Any deal with Syria to hand over its chemical weapons in the middle of a chaotic civil war would be difficult for inspectors to enforce and destroying them would likely take years, experts caution.
Accounting for Syria’s chemical arms cache — believed to be spread over dozens of locations — would be difficult, as would be shielding arms inspectors from violence. “This is a nice idea but tough to achieve,” said one US official speaking on condition of anonymity. Amy Smithson, an expert on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, said a lack of hard data on Syria’s chemical weapons inventory would complicate verification.
She pointed to years of cat-and-mouse maneuvering between UN inspectors and then-president Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq as an example of what could happen in Syria.
Experts say it would take months to locate and secure Syria’s chemical weapons and years to destroy them — and there is always the possibility some are left over. “You’re always going to have problem of bomb in basement,” said Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund group, which opposes spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.