TALKING TO IRAN AND SYRIA.

TALKING TO IRAN AND SYRIA. The momentum is building for the U.S. to start talking to Iran and Syria over the fate of Iraq. The latest: apparently the British Foreign Office backs the Baker-Hamilton Commission (a.k.a. the Iraq Study Group) in talking to the Iranians and Syrians. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is also on board. There is more at play here than just Iraq, however. The Syrians, feeling stronger after the war in Lebanon, are calling for peace talks with Israel over the Golan Heights, while the Iranians, as Christopher de Bellaigue explains, seek acknowledgment that they are a player in the region that can't be ignored.

It's obvious we should talk to Syria. It's much clearer who is in charge there, and the Syrians have repeatedly made clear their willingness to engage. The Iranians are a different case; it's not always clear who is calling the shots, and hardline factions in both countries have a habit of undermining any efforts at rapprochement. So expect the U.S. and Iran to approach each other very gingerly, and don't look for a comprehensive deal like that advocated by Thomas Barnett just yet.

--Blake Hounshell

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