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Russia-brokered plan for Syria: If it's approved, can it be verified? (+video)

Rounding up a nation's chemical weapons stockplie – amid civil war – is no small task. Secretary Hagel says the US must 'be clear-eyed and ensure it is not a stalling tactic' by Russia or Syria.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / September 10, 2013


WASHINGTON

As Russia promptly seized on Secretary of State John Kerry’s apparently off-hand remark that, if the Syrians surrender all of their chemical weapons, the country might avert a US military strike, the next question becomes how to verify that this happens.

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Rounding up a nation's entire stockpile of chemical weapons – in the middle of a civil war – is no small task. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told lawmakers Tuesday that he is “hopeful” that the plan to have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime “swiftly turn its chemical weapons arsenal over to international control so that it can be destroyed forever in a verifiable manner” could be “a real solution to the crisis.”

That said, “We must be clear-eyed and ensure it is not a stalling tactic by Syria and its Russian patrons,” he added, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

In other words, trust but verify – with a strong emphasis on the verify. 

The Syrians, backed by the Russians, insist they will help with this by providing the actual location of their caches.

“We’re ready to inform about the location of chemical weapons, halt the production of chemical weapons, and also show these objects to representatives of Russia, other states, and the United Nations,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Tuesday. 

For the Syrians to admit that they do have chemical weapons – a fact that they had denied in the past – is a big step, analysts point out.

But how can the United States be sure the regime will see to it that they are all destroyed?

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