Report: Syria Chemical Arms Destruction 'Immensely Difficult'

Report: Syria Chemical Arms Destruction 'Immensely Difficult'

Destroying Syria’s chemical weapons under a Russian plan would be “immensely difficult” and may do little to end the conflict there, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said on Thursday.

Russia and Iran would have to play a role in dismantling the chemical arms stockpiled by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in a process that would take years, said experts from the London-based think-tank.

Moscow and Washington were holding high-stakes talks on Thursday on Russia’s plan for Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons in order to avoid air strikes threatened by US President Barack Obama.

Assad confirmed in a Russian TV interview Thursday that Syria would hand over its chemical weapons.

The United States, France and Britain want the dismantling of Assad’s arsenal to take place under a UN Security Council resolution backed by the threat of force, but Russia opposes any mention of military action.

IISS Director-General John Chipman said the international community should not let the search for peace in Syria get bogged down in the narrower issue of chemical weapons.

Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at IISS, said there was “sense of rejection and abandonment” among the Syrian rebels fighting Assad.

There are also concerns about how to keep Syria’s chemical weapons out of the hands of extremist groups among the rebels.

Asked how to ensure that, Fitzpatrick, the proliferation expert — who used to work for the US State Department — said that “all states that have a stake in Syria might take responsibility… and I would of course include Russia and Iran”.