President Bush, now that the Iraq study group has reported back, is under pressure to open talks with Syria and Iran over the future of Iraq. It is clear that he has to bend to some kind of reality if he expects to get any kind of continued support for his Iraq policy from the new Congress, and even Chuck Hagel, one of the leading spokesmen for his own party on the issue, said over the weekend that we should begin withdrawing from Iraq.
He should begin dialogue with Iran and Syria as soon as possible. Both countries have at least as much influence in Iraq right now as we do (though with no direct exposure and without firing a shot themselves), and any long term solution in Iraq will have to take into account both Syria and Iran. Neither country has an interest in Iraq as an anarchist hotbed of terrorism with the inevitable increase in refugees (which have already become a problem, especially for Iran).
So why now? Many of us have been saying for a long time that we should talk to ALL of Iraq's neighbors if we hope to have a chance to stabilize the situation, not just those like Kuwait and Turkey that the President enjoys talking to. Further, John Kerry in 2004 said that he favored a summit or other type of talks with all the nations in the region or involved in Iraq (including Syria and Iran), and that is in effect what the President is now getting around to saying. But conservatives were still holding onto the pipe dream that they could 'win' in Iraq. And the price of course is that we will enter into any such talks in a weaker position than we were in two years ago while Iran in particular will be much strengthened given the strong position its Badr militia holds by virtue of their infiltration of the Iraqi police and army, as well as the fruits that Iranian intransigence has already brought them in the face of our weakness.
Of course this could have happened two years earlier (or 1,500 American deaths earlier, or $200 billion earlier, if you prefer) if we had elected John Kerry, but it's good that the President at least is being forced to acknowlege this and open discussions with the Iranians and Syrians over the future of Iraq now.