Biden Suggests Splitting Iraq in 3

From News Services and Staff Reports
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposed yesterday that Iraq be divided into three regions -- Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni -- with a central government in Baghdad.

In an op-ed essay in yesterday's editions of the New York Times, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) wrote that the idea "is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group . . . room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests."

The new Iraqi constitution allows for establishment of self-governing regions. But that was a reason the Sunnis opposed the constitution and why they demanded and won an agreement to review it this year.

Biden and co-writer Leslie H. Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, acknowledged the opposition, and said the Sunnis "have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues."

President Bush hailed the recent selection of a new Iraqi government as "a turning point for the Iraqi citizens." "It's a new chapter in our partnership," he said.

Addressing reporters after meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on their return from Baghdad, Bush said there will be "more tough days ahead." But he predicted the new government would "defeat the terrorists and the insurgents" with U.S. help.

Democrats noted Bush's "turning point" assessment came on the third anniversary of his appearance on an aircraft carrier in front of a banner reading "Mission Accomplished." "The mission was not accomplished then, and it is not accomplished now," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). "Looking back on it, the president's public relations stunt on the aircraft carrier is an embarrassing symbol of the administration's naive and inept approach to Iraq."

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