Bipartisan Iraq plan should not be ignored
The Senate has endorsed a strategy for a three-region federalist plan for Iraq.
AT long last, the Senate has agreed on a bipartisan direction for U.S. policy in Iraq -- a three-region federalist plan authored by Sen. Joe Biden. The approach is binding on neither the Bush administration nor the Iraqi government but is a consensus that should not be ignored.
Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposed the federal system a year and a half ago. It was quickly shot down by the Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, asserting that Iraq's regions have mixed populations that cannot be easily separated along ethnic lines.
However, the failure of the Iraqi government to stem ethnic violence has resulted in a second look at the Biden proposal. The Senate voted 75-23 in favor of the plan, endorsed by majorities in both parties.
Biden would decentralize Iraq into three regions respectively for the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, where the ethnic majority would have control over such functions as police, jobs, education and government services. The Kurds, representing 20 percent of the Iraqi people, have had autonomy since 1991, protected from Saddam Hussein by American war planes in a no-flight zone.
The central government under the plan would be responsible for "common interests" such as border security and distribution of oil revenues; the Sunni region has no oil but would be given a proportionate share of the revenues.
The Iraq Study Group's view about Iraq's multiethnic regions may be changing. Biden points out that about 100,000 Iraqis a month are fleeing their homes to escape "sectarian cleansing."
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