Thomas Roberts   |  September 13, 2013

Safely removing Syria's chemical weapons

NBCNews.com's Alan Boyle joins MSNBC's Thomas Roberts to explains how Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons can be safely removed and destroyed.

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

>>> the push to get syria to hand over its now admitted chemical weapons stockpile. less than a day after the assad regime said they'd sign onto the chemical weapons ban, we just learned the foreign minister requested technical assistance . by some estimates syria has a thousand tons of chemical weapons . assuming that president assad agrees to give up his stockpile, what do you do with them? alan boyle just wrote about what it would take to destroy syria 's stockpile of chemical weapons . it's great to have you here, certainly with your expertise. what kind of chemicals are we talking about here? while we talk about their safe removal and then to oversee their safe destruction, what is done to destroy them?

>> well, syria has several types of chemical weapons . the blister agents , the mustard gas we remember from world war i movies and the nerve agents , sarin and vx. they're all nasty materials. so that's a big issue is what you're going to do to get rid of them. and assuming that syria follows through, they're going to have to go through whole international routine in order to monitor those weapons, get them in, keep a watch on them and eventually destroy them. that's what this process with the watchdog agency is all about, to try to do that in a way that people are assured that those weapons are really gone.

>> so, alan , we've really leapfrogged here because syria will not admit that it used these weapons on its own people. however, they have now come forward to admit that they have these mysterious weapons that everyone had always considered them to have. and i think the french have the most damning facts about the 1,000 tons of chemical weapons , but we do know there are five different places that they have been moving around syria . and they have been on the move to make everybody keep guessing about where they could be. these are very scattered. so it's like finding a needle in a haystack . how do we find all these needles if we don't know if we're working with honest people in syria , especially from the assad regime?

>> that's a huge issue, thomas. in fact there are reports that syria has been moving those weapons around to as many as 50 places to try to keep them hidden. and so if they go through with this disclosure process, they're going to have to tell the opcw, this watchdog agency, where these weapons are and the inspectors from the agency are going to have to monitor those weapons. but it's an issue of verification that syria really is telling the truth. and so this agency will be receiving reports. there are all sorts of intelligence reports that the u.s. and other countries are getting. they'll pass them on to the inspectors. if syria may have a cache of chemical weapons that they're not telling anyone about, the opcw has the ability to go in there and do a challenge inspection, but it's a very tricky issue and that's going to be one of the big challenges going forward.

>> a lot to talk about. alan boyle, thanks so much. i want to recommend to everybody that they be sure to read alan 's entire article. you can find it at nbcnews.com. alan , thanks again, sir. appreciate it.