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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have! - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Delaware Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s (D-DE) today urged President Bush to immediately adopt and implement his plan for a political settlement in Iraq in conjunction with the President signing the Department of Defense Authorization conference report. The conference report contains the “Biden-Brownback” amendment – a measure that has garnered overwhelming bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress – which calls for the United States to support a federal, decentralized Iraq and for the President to make a major shift in the Administration’s political strategy in Iraq. The bill is sitting on the President’s desk waiting for signature.

“Mr. President – it is time for this war to end and my plan is the way to do it,” said Sen. Joe Biden. “Instead of stiff-arming the rest of the world, now is the time to call for a UN conference where the major powers and Iraq’s neighbors help Iraqis to hammer out a political solution based on federalism – bringing resources and responsibility down to the local and regional level. We have a window of opportunity. Violence is down because of the courageous efforts of our military, the tribal awakening and the Mahdi Army cease-fire. But without a political settlement, these fragile gains won’t last.”

In May of 2006, Sen. Biden, along with President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Leslie H. Gelb, announced a detailed plan for promoting a political settlement in Iraq that would allow our troops to leave without leaving chaos behind. The plan called for a decentralized federal system --- as Iraq’s Constitution provides which would give its people local control over the fabric of their daily lives, including police, jobs, education and government services. A limited central government would be responsible for protecting Iraq’s borders and distributing its oil revenues.

The Biden-Brownback amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill was based on Sen. Biden’s federalism plan for Iraq and is a product of his year-long effort working across the aisle to build support. During the Senate vote in September, Sen. Biden's plan secured the support of key leaders in the U.S. Senate from both parties, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), former Chairman John Warner (R-VA) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN). The final vote in favor of the Biden-Brownback amendment was 75-23, including 26 Republicans.

“Simply put, absent an occupation we cannot sustain or a dictator we cannot support, Iraq cannot be governed from the center at this point in its history. Supporting a decentralized Iraq with strong regional governments and a limited central government is the only way we can end this war without leaving chaos behind,” added Sen. Biden.

The Biden-Brownback amendment also had 15 Co-sponsors: Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Arlen Specter (R-PA), John Kerry (D-MA), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) Harry Reid (D-NV), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Tom Carper (D-DE).

The Biden amendment states that the U.S. should actively support a political settlement among Iraqis based on the provisions of Iraq's constitution that call for creating a federal system of government, with strong regions and a limited central government. It also urged the administration to bring in the international community – including the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Iraq's neighbors – to support a settlement based on federalism and to convene a conference with Iraqis to help them reach that settlement.

A few key facts about the Biden amendment:

The legislation does not tell Iraqis what to do. It speaks only to what U.S. policy should be.

Federalism is not a U.S. or foreign imposition on Iraq. Iraq’s own constitution calls a “decentralized, federal system” and sets out the powers of the regions (extensive) and those of the central government (limited). The Constitution also says that in case of conflict between regional and national law, regional law prevails.

Federalism is not partition. In fact, it’s probably the only way to prevent partition or, even worse, the total fragmentation of Iraq.

Federalism will not accelerate sectarian cleansing; it’s the only way to reverse it. Iraqis have already voted with their feet, with 4.5 million fleeing within Iraq or abroad. Unless Iraqis come to some kind of agreement on sharing power peacefully, the results of extensive cleansing will solidify and set the stage for future instability.

Other elements of Sen. Biden’s comprehensive Iraq strategy are also part of the Defense Authorization bill awaiting the President’s signature including funding for Mine Resistant Vehicles to protect our troops as long as they are in Iraq and a measure to insure that the U.S. does not set up permanent military bases in Iraq.

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