Sunday, February 04, 2007

Biden: The Bipartisan Iraq Resolution and a pathway to stability.

What follows are excerpts of Senator Biden's statement on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, Feb. 1st and reiterated in part through public venues this weekend.

"There was one critical difference between the Biden-Levin and the Warner amendment. Senator Warner's resolution, in one paragraph, left open, I think unintentionally, the possibility of increasing the overall number of American troops in Iraq -- just not in Baghdad. So from our perspective it wasn't enough to say don't go into Baghdad with more troops; we wanted to say don't raise the number of troops, as well.

The provision in the Warner amendment that allowed for that, if read by the President the way he would want to read it, I believe, would have allowed an increase in troops. We believe very strongly -- Senator Levin, myself, Hagel, Snowe -- that would send the wrong message. We ought to be drawing down in Iraq, not ramping up. We ought to be redeploying, not deploying into Baghdad. We should make it clear to the Iraqi leaders that they have to begin to make the hard compromises necessary for a political solution.

A political solution everyone virtually agrees on is the precondition for anything positive happening in Iraq. Now, I make it clear, I and everyone else in this Senate knows that it is not an easy thing for the Iraqi leadership to do, but it is absolutely essential.

So we approached Senator Warner several times to try to work out the difference between the Biden and the Warner resolutions. I am very pleased that last night, through the leadership of Senator Warner and Senator Levin, we succeeded in doing just that. The language Senator Warner removed from his resolution removed the possibility that it can be read as calling for more troops in Iraq.

With that change, I am very pleased to join Senator Levin, now known as the Levin-Warner resolution, as a cosponsor of that resolution."

And this explanation of a possible course of action for the United States and the government of Iraq:

(Senator Biden speaking)"While no unanimous prescription has emerged, there is remarkably broad consensus on three main points: First, American troops cannot stop sectarian warfare in Iraq, only a political settlement can do that; the second point of consensus, we must engage in intensive regional diplomacy to support the settlement among Iraqis; third, the U.S. military should focus on combatting terrorists, keeping Iraq's neighbors honest, training Iraq's troops -- not on policing a civil war. Indeed, combat troops should start to redeploy as soon as our mission is narrow."

And this:

(Senator Biden speaking) I believe, and have believed for some time, something much bolder is necessary. Les Gelb, the chairman emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Defense Department official, and I put forward just such a proposal 9 months ago. It is premised upon our conviction that the heart of the administration's strategy -- building a strong central government -- will, in fact, not succeed. As a matter of fact, in the testimony we heard, most pointed out where countries have been drawn by the slip of a pen by world leaders after World War I and World War II -- the Balkans, Iraq, and many other places we could name -- there have basically only been two models that have brought stability. A straw plan, a la Saddam, or a Federal system, a la the Iraqi Constitution.

The reason a strong central government will not work, although desirable, is there is no trust within the Government, no trust of the Government by the people of Iraq, no capacity of the Government to deliver services, no capacity of this new Government to deliver security.

In a sense, it is understandable. Indeed, we must bring Iraqis' problems and the responsibility of managing those problems down to local and regional levels where we can help the Iraqis build trust and capacity much more quickly and much more effectively.

We have proposed that the Iraqis create what their constitution calls for: three or more "regions" they call them -- not republics -- three or four more regions consistent with their constitution. We call for Iraq's oil to be shared equally with a guarantee that the Sunnis get their share and have some international oversight to guarantee it. We call for aggressive diplomacy -- which, again, most every witness called for, including the Iraq Study Group -- we call for aggressive diplomacy in the creation of a contact group consisting of Iraqi's neighbors and the major powers in the world, including large Islamic countries to support a political settlement.

We believe we can redeploy most, if not all, of America's troops from Iraq within 18 months under this plan, leaving behind a small force in Iraq or in the region to strike at terrorists, the jihadists, the al-Qaidaists, keeping the neighbors honest, and training Iraqi forces. The time has demonstrated this plan is more relevant and inevitable than it was even the day we put pen to paper and set it out 9 months ago. It takes into account the harsh reality of self-sustaining sectarian violence; it is consistent with Iraq's Constitution; and it can produce a phrase used by a New York Times columnist in describing our plan. It can produce "a soft landing" for Iraq and prevent a full-blown civil war that tears the country apart and spreads beyond its borders.

I might also add, as people have come to understand, what I am calling for is not partitioning, not three separate republics; what I am calling for is what the Iraqi Constitution calls for: decentralization of control over security and local laws with the central government having responsibility for the Army, distribution of resources and currency and other things that a central government must do.

As that has become clearer and clearer, some of the most powerful voices in the American foreign policy establishment have come forward to suggest it makes sense.

Secretary Kissinger told our committee yesterday: "I'm sympathetic to an outcome that permits large regional autonomy. In fact, I think it is very likely this will emerge out of the conflict that we are now witnessing." Former Secretary of State Albright said: "..the idea of the... constitution of Iraq as written, which allows for and mandates, in fact, a great deal of regional autonomy, is appropriate."

Senator Baker, former Secretary of State, coauthor of the Baker-Hamilton commission report told us that there are indications that Iraq may be moving toward three autonomous regions, and "if it is, we ought to be prepared to try and manage the situation."

Time is running out. We are going to have as a consequence of the compromise reached between the Biden-Levin resolution and the Warner resolution, now known as the "Levin-Warner whoever else is attached to it" resolution -- we are going to have for the first time a full-blown debate in the Senate.

I hope the administration will be listening. I suggest we are coequal -- Congress, along with the President -- in deciding when, if, how long, and under what circumstances to send Americans to war, for shedding America's treasure and blood.

(To read all of Senator Biden's comments click here.)

The Senator's ideas make sense and, if they are the possible solution to this mess, we owe him our heartfelt thanks and support. Time will tell, but for now, thank you Senator.


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4:21 PM  
Blogger Jeb said...

I definitely think that Biden's plan is an interesting one. While I was not previously convinced that it would work, I'm beginning to rethink this a bit. His approach may be the only viable option at this point. The problem, as many analysts have said, is that if Biden's plan were implemented incorrectly, it could result in a dramatic escalation of the civil war and increased ethnic cleansing. On the other hand, if it is carried out in a careful and planned way, it might help stem the violence. It's hard to tell. It's far from a magic bullet, however. There are too many possible downsides to such a plan.

7:34 AM  

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