Disrupt   |  September 14, 2013

How will deal on Syrian weapons actually work?

There may be framework in place for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, but this is all about the details: What Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has, who’s going to go in and get it, and how you pull that off in the middle of an ongoing civil war. Ret. Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich and Ploughshares Fund’s Joe Cirincione discuss with Karen Finney.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> breakthrough deal, secretary kerry heads to jerusalem and paris tomorrow to discuss the plan. it's a whirlwind diplomatic tour with officials from france, the uk and saudi arabia . there may be a framework in place for the elimination of syria 's chemical weapons but this is all about the details. what assad has, who's going to go in and get it and how you actually pull that off in the midst of an ongoing civil war . the framework lays out an aggressive time line of one week to declare the full extent of the equipment and stockpile. inspectors have a month to survey and take production equipment out of commission and the entirety of syria 's weapons material is set to be deploy stroied in the first half of 2014 . administration officials tell nbc news these are just targets, not hard deadlines but it still begs the question, how will they get it all done? meantime, the use of force is not off the table. so, president obama could still go to the u.n. security council or take action on his own if the process breaks down. with me now, andrew basivic,

author of "breach of trust: how americans failed their soldiers and their country." and joe cencioni. thanks to you both for joining me.

>> thank you.

>> my pleasure.

>> i want to talk about how this process would work because i understand it's not konl complicated bah lengthy process and a very difficult time consuming one, not to mention where these folks would be willing asked to do this in the midst of a civil war .

>> karen, this is a huge step forward . lots of presidents have wanted to take away assad 's chemical weapons . there are obstacles heading in the path of this, of this final achievement. you have to get the inspectors in to syria , in a civil war . you will have to negotiate, no fire zones with the government and with the rebels. and then you have got to secure all of these weapons which have been scattered in to dozens of different sites. you would like to bring them back in to several central locations and then decide whether you destroy them on site which is what we usually do with chemical weapons and what the u.s. and russia have been doing for two decades or do you want to move them out of the country? there was some talk of that in the announcement of the agreement. and all of this is going to take time and require international cooperation . the good news is that we have international organizations that have been set up to do exactly this kind of work and we can make use of them and then it's not a u.s. effort. we are not paying for it. we'll -- not firing any bullets. we are not spending any money. there won't be any u.s. boots on the ground .

>> to that point, professor, you know, the pentagon report that it would take approximately 75,000 troops to seize syria 's chemical weapons , is it realistic, again, this is in the middle of a civil war and realistic of no boots on the ground or no need for boots on the ground ?

>> there's going to have to be people on the ground to secure the weapons and to account for them and to begin the process of moving them but it doesn't follow they have to be american boots on the ground . i would add another point and you have done a great job of summarizing some of the complexities but there's an additional one. success assume that is the syrian government is going to cooperate in this. i mean, as i understand it, the agreements such as it is is an agreement between russia and the united states . well guess what. syria is not a russian puppet. assad has his own interests. and one could argue that his willingness to actually implement the agreement is going to stem from the agreement somehow serving his purposes and his ultimate purpose, of course, is to stay in power. i don't think we can assume the syrians cooperate.

>> i agree but the question i would put back to you is, at the same time, we know there's a little bit of a symbiotic relationship of russia and syria . i believe that part of the reason that putin , you know, took this in addition to the threat of force, that he took this step because we have noticed that it's not about assad stepping down, so they do have some common interest there and assume that is they might work together in concert.

>> i mean, putin has now made himself a leading candidate to win the nobel peace prize . over the last three or four days, his status has a global statesman has gone through the roof. and he would like, i imagine, to sustain that. and therefore, he has a stake in ensuring that the agreement works. assad knows that putin has a stake and therefore that puts assad in a position to do some horse trading . i'm not trying to say it ain't going to work. i'm skeptical and won't work absent the assad regime cooperating.

>> you know, joe , to that point, i mean and to the point of the complexity, just -- we took a look at our own united states disarmament and we know that in the united states we have 3,000 tons of chemical weapons remaining. the original deadline was 2007 . and the expected completion was 2023 . so, you know, as the professor points out, from a diplomatic front, there is a lot of trust that has to be put on the table. but again, the actual work of disarming these weapons is very time consuming.

>> yes. it is. we have been destroying the 30,000 tons of chemical weapons we built in the cold war and the russians destroying the 40,000 tons that they built during the cold war and we have been doing that for almost 20 years now. it's difficult, tricky work but we have other comparisons. india and south korea both declared arsenals about the size of syria 's. it took them two to four years to destroy their weapons. we have a lot of international expertise that knows how to do this. teams of international experts who have helped eliminate nuclear weapons in over 15 different countries. you can do it here as long as the syrian government is cooperating and can't force the government to do it. they have to cooperate and that is why assad actually has -- is so necessary to this process. he sees this as a lifeline. as long as he's giving up the chemical weapons , he's holding off a u.s. attack. that's why he's doing it. but that's how you get agreements. when you're strategic interests overlap n. this case, russia , syria and the u.s. have strategic interests in parallel here and leading to getting rid of those weapons that could kill millions of people.

>> professor, one of the things about this deal, obviously, is that it doesn't necessarily address the underlying civil war , the underlying problems in the region. i know that's something you have written about and i want to wrote from something you wrote. from the rae reagan era on, u.s. forces covert operationives engage in hostile actions. not to mention iraq and afghanistan. consider them altogether what you have is a war for the grater middle east . professor, to this point, yes, we will take out the weapons, these chemical weapons . assad at this point is in place and doesn't seem that we have made progress on not only solving the underlying civil war but as we have been talking about over the last weeks, in many ways sir why's a proxy war for the broader middle east .

>> yes. i mean, in that regard, even if this deal works out, it's far too soon to spike the football. as joe mentioned, the civil war continues. the civil war really is the principle reason why we see syria as a crisis. my larger argument is that we ought not to overstate the importance of that crisis, to some degree, the real question that the united states should be asking itself is whether opening up a new front in this war makes any sense because if you look at the history, the history of u.s. military involvement going back to the 1980s when ronald reagan sent marines in to beirut, we have not made the region more stable, we have not made the region more diplomatic or the people in that part of the world love america. on the contrary, it's the opposite and the real question to me is whether a militarized approach makes any sense. my answer, it doesn't.

>> joe , i will let you have a quick reaction and then we have to go.

>> i think andrew is right and that's why you heard the spokes people talk about this as a first step to lead to other negotiations that could actually stop the slaughter in syria .

>> i think that is also why the american people were so reluctant to get involved. thank you to andrew and joe . and also thank you, sir, for your service to our country.

>> thank you.

>>> when we come back, the real reason senator cruz wants 100 more like jesse helms .

>> we need 100 more like jesse helms in the u.s. senate .

>> oh my god. oh my god. 100 more cray sys