Five days after Secretary of State John Kerry’s off-the-cuff suggestion that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could avoid an air strike by “[turning] over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week,” the United States and Russia have reached an agreement on how to make that happen. This morning, Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, held a press conference in Geneva to announce the terms of the deal, which first requires Syria to submit a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical weapons arsenal within the next week.
The next step calls for weapons inspectors to enter Syria by November, which is also when the country’s “equipment for producing chemical weapons and filling munitions with poison gas must be destroyed,” according to the New York Times. The goal is to eliminate Syria’s estimated 1,000 metric tons of mustard gas, sarin gas, and other chemical weapons “in the first half of 2014.” If Syria fails to fulfill its end of the deal, then the country will face consequences with the U.N., though it’s not clear what those consequences would be. Kerry said that the situation could be addressed by Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which authorizes military and non-military sanctions, but Russia would still likely veto the use of force in Syria. Meanwhile, Kerry maintained that President Obama had the right to launch a strike, if necessary. “There’s no diminution of options,” he said. But, assuming Syria complies with the plan, this does seem like the best option for now.