Over at Townhall.com, IWF’s Yasmine Rassam debates whether the United States should talk with Syria to move forward in Iraq, as many analysts are now suggesting:

“In principle, talking is better than shooting. And talking to the Syrians specifically can, under the right conditions, be useful. But not just any talking. If we are to enter into another era of interminable shuttle diplomacy a-la-Baker, let’s at least be clear about our objectives and about the cards we hold in these negotiations.

“To start with, past experience with the Damascenes should have taught us that we must carry a big stick and a small carrot. The Syrians, despite their propaganda to the contrary, are in a desperate state: their native oil is running out rapidly and they have lost the oil that Saddam supplied them in 2000-2003; their middle class is restive under the corrupt totalitarian Baathist regime; some of their prominent politicians are abandoning the ship: the ex-Syrian de facto ruler of Lebanon committed suicide; and the regime’s past vice president broke ranks and lives in exile in Paris. The special UN envoy investigating their role in Lebanese assassinations is close to indicting some big names, including Assad’s relatives and the Lebanese government is asking for a special international tribunal to try them.

“Furthermore, as the Syrians watch the sectarian fight in Iraq they grow more and more worried about a spillover that will bring the crisis to their shores. After all, the Syrian regime is still a narrow Alawaite minority-based ruling over a majority Sunni population with sizeable minorities of Kurds and Druze who might find themselves drawn to kindred communities living, say, in Iraq or Lebanon!

“So, by all means, let’s talk to the Syrians but let’s make it clear from the outset: we expect nothing less than full cooperation on choking-off the supplies to terrorists in Iraq, disarming Hezbollah, and staying out of Lebanon’s affairs. In return, we can ask our Iraqi friends to consider reviving the oil pipeline that goes from Kirkuk to Lebanon through Syria and, at the same time assure Assad that we will not actively seek regime change. On the other hand, if they balk, let’s seal the Iraqi border with Syria, let’s encourage the democratic voices in Syria and let’s pursue the regime’s thugs in international courts and cut off their access to international capital. While there is no clear democratic alternative inside yet, let us also remember that time is on our side – not Assad’s. We can wait.”

Read more here.