Image: Sen. Joseph Biden
Kevin Heslin  /  Getty Images file
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., seen here during an April 3 news conference, suggested in a New York Times op-ed on Monday that Iraq be divided into three sections.
updated 5/1/2006 11:48:25 AM ET 2006-05-01T15:48:25

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

In an op-ed essay in Monday’s edition of The New York Times, Sen. Joseph Biden. D-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 one of the reasons 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.”

Biden and Gelb also wrote that President Bush “must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest).”

Defense of planning
Meantime, the White House on Sunday defended its prewar planning against criticism from an unlikely source — former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

In an interview broadcast Sunday in London, Powell revisited the question of whether the U.S. had a large enough force to oust Saddam Hussein and then secure the peace.

Powell said he advised now-retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who developed and executed the 2003 Iraq invasion plan, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld “before the president that I was not sure we had enough troops. The case was made, it was listened to, it was considered. ... A judgment was made by those responsible that the troop strength was adequate.”

Current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was Bush’s national security adviser at the time of the invasion, responded, “I don’t remember specifically what Secretary Powell may be referring to, but I’m quite certain that there were lots of discussions about how best to fulfill the mission that we went into Iraq.

“And I have no doubt that all of this was taken into consideration. But that when it came down to it, the president listens to his military advisers who were to execute the plan,” she told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Rice said Bush “listened to the advice of his advisers and ultimately, he listened to the advice of his commanders, the people who actually had to execute the war plan. And he listened to them several times,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”

“When the war plan was put together, it was put together, also, with consideration of what would happen after Saddam Hussein was actually overthrown,” Rice said.

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