A popular sign of MENA ignorance among mainstream commentators is the expression of shock and disbelief that Iran and Syria could, or even would, help us in Iraq. The reality is complicated but something like this: Both nations have responded to American threats of regime change with hostility for the past few years. Any negotiations with these countries will require the regime change chatter be taken off the table. Especially with regards to Syria, it may not be such a bad thing; not only could Israel do it by accident in a future campaign, but the only people ready and capable of taking over a post-Assad Syria are the Muslim Brotherhood. The US stands to gain more from an Assad ruled Syria than in any dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood. We have far more willing to offer Assad anyway, including economic incentives and a 3rd way apart from the fragile path of the more dangerous Iranians. The key issue here that everyone misses out on is REFUGEES. There are already hundreds of thousands of them, most in Syria, some in Iran, a few in Saudi and other Gulf states. No one but the Saudis (and even theirs are not that great) has anything close to an effective border without putting an enormous effort into it, and in the face of Arab public opinion inflamed by Arab media outlets, the Iranians & Syrians could not get away with using violent force to repel the streaming refugees who will flee worsening violence and fighting in cities like Baghdad. Refugees in the MENA are a combustible mixture of poverty, disease and violent behaviors. They are inherently destablizing, Lebanon and Jordan among others can attest to that, given their decades long strugges with Palestinian refugees. Neither Syria nor Iran wants the situation in Iraq to get out of control to the point their fragile control on their borders (and in Syria's case, society) is threatened by hundreds of thousands, if not a few million, Iraqi refugees. They are content to let the US bleed itself in Iraq, but even the Iranians are realizing they are overplaying their hand and have been urging Shiite militias to adhere the admonishments of Shia clerics to calm down and stop offensive actions. Far too many splinter groups are developing that even the Iranians cannot control, and they tend to be populated of the most capable and intelligent death squad members. With the right kind of agreement, public or otherwise, one would not be insane to see an Iraq six months from now where Iranian intelligence agents and Iraqi policemen help US & Iraqi military forces track these splinter groups down and eliminate them. Where Syrian border police and US military forces work side by side to shut the border down to insurgents, weapons trafficking and terrorists (This happened briefly, off and on, for a few weeks in 2003). Where the US, Turkey & the Kurds get together and talk about the future of N. Iraq and the Kurdish areas of Turkey, i.e. a free trade zone for Turks and Kurds alike, joint security patrols by Turks & Kurds and a slow process towards common sense and cooperation begins. You can't cut & run from Iraq. If the US tries to, the Iranians will unleash all the Shia militias and US forces will take serious losses that will be triple or higher the current death toll. Because by that point, the US will be leaving the Iranians and everyone else with a hell of a mess. Though one may argue this would be a benefit at some point, the negatives far outweigh any positives.