Senate passes Biden’s non-binding Iraq partition plan

posted at 3:35 pm on September 26, 2007 by Bryan

By a lopsided margin, at that.

In a strong rebuff to the Bush Administration on Iraq, the Senate overwhelming approved a plan by Biden that essentially calls for breaking Iraq into three sections: Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. While the amendment is nonbinding, it’s the first measure to pass, (vote was 75-23,) that goes against the administration’s war strategy.

Biden’s chief co-sponsor was Brownback. Fellow candidates Clinton and Dodd also supported the plan. Obama and McCain did not vote.

In a news conference after the vote, Biden said his plan is consistent with the Iraqi constitution which calls Iraq to be made up of “a decentralized capital, regions, and governorates, and local administrations.” Biden says this plan illustrates how to “end this war in a way that we are able to ultimately to bring our troops home and leave a stable Iraq behind… [that] is consistent with the Iraqi constitution.” He described it as “pushing on an open door.”

The plan also calls for the five members of the UNSC to get together and work out a plan for Iraq, which makes all the sense in the world since everyone knows that the US, UK, France, Russia and China just automagically agree on everything.

If I thought that partition was a workable solution I would be all for it. But based on the history of partitions that involve significant Muslim populations, I don’t think that it is workable. Partitioning Iraq between Shia, Sunni and Kurd is likely to take one of two paths: An all-out civil war by which one faction ends up establishing itself as ruler over the other two, or a partition enforced by military presence that’s not indigenous to Iraq. Us + some number of international partners, in other words. Neither of those outcomes fixes Iraq. One makes our presence there permanent, the other leads to a bloodbath that we would have to sort out, probably making our presence there permanent. And the all out civil war scenario probably draws in combatants and weapons from Iran, Saudi Arabia and several other regional powers that would be on either side of the fight. Partition doesn’t appear to be the magic bullet, and in my estimation holds a strong possibility of making things worse. I’d be happy to be wrong, but that’s how I see it.

The NYT’s John Burns evidently sees things along similar lines. On Hugh Hewitt’s show yesterday, he panned the idea of partitioning Iraq, and based his thinking on the partitioning of India and Pakistan 60 years ago.

HH: John Burns, when we went to break, we were talking about the Sunni-Shia divide in Iraq, and I’m hoping, given how many years you’ve spent there, you can sort of explain to me and to the audience how…you mentioned that Saddam’s weight of terror suppressed this divide. How palpable is that divide, even, say, among the employees of the New York Times? Does it rise up as say racial tension would have in the South in the 50’s and the 60’s? Or is it much deeper and much more concealed than that?

JB: No, you mentioned in the last segment the situation in India, and I think that you could say this in common about the two societies in sectarian friction and violence, which is that it’s a manmade thing. It’s a provoked thing. So let me tell you, for example, about the mood in the New York Times’ compound in Iraq. I think among media organizations, we are the largest employer. We have more Iraqi staff than anybody else. And one of the most pleasing things said to me as I left a few weeks ago by one of the Iraqi staff was that you’ve made it possible for us within these high walls, the high blast walls with which we’ve had to surround our compound in Iraq to protect ourselves, and our Iraqi employees, you’ve made it possible within these four walls for us to be Iraqis, not Sunni and Shia. There’s no sectarianism here. I have to say, I was extremely pleased to hear that. And it wasn’t we who created that. We made it possible for Iraqis, decent, hard-working, conscientious Iraqis, the sorts of people we employed, and who contribute so heavily to our daily report in the New York Times on Iraq, made it possible for them to be themselves. And their natural default position, and I’m speaking now of the great majority of Iraqis, is one of peaceable intent and goodwill across the Sunni-Shiite schism, if you will. This sectarian violence has been provoked in the first place by al Qaeda and the Baathist underground as it became, that is to say the remnants of Saddam’s regime, who for a very long time, in the fact of, I have to say, passive Shiite resistance, were killing Shiites in very large numbers in their Mosques, in their markets, on the streets, in their schools, with the sorts of bombings which Americans became so familiar with. It was really only in 2006 that Shiites began to strike back in a serious way with militia death squads of their own. But on both sides of this, it’s extremists who have prevailed. I don’t think that they represent, they don’t represent the default position on either side. That said, of course, the fundamental question of power, and the division of power, is a thing that divides Sunni and Shia. At the New York Times, it wasn’t an issue that we had to address, but it is an issue that Iraq has to addressed, and that’s going to be an extremely difficult one to resolve, absent active religious friction.


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Doesn’t Iraq have it’s own democratically elected government?

A non-binding piece of legislation for a country we don’t have any real legislative control over means… even less than jack N Sh!t…

Any one else are of polish the 110th turd we call congress?

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on September 26, 2007 at 3:40 PM

Any one else are of care to polish the 110th turd we call congress?

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on September 26, 2007 at 3:41 PM

Roll call?

Limerick on September 26, 2007 at 3:42 PM

Obama and McCain did not vote.

Obama continues his stunning ability to take a brave stand on foreign policy matters.

Anyways …
If you take the human element out of the equation (the inevitable slaughter of many thousands of people), the idea of Iran and Saudi Arabia going at it isn’t all that bad to me. Iran’s economy is on the brink anyways; this could send it over the edge, right? Saudi Arabia, I think, would inevitably win this and they seem, on the surface at least, to be the easiest to deal with of all the major ME powers.

lorien1973 on September 26, 2007 at 3:45 PM

Doesn’t Iraq have it’s own democratically elected government?

A non-binding piece of legislation for a country we don’t have any real legislative control over means… even less than jack N Sh!t…

Any one else are of polish the 110th turd we call congress?

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on September 26, 2007 at 3:40 PM

Some of the Einsteins in congress just don’t seem to get the little tiny trivial detail.

doriangrey on September 26, 2007 at 3:46 PM

Senate Democrats and Republicans who have been fighting with each other like cats and dogs have come up with a plan focused on how Iraqis can get along with one another.

What’s wrong with this picture?

fogw on September 26, 2007 at 3:47 PM

Biden is such a horse’s ass (no offense to horses).

What gives us the right to divide up Iraq?

This is a simplistic solution to a complex problem much like the mess in Yugoslavia. I know Biden and the rest of the traitors in his party keep screaming “Vietnam!”, but it’s “Yugoslavia!” if it’s anything.

The senate needs to focus on fighting Iran at this point.

Hening on September 26, 2007 at 3:49 PM

Senate Democrats and Republicans who have been fighting with each other like cats and dogs have come up with a plan focused on how Iraqis can get along with one another.

What’s wrong with this picture?

fogw on September 26, 2007 at 3:47 PM

no kidding, it took America what 8, 11 years to ratify our own constitution and they are pissed that Iraq hasn’t done it in 3???

doriangrey on September 26, 2007 at 3:50 PM

Any one else care to polish the 110th turd we call congress?

If they are recycled turds, then I’m all for it…oh wait that is Kate Winslet’s job.

Mcguyver on September 26, 2007 at 3:51 PM

Well I’m going to have to disagree with you AP. A partition doesn’t mean there will be a civil war if you put the military under the command of the central federal government. Just like America has 50 states, but one military – like federalism (buzz word of the election cycle).

I think that there should be new elections at a minimum. If Maliki wins again, by all means, make him the President. But there were so many boycotts of the first election that it only makes sense that they go ahead and hold another election. I think it is silly that Bush holds up Maliki as ‘his guy’ at all costs.

Partition is not a ‘bad’ idea. Re-vote, is probably the best idea to instill democracy in Iraq.

ThackerAgency on September 26, 2007 at 3:51 PM

You’d think they would have something more productive, like a highway funding bill to fix bridges, or a bill to keep poor kids insured. Or a bill declaring CAIR a terrorist group…

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on September 26, 2007 at 3:51 PM

1st, Obama doesn’t seem to want to take a side on anything?
2nd, “the partitioning of India and Pakistan 60 years ago,” that worked out swell!
3rd, I’m sure Turkey will love an independent Kurdish State.

abinitioadinfinitum on September 26, 2007 at 3:52 PM

I think that there should be new elections at a minimum. If Maliki wins again, by all means, make him the President. But there were so many boycotts of the first election that it only makes sense that they go ahead and hold another election. I think it is silly that Bush holds up Maliki as ‘his guy’ at all costs.

Partition is not a ‘bad’ idea. Re-vote, is probably the best idea to instill democracy in Iraq.

Not our call, it’s up to the Iraqis, it’s THEIR government that should be deciding this, not us.

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on September 26, 2007 at 3:52 PM

Not our call, it’s up to the Iraqis, it’s THEIR government that should be deciding this, not us.

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on September 26, 2007 at 3:52 PM

That’s all well and good in theory. . . but as long as our military is there shooting people on our own authority, along with Blackwater operating under no authority, we are still ‘the decider’ there.

Wait, let me remember. . . was it the Iraqis demanding to vote, or did we demand that they vote?

ThackerAgency on September 26, 2007 at 3:55 PM

Well, either we force encourage allow them to govern themselves by retreating or we make them the 51st State.

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on September 26, 2007 at 3:58 PM

Saudi Arabia, I think, would inevitably win this and they seem, on the surface at least, to be the easiest to deal with of all the major ME powers.

lorien1973 on September 26, 2007 at 3:45 PM

Iran has twice the GDP and 3 times the labor force of the Saudis. The Saudis spend about 10% of their GDP on the military (3rd in the world), but how much of that they are willing to spend on Iraq is not clear. Iran seems more motivated, so I’d go with them winning.

pedestrian on September 26, 2007 at 3:59 PM

3rd in the world – in percentage terms

pedestrian on September 26, 2007 at 4:00 PM

Just wondering, does Biden’s plan address how we partition the infiltrated Iranian troublemakers out of Iraq?

Oh that’s right, it’s only a secular problem.

My bad Joe.

fogw on September 26, 2007 at 4:08 PM

Wow… could you imagine what would happen if someones Parliment said that we should “Partition” the US?

Oh wait… already happened with mexico and the border mess….

Azatlan here we come…

Romeo13 on September 26, 2007 at 4:08 PM

While they are at it, why doesn’t the Senate partition the US into 3 sections – North, South and Hollywood.

faraway on September 26, 2007 at 4:09 PM

Our Congress sucks.

CP on September 26, 2007 at 4:11 PM

The hair plug’s plan for failure.

Kini on September 26, 2007 at 4:12 PM

The people of Iraq are already dividing themselves up and migrating to areas full of their own tribes. Iraq was carved up and put together unnaturaly and is now realigning itself.

As to the comparison with America having 50 states, yeah but each state is not homogenous. If every state had its own religion, language, nationality, etc we’d be in a civil war too.

Tony737 on September 26, 2007 at 4:14 PM

Tony737, that’s exactly why we have our own Civil War over 100 years ago. Does Biden think it was a good idea for the South to have seceded from the Union?

faraway on September 26, 2007 at 4:16 PM

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it”

Lincoln 1862

faraway on September 26, 2007 at 4:18 PM

Does Biden think it was a good idea for the South to have seceded from the Union?

faraway on September 26, 2007 at 4:16 PM

He thinks Obama is clean, articulate and a nice guy.
Tells ya something about his subtle racism.
But then again, he’s Delaware’s problem child.
History is something to be plagiarized and not learned from at Greasy Joe’s place.

Kini on September 26, 2007 at 4:22 PM

If I thought that partition was a workable solution I would be all for it.

Like staying together for the sake of the kids Allah Maliki Kagan Bush for the past four and a half years has been working out so swell.

There has already been a pretty large amount of Iraqi self partitioning already.

An all-out civil war by which one faction ends up establishing itself as ruler over the other two

“as though Americans are eternally obligated to serve as buffers between the warring Islamic tribes of Iraq — which is both cracked and a good way to tie up American forces for the next several centuries.”
- Diana West

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 4:41 PM

In a recent interview, Michael Ledeen, author of the new book, “The Iranian Time Bomb” identifies the main problem with the conventional wisdom: “What drives me crazy is that even our most brilliant analysts — among whom I count some very close friends — still aren’t talking about the regional war. They still talk about Iraq alone. And down that road only misery lies.” As for Congress, he adds: “They’re debating the wrong question. We have to win the war, but the real war, not the battle for Iraq.

There’s a world of trouble outside Iraq. At the very least, it’s debatable whether building bridges between Sunnis and Shiites inside Iraq should remain American Priority No. 1.
- Diana West

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 4:45 PM

I bet Slow Joe can’t even carve up a Thanksgiving turkey let alone a sovereign Middle Eastern country.

The gall of this prick is unending.

omnipotent on September 26, 2007 at 4:51 PM

The gall of this prick is unending.

omnipotent on September 26, 2007 at 4:51 PM

In the land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King.

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 4:54 PM

mb4
There’s a world of trouble outside Iraq. At the very least, it’s debatable whether building bridges between Sunnis and Shiites inside Iraq should remain American Priority No. 1.

I hope this is exactly why we are in Iraq. If the Middle East has freedom of religion, we are safer.

faraway on September 26, 2007 at 4:56 PM

the only reason this partition wont work is because there just hasnt been enough bloodletting.

we havent let these bastards fight their fight the way they wanted, and so whatever partition borders are drawn up, they will undoubtly face stiff resistance.

ernesto on September 26, 2007 at 5:01 PM

Biden’s chief co-sponsor was Brownback. Fellow candidates Clinton and Dodd also supported the plan. Obama and McCain did not vote.

Hillary Clinton voted for this?

Until now, she’s done everything she could to keep from taking any sort of coherent position on Iraq besides “Bush is bad.” This resolution was intended as just another snipe at Bush, or a political suicide pill if he was stupid enough to cave in and do what the Senate is telling him to.

And now Hillary leaps headfirst into the snakepit she helped dig.

Very. Bad. Move.

logis on September 26, 2007 at 5:11 PM

Partitioning won’t work. Most of Iraq’s oil is in the Kurdish North and the Shia south. Not much for the Sunnis.

Mazztek on September 26, 2007 at 5:13 PM

A pacified Iraq will be achieved at the end of the barrel of some country’s guns.

JiangxiDad on September 26, 2007 at 5:22 PM

Since there isn’t a civil war they’ll just engineer one.

- The Cat

MirCat on September 26, 2007 at 5:32 PM

Partioning is strategically ignorant, stupid and dangerous.
Oh great, separate Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. That makes soooo much sense, sectarian blood shed all over again. 75 Senators voted for this? I want to know who the rat bastard Republicans are who voted for this piece of garbage.

MNDavenotPC on September 26, 2007 at 5:53 PM

no kidding, it took America what 8, 11 years to ratify our own constitution and they are pissed that Iraq hasn’t done it in 3???

doriangrey on September 26, 2007 at 3:50 PM

There’s really no comparison between the Iraqi situation and ours. We weren’t killing each other in mass numbers prior ot the ratification of the Constitution. By and large, we were working, going to church, and living relatively peacefully after the war for independence. Islamic societies are set up around completely different presuppositions, as Robert Spencer pointed out in his explanation of Surah 5. Perhaps there’s some hope for the Arabs if they intermarry amongst tribes as the Kurds have done, but that takes at least a generation or two. Ours is a Hebrew-Hellenic civilization. There’s isn’t.

PRCalDude on September 26, 2007 at 5:56 PM

“as though Americans are eternally obligated to serve as buffers between the warring Islamic tribes of Iraq — which is both cracked and a good way to tie up American forces for the next several centuries.”
- Diana West

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 4:41 PM

Exactly. Sadly, it takes an Eastern European (Diana West) to tell us how Western civilization ought to function.

PRCalDude on September 26, 2007 at 5:57 PM

I hope this is exactly why we are in Iraq. If the Middle East has freedom of religion, we are safer.

faraway on September 26, 2007 at 4:56 PM

The middle east already has freedom of religion. Freedom of religion in the middle east just means freedom to be Islamic, as long as it is the right brand, and to try to force others to be Islamic. If you are Islamic Sunni in a Sunni controlled area or if you are Islamic Shiite in a Shiite controlled area.

I know that is not what you meant. You meant actual freedom of religion as we understand it in the west. But then we would be safer if I turned into Superman. Both are rather improbable.

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 6:02 PM

If you actually read Biden’s plan, at the very least, it does not seem unreasonable.

A plan for a stable Iraq

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 6:05 PM

In the land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King.

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 4:54 PM

No,
In the land of the blind, a one eyed man would be judged insane by a jury of his peers. He would be confined in an underground room where he would not bring harm to himself or society by talking about crazy things like “light, dark, colors”.

rockhauler on September 26, 2007 at 6:13 PM

i had a link for this, but it has expired, and I don’t recall who said it. It may have been Diana West or Daniel Pipes or Hugh Fitzgerald (of Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch)?

Redefining the war on terror as essentially the product of ancient feuds within Islam immediately shifts the argument onto terrain favorable to the West. For the first time in five years, it takes the narrative out of Bin Laden’s hands.

It also has the added benefit of being true. Al-Qaeda’s primary foes have always been Arab regimes not in accordance with extreme fundamentalist Wahhabist theology. But that theology is also full of contempt for those regarded by Al-Qaeda and most Sunnis as heretics: the Shi’ites of Iran.

We are learning in Iraq not to underestimate the power of this mutual hatred. The loathing of Muslims for other Muslims in the Middle East today is as deep as the loathing of Christians for other Christians once was in Europe. For Sunni versus Shi’ite, think Protestant versus Catholic. For 2007, think 1557.

Freud’s term for the passionate hating of people very like oneself — but different in some minor degree — was the “narcissism of small differences”. The West has a chance to exploit that Muslim narcissism for our own purposes.

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 6:16 PM

MB4 on September 26, 2007 at 6:16 PM

Must’ve been Hugh.

PRCalDude on September 26, 2007 at 6:34 PM

75 Senators voted for this? I want to know who the rat bastard Republicans are who voted for this piece of garbage.
MNDavenotPC on September 26, 2007 at 5:53 PM

I’d settle for the names of 75 Iraqi’s who want this.

Democrats in Congress are desperate to have Iraq turn out like Vietnam – with a return to totalitarianism, genocide and expanded base of operations for our enemies.

And the first step in that process is to start a REAL civil war.

Partitioning won’t work. Most of Iraq’s oil is in the Kurdish North and the Shia south. Not much for the Sunnis.
Mazztek on September 26, 2007 at 5:13 PM

Oh, don’t worry about that. The trifling detail of apportioning the oil will (somehow) be taken care of by a “loose central government.”

It’ll all work out just fine, because the liberals in Congress just learned a brand new word: “federalism.” And they redefined it to mean that the people who actually LIVE on the land that produces the wealth are free to be forced to give it all away.

(In other words, liberals want to do to the word “federalism” what they have already done to the words “progressive” and “gay” – redefine them into their polar opposites.)

logis on September 26, 2007 at 7:16 PM

Partishioning will never work because the Sunni’s would never go along. They have nothing to gain.

SoulGlo on September 26, 2007 at 8:00 PM

Funny, but I always thought you had to win the war before you got to decide how to divide the country up. My how times have changed.

JM Hanes on September 27, 2007 at 1:35 AM

Just read the actual text of S.Amdt. 2997 and it strikes me as more mushy than strong in the rebuff department. While I might have more respect for the folks who found it in their hearts to vote no (North Carolina rocks!), I can see the method in some of the others’ madness. Republicans at risk in see-saw districts with mixed constituencies could vote yea without doing much real damage, and by designing a resolution that sounds good but is actually soft enough to “attract” Republican votes & the elusive “bipartisan concensus” Biden gets a spinnable leadership moment to prop up his sagging campaign.

Anyone who finds themselve falling for the conventional wisdom about the ethno-religious sectarian divide can’t have been reading John Burns closely for long, and should surf on over to Small Wars Journal ASAP to read one of the best pieces on that topic to date, written by Dave Killcullen.

JM Hanes on September 27, 2007 at 2:09 AM

Dave Killcullen – Some aspects of the war in Iraq are hard to fit into “classical” models of insurgency. One of these is the growing tribal uprising against al Qa’ida, which could transform the war in ways not factored into neat “benchmarks” developed many months ago and thousands of miles away.

“The fact that some Sunni Arab tribes have “turned on” Al Qaeda does not mean that now those Sunni tribes are “allied with us.” They aren’t. They are simply getting revenge for the Al Qaeda attacks on them. That’s it.

No change of heart about Infidel Americans. No change of heart about Kurds. No change of heart about the Shi’a, who if not quite “Rafidite dogs” nonetheless should not be permitted to lord it over the Sunni Arabs.

The interpretation — misinterpretation — of the split between the relatively tiny (though murderously effective) Al Qaeda group, and the much larger group of Sunnis who will never acquiesce in their loss of power to the Shi’a, and never — it is out of the question — be true friends, or friends at all, of the Americans, show the limits of the current events.”
- Hugh Fitzgerald of Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch

MB4 on September 27, 2007 at 2:32 AM

Funny, but I always thought you had to win the war before you got to decide how to divide the country up. My how times have changed.

JM Hanes on September 27, 2007 at 1:35 AM

The war was won and in about 3 weeks.

It is the Wilsonian Sunni/Shiite can’t we all just get along nation building project that is failing. Big surprise.

MB4 on September 27, 2007 at 2:38 AM

rockhauler on September 26, 2007 at 6:13 PM

Kudos.

MB4 on September 27, 2007 at 4:12 AM

Iran has twice the GDP and 3 times the labor force of the Saudis. The Saudis spend about 10% of their GDP on the military (3rd in the world), but how much of that they are willing to spend on Iraq is not clear. Iran seems more motivated, so I’d go with them winning.

pedestrian on September 26, 2007 at 3:59 PM

I worked in Saudi Arabia for two years, and noted that as a group of people, they are mainly disinterested in doing any produtive work. Their society tends to look down on anyone who has to do anything other than owning a store (not working in it, OWNING it), being in the police, or being in the military. Iran fought Iraq to a standstill over eight years. Although the Saudis have armed themselves to the teeth with our weapons, it remains to be seen if they have the will to fight. There should be no doubt about Iranian will.

Texas Nick 77 on September 27, 2007 at 7:37 AM

If they divvy up Iraq, won’t that just make it easier for Iran and Syria to grab it? You know, piece by peice.

bloggless on September 27, 2007 at 8:08 AM

Anyone who finds themselve falling for the conventional wisdom about the ethno-religious sectarian divide can’t have been reading John Burns closely for long, and should surf on over to Small Wars Journal ASAP to read one of the best pieces on that topic to date, written by Dave Killcullen.

JM Hanes on September 27, 2007 at 2:09 AM

Good read.

Ultimately, if the Iraqi Arabs can get rid of their tribalism by intermarrying amongst the different tribes, they can do what the Kurds have done. Unfortunately, the society will still be Islamic and likely to flip on us at any time.

PRCalDude on September 27, 2007 at 11:24 AM

If they divvy up Iraq, won’t that just make it easier for Iran and Syria to grab it? You know, piece by peice.

bloggless on September 27, 2007 at 8:08 AM

Turkey will definitely want a piece off the top.

Odds are the surrounding members of the Islamic Empire would make some sort of deal to split up Iraq. Saddam was only a potential threat to one of them at a time, but they know full well that a democracy in the middle of their Empire would be the death knell for every Islamic dictatorship.

If we get a Democrat President, she’s already said she will be willing to do anything it takes to reduce the number of troops over there at any cost. And so far this is the only suggestion she’s officially signed on to. (My guess is the Sunnis would be the easiest faction for her to deal with, so they’d be the only ones to get protection.)

logis on September 27, 2007 at 4:04 PM