The Times West Virginian

Headline News

June 22, 2014

Iraq crisis offers hint of vindication for Biden

WASHINGTON — As Iraq edges toward chaos, Joe Biden is having a quiet I-told-you-so moment.

In 2006, Biden was a senator from Delaware gearing up for a presidential campaign when he proposed that Iraq be divided into three semi-independent regions for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Follow his plan, he said, and U.S. troops could be out by early 2008. Ignore it, he warned, and Iraq would devolve into sectarian conflict that could destabilize the whole region.

The Bush administration chose to ignore Biden. Now, eight years later, the vice president’s doom-and-gloom prediction seems more than a little prescient.

Old sectarian tensions have erupted with a vengeance as Sunni militants seize entire cities and the United States faults the Shiite prime minister for shunning Iraq’s minorities. While the White House isn’t actively considering Biden’s old plan, Mideast experts are openly questioning whether Iraq is marching toward an inevitable breakup along sectarian lines.

“Isn’t this the divided Iraq that Joe Biden predicted eight years ago?” read an editorial this week in The Dallas Morning News.

If there’s a measure of vindication for Biden, it’s come at the right time.

After staking his claim to leadership on foreign policy, Biden has watched his record come under sometimes bruising criticism, including former Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ insistence that Biden has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy decision in four decades. And as he contemplates another presidential run, Biden’s political clout has been eclipsed by that of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

So the trajectory in Iraq, and the public musings about Biden’s being ahead of the curve, haven’t gone unnoticed by his supporters — even if Biden is staying quiet about his 2006 plan to avoid upstaging President Barack Obama. Biden’s office declined to comment.

“He’s been right,” said former Sen. Ted Kaufman, the longtime Biden aide and confidant who replaced him in the Senate. “But you’ll be hard pressed to find an ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that.’ He’s not an ‘I told you so’ kind of guy.”

The Bush administration didn’t pursue Biden’s plan. When the Senate voted overwhelmingly in 2007 to back it, Obama, then a senator from Illinois, didn’t vote. As president, Obama’s approach has been to urge Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stop excluding Sunnis and Kurds from the political process, rather than to devolve power away from the central government in Baghdad as Biden proposed.

In the White House, Obama and Biden sought to secure an agreement with Iraq to keep some U.S. forces there but didn’t vehemently pursue it once those talks sputtered. Now as Sunnis fight Shiites in Iraq once again, Obama is telling al-Maliki both publicly and privately that the U.S. won’t reinsert itself into the conflict unless the Shiite-led government finds a way to accommodate minorities.

All the while, Biden has retained a key role in the U.S. response to Iraq, handling the portfolio during the troop drawdown and serving as Obama’s primary liaison to Iraqi leaders. On a single day this week while traveling in Latin America, Biden discussed the crisis with Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, its Sunni parliamentary speaker and its Kurdish regional president.

Other Biden predictions on Iraq have proved less prophetic. In 2010, as the U.S. was pulling its troops out, Biden professed optimism that Iraq was moving toward a stable, representative government. “This could be one of the great achievements of this administration,” he said.

And even if the doomsday scenario Biden envisioned appears to be coming true, those who criticized his 2006 proposal insist it wasn’t a good plan then and wouldn’t have produced any better result.

Retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who was chief executive to Gen. David Petraeus when he was the top commander in Iraq, said it took eight years of authoritarian governance under al-Maliki for Iraqis to begin seriously wondering whether they’d be better off without a unified Iraqi state.

“Back in 2006, I didn’t meet a single Iraqi who thought the Biden plan was a good idea,” Mansoor said in an interview.

The plan originated when Biden found himself stuck on a runway in New York for nearly three hours, waiting to fly to Washington. On the same airplane was Leslie Gelb, a former New York Times reporter who became president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“For the three hours, we talked about nothing but this Iraq idea,” Gelb said, and when they finally got to Washington, they presented it to Biden chief of staff Tony Blinken — now Obama’s deputy foreign policy adviser.

Modeled after the 1995 Dayton Accords that produced a framework for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the plan sought to establish an Iraqi state with three largely autonomous regions, one each for Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. The central government in Baghdad would handle security and foreign affairs plus distribute the nation’s vast oil revenues among the groups — the glue that would hold the three regions together.

Pitched by Biden on editorial pages, Sunday talk shows and in public speeches, the plan became a cornerstone of Biden’s second bid for the White House. He lost to Obama in the Democratic primary.

The White House didn’t take the plan seriously, at least not at first.

William Inboden, who ran strategic planning at the National Security Council and now teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, said the Bush White House rejected Biden’s plan out of hand until it showed up in a piece by New York Times columnist David Brooks. The White House took a closer look, Inboden said, but determined that the plan was impractical and potentially bloody, and it was eventually shelved.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Obama Exporting Pollu_time.jpg ‘Not in my backyard’: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad

    As  the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.
    This fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine President Barack Obama’s strategy for reducing the gases blamed for climate change and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem. The contribution of this exported pollution to global warming is not something the administration wants to measure, or even talk about.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S.: Russia fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.
    The images, which came from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and could not be independently verified by The Associated Press, show blast marks where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

    July 28, 2014

  • Plan to simplify health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.
    Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.
    If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they’ll owe the tax man later.

    July 28, 2014

  • W.Va. Judge: WVU, IMG College deal is OK

    A judge has denied a motion by West Virginia Radio Corp. to toss the media rights contract between West Virginia University and IMG College.
    Media outlets report Monongalia County business court circuit judge Thomas Evans set aside a motion for summary judgment against WVU and others.
    West Virginia Radio was seeking to void any contract entered by WVU and IMG. West Virginia Radio unsuccessfully bid on the contract, then filed a motion for summary judgment in February, claiming school officials violated state procurement laws.
    Evans ruled the code cited by the plaintiffs didn’t apply to the $86.5 million, 12-year agreement reached last year.

    July 28, 2014

  • Powerful storms rip through eastern U.S.

    Powerful storms raking across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday have destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, and there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Lawmakers say Obama too aloof with Congress

    President Barack Obama’s request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn’t get it when it comes to working with Congress.

    July 27, 2014

  • U.S. faces intelligence hurdles in downing of airliner

    A series of unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shows the limits of U.S. intelligence gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March.

    July 27, 2014

  • House approves bill to boost child tax credit for some

    More families with higher incomes could claim the popular child tax credit under a bill that won approval Friday in the House. But in a dispute that divides Republicans and Democrats, millions of the poorest low-income families would still lose the credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads