Syria will comply with "90 percent" of U.S.-Russia deal, Kissinger predicts

(CBS News) The potential U.S. deal with Russia to put Syria's chemical weapons stock in international control "could be quite a good outcome," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Sunday on "Face the Nation."

The resullt, he said, "then becomes a basis for a transition in Syria that leads to relative peace then at the end of the day, however tortuously we arrived at this conclusion, it will have served the interest of the world."

Syria will comply with, give or take, "90 percent" of what the agreement asks, Kissinger predicted.

"They may hold back a little, but the risk of holding anything back is very great," Kissinger said.

Asked whether the United States can trust Russia in its about-face alliance, Kissinger surmised: "You can trust the Russians to pursue their own interests."

Kissinger said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has determined extraditing Syria's chemical weapons is in his country's best interest.

"I would think his biggest security problem is radical Islam - and he does not want the United States to look totally irrelevant in the Middle East, because otherwise he would be struck with having to deal with radical Islam," Kissinger said of Putin. "There is also a necessity for the selfish interest of both sides for cooperation - and especially if one looks at the long-term situation of Russia, with long frontiers in covering a large land mass - in this sense, one can trust them, but not in sense that he's suddenly been converted to our point of view."

President Nixon's former secretary of state said focusing U.S. Syrian policy on removing President Bashar Assad is "not the best way to go," because the problem in Syria is more about Sunnis versus Shiites, than just about one dictator in control.

"The removal of one man would not solve the problem. But the coexistence of these two groups is an element of peace and therefore paradoxically, a total victory for one side would lead to the high probability of a massacre," Kissinger said.

Addressing President Obama's plans to meet briefly this week with Iran's new president, who recently declared that Iran will never build a nuclear weapon, Kissinger said the timing's not quite right.

"Iran has been building, with great energy, a nuclear program," he said. "I would be more at ease if the meeting of the presidents occurred at the end of some diplomatic achievement but I can see the temptations."

Despite government gridlock, and the stop-and-start decision-making process on Syria, Kissinger said, the United States stands to make a difference so long as it settles its economic woes: "If you were a chess player, and said you have two hands here -- the rest of the world and the United States -- you'll play the American hand. But it requires that we act with an understandable direction and with some unity."