Dieter Rothbacher acknowledges that destroying Syria’s chemical weapons during a civil war “would be dangerous and perhaps impossible.” But securing those weapons would be a much easier task:
[S]ecuring the stockpiles — sealing existing storage buildings after an initial inventory — might be possible within a matter of weeks. It would also involve a lot less technical equipment. First, Syria would have to declare what they have, where it is, how it is stored and where and how it was produced. A team on the ground could then conduct a first site assessment and an inventory of all known storage, production and research facilities. After this, stockpiles could be secured by sealing bunkers and installing monitoring equipment.
Jeffrey Lewis points out that 1990s destruction of Iraqi chemical weapons was carried out in less than two years:
Prior to destruction, the United Nations consolidated Iraq’s stockpiles. Consolidating Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile would prevent their use by the military. The international community could consolidate Syria’s chemical weapons in a third country, where destruction could occur at a more leisurely pace. Jordan, for example, has made clear its preference for a diplomatic solution to this crisis. Here is Amman’s chance to step up.
Earlier Dish on the logistics of chemical weapons destruction here.