President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. His strategy is to prevent defeat and to hand the problem off to his successor. As a result, more and more Americans want to bring our troops home immediately, even at the risk of trading a dictator for chaos and a civil war that could become a regional war. Both are bad alternatives.
There is a third way. Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and I have proposed a five-point plan to keep Iraq together, protect America's interests and bring our troops home.
Sectarian violence among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds is now the major impediment to stability and progress in Iraq. No number of troops can solve that problem. The only way to hold Iraq together and create the conditions for our armed forces to responsibly withdraw is to give Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds incentives to pursue their interests peacefully. That requires a sustainable political settlement, which is the primary objective of our plan.
The plan would maintain a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions - as provided for in the Iraqi constitution. The central government would be responsible for common interests, like border security and the distribution of oil revenues. We would secure support from the Sunnis - who have no oil -- by guaranteeing them a proportionate share (about 20 percent) of oil revenues. We would increase economic aid, ask the oil-rich Arab Gulf states to fund it and tie all assistance to the protection of minority rights and the creation of a jobs program. We would convene a regional conference to enlist the support of Iraq's neighbors and create a Contact Group of the major powers to enforce their commitments. And we would ask our military to draw up plans to responsibly withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2007 - enough time for the political settlement to take hold.
The course we're on has no end in sight. This plan can allow us to achieve the two objectives most American share: to leave Iraq without leaving chaos behind. I hope you will take the time to read the plan and endorse it by adding your email address to our list of supporters.
The Biden-Gelb plan would:
David Broder, Washington Post columnist (5/4/06) - "At a time when most people see nothing but hopeless discord in Iraq, it is healthy to have someone offering alternatives that could produce progress." Read the article
Jackson Diehl, Washington Post columnist (10/2/06) - "Instead, the time may finally be ripe for some of the ideas that have been doggedly pushed for most of this year by Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, who has been one of his party's most serious and responsible voices on Iraq... It's easy to find holes in this strategy, as with any other plan for Iraq... But Biden's basic idea -- of an external political intervention backed by an international alliance -- is the one big option the Bush administration hasn't tried." Read the article
David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist (9/30/06) - "The Democrat who has tried hardest to think through these problems is Sen. Joseph Biden. He argues that the current government of national unity isn't succeeding in holding Iraq together, and that America should instead embrace a policy of 'federalism plus' that will devolve power to the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions. Iraqis are already voting for sectarian solutions, Biden argues, and America won't stabilize Iraq unless it aligns its policy with this reality. I disagree with some of the senator's conclusions, but he's asking the right question: How do we fix Iraq?" Read the article
David Yepsen, Des Moines Register columnist (11/2/2006) - Biden has helped author a program for Iraq. He said it is based on the Dayton peace accords, which are reducing tensions in Bosnia. According to his proposal, Iraqis would form three regional governments Shiite, Sunni and Kurd as part of a federal government. Sunnis would be given a 20 percent share of oil revenues to make sure they feel vested in the country.The regional governments would govern local affairs, and the federal one would supervise border defense, foreign policy and oil production. A regional conference of Iraq's neighbors would be created to help respect borders and bolster the national government.Oil-rich neighbors would finance a jobs-creation program in Iraq. Biden said all this should work because Iraq's neighbors have a vested interest in restoring stability to the area.U.S. troops would be gradually withdrawn by the end of 2007. A force of 20,000 would be stationed somewhere in the region to quickly fight terrorist concentrations and help train Iraqi security.At a time when other candidates are spending the closing days of this campaign season airing attack ads and calling each other names, it was refreshing to hear an American political leader talking about bipartisan, nonideological solutions to one of the biggest problems facing the country. Read the article
Bill O'Reilly, on The O'Reilly Factor (9/29/06) - "See, I favor Biden's -- Senator Biden's solution of the three regional areas. Because you've already got one, the Kurds in the north that's autonomous. If you could carve the two out, divide up the oil revenue, have a central government protected by the Americans to make sure that the Iranians don't come in, I think that might work." Read the article
Philadelphia Inquirer, Editorial Board (10/1/06) - "One shining exception to 'slogans over substance' is U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D., Del.). Gutsily, he's put forth a plan for dividing Iraq into semi-autonomous Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni zones, with Baghdad as a federal city; a fair division of oil revenues; and U.S. troops nearby as a watchdog against neighbors' mischief. You can name a dozen ways Biden's approach could collapse. But at least he has put a reality-based proposal on the table. That's more than most of the people seeking your vote right now seem willing to do." Read the article
Henry Kissinger - Kissinger said the plan should get careful consideration. (Delaware News Journal, March 2, 2006) Read the article
Congressman Chris Van Hollen, MSNBC Live (10/20/06) - "Democrats have been making some of the most creative proposals. Senator Biden has a proposal for reconciliation in Iraq, but the stay the course rhetoric you hear from this administration clearly isn't getting us anywhere, things are getting worse not better. And when you have all 16 intelligence agencies agreeing that what is happening in Iraq has actually fueled the terrorist movement around the world and made us less safe, we've got a problem and the American people want a congress that's going to deal with this issue in reality not in the fantasy world." Read the article
Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, in the Christian Science Monitor (9/27/06) - "I would also study Senator Biden's federation [proposal]. I think that may be ultimately the right solution." Read the article
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, (9/19/2006) "My own view is that... we have to continually advise our friends in Iraq to get on with this question of the division of the oil money or the dedication of the various groups, as well as how a federation can work. It may not be an absolute division of the country into three parts, but at least some ways in which the Kurds, who already have a great deal of autonomy, are joined by a lot of Shiites that want the same thing and Sunnis that are worried that they're going to be left out of the picture. And that takes heavy lifting. Politically, a lot of objections even to bringing it up before their congress, but we have to keep insisting that they do. That has to be on the agenda."
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), The Hill (10/24/06), "I think this idea of maybe the three autonomous regions within one country may be the one that we start to move more and more towards."
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