noncompliance have been agreed. Those will be left up to the Security Council. Russia has made clear that any allegation of noncompliance will have to be thoroughly investigated before the council can take action, meaning Moscow could drag out the process or veto measures it deems too harsh.

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