Stop the Escalation

Posted in Iraq | 04-Feb-07

Senator Joe Biden

Senator Biden announces a campaign to oppose the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq and launches -- a website to give the American people a voice in this debate. Watch the video, visit and then email everyone you know.


As President Bush prepares to announce a new strategy for Iraq, one idea has emerged as his leading option: to surge more troops into Baghdad in a last ditch effort to stabilize the city.

There is one big problem with that option: in the absence of a political settlement among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, it will not work. We've tried the military surge option before and it failed.

If we try it again, it will fail again.

And surging our forces in Baghdad risks terrible consequences: more American lives lost and more unbearable strain on our military for no strategic gain. If the President proposes escalation, I will oppose him and so will many of my colleagues in Congress.



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.

Thank you,

Joe Biden, U.S. Senator (D-DE)
Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee


The Biden-Gelb plan would:

  1. Keep Iraq together by giving its major groups breathing room in their own regions. A central government would be left in charge of common interests like defending the borders and distributing oil revenues.
  2. Secure the support of the Sunnis -- who have no oil -- by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue.
  3. Increase, not end, reconstruction assistance but insist that the oil-rich Arab Gulf states fund it and tie it to the creation of a massive jobs program and to the protection of minority rights.
  4. Hold an international conference to enlist the support of Iraq's neighbors and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.
  5. Begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, with a small follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of terrorists.




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."

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Houston Chronicle (10/17/06), "Allowing the Kurds, Sunni and Shia to govern their own territories while sharing in Iraq's oil revenues through a national revenue stream could help quell the bloodletting."

Senator John Warner (R-VA), On the Senate Floor (5/1/06) - "Senator Biden's commentary, in my judgment, was constructive, and was maybe a little too late to back up from where we are at this moment. But it was nevertheless a positive contribution to the debate and constructive...."

Rep. Harold Ford, candidate for US Senate in TN IMUS in the Morning (10/26/06), " My opponent has indicated that stay the course is the right approach. I happen to disagree. I side with one of your good friends, Joe Biden on this issue. I think he has one of the best and most thoughtful plans."

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), 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. [T]he American people want a congress that's going to deal with this issue in reality not in the fantasy world." Watch the Video

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

David Hunter, Oklahoma 5th District Democratic nominee, The Tecumseh Countywide News/ The Shawnee Sun, (10/1/06), He notes that the war in Iraq is not going well. "It's a mess right now. Most likely, we're in the middle of a civil war.' He says Sen. Joe Biden, a Democrat form Delaware, has a plan that ought to be explored that will get the United States out of Iraq." Read the article

Joe Courtney, Connecticut 2nd District Democratic candidate, in the Journal Inquirer (CT) (9/20/2006) - "In providing an alternative to Bush's policy of securing a unified central government in Iraq, Courtney cited a strategy outlined last month in a Washington Post op-ed piece by U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del... Biden compares his plan to the 1995 Dayton Accords, which helped end ethnic cleansing in Bosnia by dividing the country into ethnic federations. Courtney said the Bosnian model could be effective in Iraq." Read the article

Eric Massa, New York 29th District Democratic candidate, in the New York Times (9/17/06) - "[Massa] gave qualified support for a plan devised by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, to create three semiautonomous regions in Iraq to keep the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunnis from each others' throats. Mr. Biden's plan is one of the most detailed Democratic blueprints for ending American involvement and has been embraced by a number of Democratic House and Senate candidates." Read the article

Michael Ray Ellisor, South Carolina 2nd District Democratic candidate, in the State Newspaper (10/27/06) - He favored a plan proposed by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., which would divide Iraq into three regions by ethnic or religious groups.


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

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

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

George Packer, The New Yorker (5/8/06) - "[The premise of Biden - Gelb proposal] is, admittedly, the logic of desperation, raising a thousand questions and provoking as many vexing problems. Nor is it entirely a new idea. But, after three years of war and a chronic inability of leaders in both countries to think beyond next month, a fundamental change of policy deserves to be taken seriously. If there are no more Wise Men in Washington, can there at least be wisdom?" Read the article

Bill Danvers, former Clinton NSC Official in UPI Editorial (10/2/06) - "Creative proposals for dealing with U.S. involvement in Iraq -- like the one from Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. and Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus Leslie Gelb calling for a unified but decentralized Iraq with more autonomy for its regions and ethnic groups -- should be the focus of debate about U.S. policy options, rather than arguing over a date certain." Read the article

Portland Press Herald (ME) editorial board (5/9/06) - "Biden's scenario opens the door for Congress to conduct a needed discussion about options that fall between the status quo and immediate withdrawal."

Delaware News Journal editorial board (5/3/06) - "Sen. Joseph Biden has done the country a service by forwarding a thoughtful, realistic plan for the future of Iraq."

The Barre Montpelier Times Argus (VT) editorial board (5/2/06) - "Let's hope someone in the White House reads the Biden-Gelb essay and draws Bush's attention to a solution he can embrace."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (05/02/06) - "Together with incentives (i.e., a share of oil revenue) to attract the Sunnis, a phased American troop withdrawal and a regional non-aggression pact (Iran and Syria, stay out), the Biden-Gelb plan offers at least a semblance of hope. You could even call it a turning point."

The Journal Standard (IL) editorial board (5/2/06) - "Sen. Joe Biden... [is] among the few Democrats offering something resembling a plan. On Sunday, he floated the idea of separating Iraq along sectarian lines into three largely autonomous states under the umbrella of a weak central government. That may or may not be the ideal policy. The point is we need to do something radically different. The alternative is a mission perpetually unfulfilled and ever more costly in American blood and treasure."

Marilou Johanek, Toledo Blade columnist (5/5/06) - "Mr. Biden's plan may not be the way to stem the ethnic and religious violence among competing Iraqi powerbrokers, but at least it's an alternative to the administration's failed Plan A and deserves more study than speedy dismissal."

Barrie Dunsmore, The Barre Montpelier Times Argus columnist (5/7/06) - "This particular 'third way' proposal is not entirely new. But it came neatly packaged with some persuasive arguments in an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times last week... This plan is not a silver bullet. And one of the main arguments against the proposal is that it could encourage permanent partition and leave the region in chaos. But as the authors point out, the sectarian militias already rule large areas of the country, death squads are killing dozens of people daily and Iraqi-style ethnic cleansings have already forced tens of thousands of people from their homes."


Richard Holbrooke, Washington Post (10/24/06) - "I urge [President Bush] to lay out realistic goals, redeploy our troops and focus on the search for a political solution. We owe that to the Iraqis who welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and put their trust in us, only to find their lives in danger as a result. By a political solution, I mean something far more ambitious than current U.S. efforts aimed at improving the position of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by changing ministers or setting timelines for progress. Sen. Joe Biden and Les Gelb have advocated what they call, in a reference to the negotiations that ended the war in Bosnia in 1995, a "Dayton-like" solution to the political situation -- by which they mean a looser federal structure with plenty of autonomy for each of the three main groups, and an agreement on sharing oil revenue." Read the article

Henry Kissinger, Delaware News Journal (5-2-06) -- Kissinger said the plan should "get careful consideration." Read the article

Madeleine Albright (5/3/06) - "The Iraqi constitution actually does recognize differences among the regions and gives a certain amount of autonomy to particularly the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south, with the idea that the central government would continue to have military and foreign affairs. And I think that Senator Biden is exploring that, with the idea that if you don't actually give recognition to those real differences, that then it is more likely to split apart...

So I think it's interesting that Senator Biden presented this. And it's because I think there really have to be some ideas to try to deal with what is a badly deteriorating situation."

Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations, PBS Newshour (10/25/06) - "I thought that the Joe Biden op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal yesterday was also a very sober and thoughtful approach.

JIM LEHRER: For those who didn't read that, capsulize it for us.

Mead: Well, they were basically talking about a way forward in Iraq that would have some bipartisan support, and something that the administration could work with. And I think what we're seeing now is a sense that the country does need to try to move as united as possible."

Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, National Security Advisor of Iraq on CNN Late Edition (5/7/06)

"Blitzer: Is Biden right when he suggests that Iraq effectively should be sort of divided up into these three sectors?

Al-Rubaie: I don't think Senator Biden has said that Iraq should be divided into three sections. What I think -- and I can't agree more with Senator Biden and his article, and I think he is a very well-informed person. What we are talking here -- and he's talking about Iraqi constitution. The constitution of Iraq has said very clearly that you can form provinces, regions, federal -- this is a democratic federal system, and any two or three or nine or 10 provinces can get together and form a region, and form a federal unit. And this is exactly what Joseph Biden is saying, or I believe when I read his article.

Blitzer: So you think it's a good idea, that Biden has a good idea?

Al-Rubaie: I think Biden's idea is a good idea, with some modification because it's very compatible with our permanent constitution, which was ratified on the 15th of October last year." Read the article

Anne Marie Slaughter, Dean of Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University (5/18/06) - "I think that the Biden-Gelb plan is the best option out there." Read the article

Eric Leaver, Institute for Policy Studies Research Fellow, on (9/5/06) - "The two alternatives that have been fleshed out most deeply are 'strategic redeployment' and plans for partition... The five-point plan of Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., calling for a virtual partition of Iraq has its roots in proposals made by Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador with a long involvement in policy on Iraq, and Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations... Both of these plans have merits... These measures would draw in Iraq's neighbors who are desperately needed for a long-term solution. [Recommends adopting Biden's plan as part of a 5-step 'responsible deployment']" Read the article

Juan Cole, Middle East scholar and prominent blogger (5/2/06) - "You have to admire Biden for recognizing the mess and for thinking seriously about what structural programs could be implemented to provide a way out of this mess." Read the article

David Phillips, Council on Foreign Relations, author of Losing Iraq (5/2/06) - "What they are proposing makes absolute sense. By decentralizing power and giving regions control over governance, economy and cultural affairs, you have some chance of holding the country together." Read the article