Those most focused on rescuing the Iraq mission -- such as the Baker-Hamilton study group -- are most interested in the engagement option. We, too, have supported including Iran and Syria in a regional diplomatic initiative to promote an Iraqi political accord. But it's vital to keep in mind that such an effort has a low probability of ending the bloodshed in the near future, even if all parties cooperate.
What's more, no attempt to reason with Mr. Assad and the Iranian mullahs will succeed unless they perceive that the United States and its allies wield sticks as well as carrots. As long as the Bush administration is unable to win U.N. Security Council approval for sanctions against Iran -- or impose them through an ad hoc coalition -- Tehran will have no incentive to make concessions. Mr. Assad will demand that the West concede him Lebanon and call off the murder investigations that would likely implicate him -- unless he worries that his failure to cooperate will result in fresh international sanctions against Syria.
Iran and Syria are ruthlessly waging war against Western interests in the Middle East. Offering to talk is only a small part of what it will take to stop them.
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