October 15, 2012
Lakhdar Brahimi, the veteran Algerian diplomat who took over as joint United Nations and Arab League peace envoy last month, has spent recent weeks quietly sounding out which countries would be willing to contribute soldiers.
Given the volatility of the conflict and the growing presence of Islamists on the rebel side, it is thought British and American forces would be unlikely to take part because of their past involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Instead, Mr Brahimi is thought to be looking at more nations that currently contribute to Unifil, the 15,000 strong mission set up to police Israel's borders with Lebanon. They alone are thought to have the infrastructure and on-the-ground knowledge that any peacekeeping operation would require.
Countries contributing to Unifil include Ireland, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, one of which would be expected to play a leading role in the Syria peacekeeping force.
Yet the presence of any European on the ground in Syria - even from nations considered more "neutral" in the Arab world - would still represent a significant new Western military involvement in the Middle East. Experts fear they could be a magnet for attacks for both Islamists and regime loyalists.