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Iraqi President Backs Biden Plan For Decentralization

President Jalal Talabani, the first democratically-elected president of Iraq, has endorsed the US Senate's proposed plan for the decentralization of the Iraqi federal government introduced by Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) last month.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says he supports a U.S. Senate resolution that calls for the decentralization of Iraq into autonomous regions for Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

The non-binding Senate resolution adopted last month is opposed by the Bush administration and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

But, Mr. Talabani said in an interview with CNN Sunday that the Senate proposal deserves consideration and does not undermine Iraq's unity.

The resolution urges the creation of a federal government in Baghdad that would protect Iraq's borders and share oil revenues among the regions.

Mr. Talabani, who is a Kurd, says there is "no possibility" of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region becoming independent. He says such a state would face hostility from neighbors with Kurdish minorities.

The Iraqi president also says he believes the United States can withdraw at least 100,000 troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

An obvious sign Biden's plan is making sense would be for us to see Republicans endorsing it.

Cue the sign...

Astonishingly, 26 Republican senators broke with President Bush's Iraq policy last week. But you may not have noticed this, and it's not your fault.

Sen. Joe Biden's resolution calling for a federal solution to the Iraq mess--sometimes known as "soft partition"--got almost no attention even though it passed 75-23. There seems to be far more interest in how fundraising is going for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

The vote on Biden's proposal to devolve power to Iraq's regions and three major groups could turn out to be a milestone in the effort to end the war. It was also a reflection of how much Republican frustration there is with the Iraqi government and the direction of President Bush's policy.

From the beginning, Bush has insisted that Iraq's current crop of politicians could broker peace among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and make a strong central government work. But that idea is increasingly implausible. The administration's deeds (as opposed to its words) are a tacit admission of failure.

Bush's claims for the success of his troop surge rest in large part on the alliance between American troops and Sunni sheiks in Anbar province in the battle against al-Qaida in Iraq. Yet this bottom-up side deal has nothing to do with a strong central government, and may actually work against it.

In an interview, Biden said he was not surprised that so many Republicans backed his nonbinding resolution. He believes that there are "not a dozen Republicans" who still think privately that "an American presence in Iraq will maintain a strong central government."

Here are the Key Points of Biden's plan:

  1. Giving Iraq's major groups a measure of autonomy in their own regions. A central government would be left in charge of interests such as defending the borders and distributing oil revenues.
  2. Guaranteeing Shiites -- who have no oil rights -- a proportionate share of oil revenue and reintegrating those who have not fought against Coalition forces.
  3. Increase, not end, reconstruction assistance but insist that Arab Gulf states fund it and tie it to the creation of a jobs program and to the protection of minority rights.
  4. Initiate a diplomatic offensive to enlist the support of the major powers and neighboring countries for a political settlement in Iraq and create an Oversight Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.
  5. Begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces in 2007 and withdraw most of them by 2008, leaving a small follow-on force for security and policing actions.

The President of Iraq, the very first president to be elected under that country's new constitution, is in favor of this plan. It's opposed by President Bush.

Does the United States of America support the fledgling Iraqi democracy?

Or will the political needs of the GOP in the upcoming 2008 elections be a higher priority for this administration and the remaining Republicans in Congress who oppose this plan, and will they instead work against the wishes of Iraq's president simply because the plan was put forth by a Democrat?

What do you think?

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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