Disabling weapons would take years
A: The first stage would be a United Nations resolution demanding that Syria signs the convention banning chemical weapons and disarms accordingly. France has proposed a draft which threatens Bashar al-Assad with "serious consequences" – a euphemism for armed force – if he fails to comply. But Russia and China will probably want that threat to be dropped.
Assad would first have to admit that he possesses chemical weapons – something he has never confirmed. Syria would then declare the size and location of its stockpile and allow UN inspectors to enter the country to verify this. After that, UN experts would oversee the destruction of all the weapons, either in Syria or by shipping them out of the country.
All production facilities and precursor chemicals would be similarly disabled. Exactly how hundreds of scientists would accomplish all this in a country torn apart by civil war is unclear, even if Assad was willing to cooperate.
Yes. A UN mission entered the country after Saddam Hussein lost the First Gulf War in 1991. They destroyed his chemical arsenal within months, but lack of co-operation from Iraq meant they were never able to declare that every last weapon had been dealt with. Twelve years later, in 2003, they were still unable to certify that Iraq was free of these weapons, helping to trigger the Anglo-American invasion. The lesson is that verified disarmament is long and fraught process. It would take years to achieve this in Syria, which has a far bigger arsenal than Iraq possessed in 1991. (© Daily Telegraph, London)