For the first time in a long while, there’s some diplomatic momentum on Syria. The USA, Great Britain and Russia are on board to hold a summit on Syria in the coming weeks, and Ban Ki Moon is on his way to Russia for consultations.
As the death toll nears 80,000, there will be much riding on this meeting. If there is to be a political solution that does not involve the disintegration of the Syrian state into separate ethnic enclaves, there will need to be some force that guarantees the security of the people. That responsibility traditionally falls to the state, but to much of the population, that option is off the table,
This naturally leads to one solution: UN Peacekeepers. In some respects, this is precisely the kind of job for which UN Peacekeeping was designed. Warring factions agree to some sort of peace or ceasefire, but need an outside guarantor as elements of a larger political settlement (like elections, justice and security sector reform, etc) fall into place. UN Peacekeepers provide the breathing room and, crucially, the security that enables long term political peace processesto take hold.
That’s the theory, at least. And its worked well in several countries recovering from conflict bloodier and longer lasting than Syria (Think: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire). It very well may be the case that the UN is called upon to undertake this kind of work, should a political solution to the conflict ever take hold. The viability of a peacekeeping mission for Syria has already been contemplated in some quarters in the US government
The key metric of success is whether or not countries would be willing to volunteer their troops for this kind of mission, and whether the Security Council backs the mission with the appropriate political and financial resources. If that’s the case, then there’s no reason that UN Peacekeeping should not be considered part of the solution for Syria.