Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NYO - News Story 1 - Biden Unbound: Lays Into Clinton, Obama, Edwards

NYO - News Story 1 - Biden Unbound: Lays Into Clinton, Obama, Edwards

By contrast with what Mr. Biden describes alternately as his opponents’ caution and their detachment from reality, the Senator from Delaware has for months been pushing a comprehensive plan to split Iraq into autonomous Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish ethnic regions that is controversial, to say the least.
Under the plan, local policing and laws will be the responsibility of regional authorities. Most of the American troops would be withdrawn, with small numbers remaining to help with anti-terrorism operations. The ensuing chaos from ethnic migrations within Iraq would be contained with the help of political pressure created by a conference of Iraq’s neighbors.

But the idea of an American endorsement of Iraqi federation along those lines has drawn criticism from just about every ideological corner of the foreign-policy establishment. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, another potential 2008 candidate who played a major role in negotiating the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia, said in a recent interview that the Biden plan would have people in mixed cities like Baghdad “fleeing for their lives.” Richard Perle, one of the chief architects of the war in Iraq, who resigned from his advisory position at the Pentagon in 2003 after a conflict-of-interest scandal, called the idea “harebrained.” And perhaps most notably, the original author of the partition plan, former Council on Foreign Relations president Leslie Gelb, has suggested that spiraling chaos on the ground in Iraq may have already rendered it unworkable.

Mr. Biden counters their criticism by insisting that Iraq has already fractured along ethnic lines, and that the only pragmatic approach at this point is to police the process in a way that could prevent a wider civil war and, eventually, lead to a sort of stability.

“You have to give them breathing room,” he said.

The Iraq he envisions has three ethnically homogenous enclaves, with a central government responsible for securing the country’s international borders and distributing oil revenues.

He’d put the Shiite majority in the south, limiting their geographic control but keeping them from being drawn into a wider Sunni-Shiite conflict.

He’d move the Sunni majority into the oil-poor Anbar province in the West, but they would be guaranteed a cut of oil revenues worth billions of dollars. Mr. Biden’s hope is that the oil money and relative calm would drain the loyal Baathist insurgency of support while simultaneously making the province less amenable to Al Qaeda provocateurs.

“The argument that you make with Sunni tribal leaders is, ‘You are not going to get back to the point where you run the show,’” said Mr. Biden. They will have to be made to understand that “you get a much bigger piece of the pie by giving up a little of the pie.”

He’d keep the Kurds up in the north, where they already enjoy a measure of de facto autonomy, but would seek guarantees that they would not take it upon themselves to purge Sunni residents from the mixed city of Kirkuk, or to lay exclusive claim to the enormous oil resources in that region, or to secede from Iraq by forming an independent Kurdistan.

Mr. Biden said he has made the argument to Kurdish leaders over the course of his seven trips to Iraq as follows: “You will be eaten alive by the Turks and the Iranians, they will attack you, there will be an all-out war.”

The clear implication is that the United States, not for the first time, would be unable to protect them. “I don’t see how we could,” he said.

Mr. Biden disagrees with foreign leaders like Britain’s Tony Blair and Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, who say that the key to fixing Iraq’s problems is solving the dispute between Israel and Palestinians.

“They are wrong, because I think it is a veiled way to do what the Europeans and the Arabists have always wanted to do, which is back Israel into a corner,” he said. “They still blame Israel.”

Mr. Biden says that support for his Iraq plan is growing. The influential New York Senator Chuck Schumer has declared at various times that he supports the plan—albeit in an uncharacteristically quiet manner—as has Michael O’Hanlon, a prominent Iraq policy expert at the Brookings Institution.

But their support, for Mr. Biden, is almost an afterthought. If one thing is clear about him, it is that he doesn’t mind being alone.

“They may be politically right, and I may be politically wrong,” he said. “But I believe I am substantively right, and their substantive approaches are not very deep and will not get us where I want to go.”

I don't always agree with Biden, but at least he has a plan for foreign policy, unlike the other Democratic nominees, who he rips in the inte
rview.

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