Dialogue with Iran and Syria Overdue

This week – in a big policy reversal -- the Bush Administration announced that the United States would join talks with Iran and Syria on the future of Iraq. It’s a decision that is long overdue. For a long time now, we’ve needed to engage in direct talks with these countries – if Ronald Reagan was prepared to talk with the "Evil Empire" surely we can talk directly with Iran and Syria.

Yes this is a positive development, but just pulling up a chair at the table isn’t a plan. The Administration not only needs to fully commit to talking directly to Iran and Syria, but we also have to do the diplomacy necessary in advance of these meetings to make them as fruitful as possible. And to test the Syrians and Iranians directly, as the Baker-Hamilton Commission suggested, we need to have an American strategy to get Syria and Iran's leaders to make their own strategic decision to change direction.

This war in Iraq will not be solved militarily. We need a political and diplomatic solution to end the violence and chaos there. I’ve long advocated convening a summit of Iraq and its neighbors. Last year I introduced a bill calling for a summit which Congress passed in September.

Our troops in Iraq have done their job, now it’s time for this Administration to back up their words with real diplomacy.