The US and Russia reached an agreement on a plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons.

From the State Department’s Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons:

Taking into account the decision of the Syrian Arab Republic to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the commitment of the Syrian authorities to provisionally apply the Convention prior to its entry into force, the United States and the Russian Federation express their joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program (CW) in the soonest and safest manner.

For this purpose, the United States and the Russian Federation have committed to prepare and submit in the next few days to the Executive Council of the OPCW a draft decision setting down special procedures for expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof. The principles on which this decision should be based, in the view of both sides, are set forth in Annex A. The United States and the Russian Federation believe that these extraordinary procedures are necessitated by the prior use of these weapons in Syria and the volatility of the Syrian civil war.

The United States and the Russian Federation commit to work together towards prompt adoption of a UN Security Council resolution that reinforces the decision of the OPCW Executive Council. This resolution will also contain steps to ensure its verification and effective implementation and will request that the UN Secretary-General, in consultation with the OPCW, submit recommendations to the UN Security Council on an expedited basis regarding the UN’s role in eliminating the Syrian chemical weapons program.

First the Obama administration’s stance was that Assad must go.  Then came the “red line” moment and the threats to strike Syria to hold Assad accountable for chemical weapons use.  We’ve gone from that sort of rhetoric, to being lectured by Vladimir Putin and just telling Assad to hand over the chemical weapons.

After all the variations of tough talk, the messaging has been a bit…confusing.

Syria has one week to account for all of its chemical weapons, and until November for on-site inspections of those declared sites .  In the first half of 2014, the expectation is complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment.  If Assad violates the agreement, it’s back to the UN.

As CNN points out in Obstacles, headaches in agreement over Syria, “The U.N. inspectors in Iraq spent seven years trying to uncover and destroy its weapons of mass destruction program.”  And in the midst of a civil war in Syria, there are any number of obstacles Assad can present to stall the destruction of chemical weapons.

While I think many are relieved not to be launching a military strike on Syria, there doesn’t seem to be have been any other major retribution for Assad’s use of those chemical weapons in the first place.


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