DIPLOMACY IN IRAQ….In the LA Times today, Yitzhak Nakash argues that Iraq is important enough to deserve one final attempt at a political reconciliation that would help avert a full-scale civil war:

Because of the heavy human and material cost that would be exacted in the event of a war that leads to partition, the U.S. ought to make a last-ditch effort to bring Iraqis to the table to hold their country together.

To preserve Iraq’s unity, the U.S. military needs to secure Baghdad — a precondition for any attempt to revive the political process. The administration also needs to engage Iraq’s neighbors in an effort to quell the fighting in Iraq and reintegrate the country into the Arab world.

This is a common refrain, and I’m certainly not opposed to regional diplomacy. At the same time, it’s never been obvious to me that Iraq’s neighbors — primarily Iran and Saudi Arabia — have enough influence to stop the violence in Baghdad even if they were fully committed to trying. Can anyone point me to a well-informed piece that makes the case that they do?

For a different take on this, check out Robert Collier’s piece in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle. It’s too detailed to summarize briefly, but I’m going to do it anyway:

  • The only possible path for success in Iraq involves serious negotiation with its most radical players: the Sunni-led insurgents and their archenemies, the Shiite militias.

  • The United States wants to marginalize these players, not negotiate with them, and interviews suggest that the extremists are pretty unlikely negotiation partners in any case.

In other words, the one thing we need to do to succeed is the one thing we aren’t willing to do. And even if we were, it probably wouldn’t work.