Can Iran help us bail out of Iraq? Maybe but we'd better take a hard look at the price.
The idea has reportedly been floated via a draft report to the Iraq Study Group (headed by former Secretary of State James Baker), which calls for a "dialogue" with Iran as well as Syria. Along the same lines, British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently said Iran could be a "partner" with the West if it did not develop a bomb.
Presumably, we'd ask Iran to help stabilize the situation in Iraq, curb the Shiite militias and encourage the Iraqi government to make sufficient concessions to the Sunnis to end or at least reduce the violence.
Would it work? It could. Iran certainly has sought to arm and enflame the Shiites in Iraq. Maybe the mullahs can rein in their proxies, and let us withdraw in dignity -- not holding onto the skids of the helicopter as it lifts off our embassy this time.
But why would they play ball with Washington at the same time that Bush is threatening sanctions explicitly and a military strike implicitly if Iran proceeds to develop nuclear weapons? No chance.
So this proposal amounts to the de facto abandonment of any military or economic actions that could deter Iran from going nuclear.
Of course, Baker may seek and Iran may offer public assurances that it won't develop nuclear weapons the same worthless assurances it now passes out to the entire world. What will have changed is that America and Britain will be so engaged with Iran that they can't and won't bomb or even impose tough sanctions.
In short, we can only get Iran's help on Iraq if we let Tehran get the bomb.
Yet, with nukes, Iran gains the leverage to force Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and all the region's oil producers to move in its orbit. The Middle East will become an Iranian sphere of influence.
Such an under-the-table deal would amount to a total sellout of Israel and Saudi Arabia and America's other Arab allies.
The Jewish state would be left with no alternative but to take whatever military action it could to stop Iran from completing its nuclear program. American capitulation will have left it with no alternative.
Would Jim Baker cut such a deal? In a heartbeat. Never a friend of Israel, he wouldn't flinch at a realpolitik solution giving Iran power throughout the region.
But why would Bush go along? It would be "peace in our time" Munich, 1938 all over again.