A senior State Department official outlined the goals for the Geneva meetings: "We will have an understanding with each other of what the scope of the problem is, what might be the best way to destroy these weapons, how we might monitor and verify what has occurred, and do it in a secure and safe manner."
Experts agree this will be difficult. Dismantling smaller programs in less hostile areas took years. The United States estimates Assad has about 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons (much larger than Libya's, where disarmament is ongoing) and the Syrian civil war poses a challenge to safely transporting them, carrying out the disarmament work and to the verification and monitoring teams.
Among other things Americans say they'll discuss here in Geneva: How long until inspectors are allowed into Syria to begin work? And how long might all this take?
One senior State Department official acknowledged their decision to hold off on an attack isn't popular with the Syrian opposition, which was hoping U.S. strikes would tip the balance of the conflict in their favor.
"They're upset," the official said. "They don't trust this at all. And so part of this will be explaining to them what we're actually able to achieve if we're able to achieve anything. So we're asking them not to prejudge."