October 16th, 2008
04:21 PM ET
3 years ago

Fact Check: Has Biden proposed dividing Iraq?

Did Biden really call for Iraq to be divided into three countries?
Did Biden really call for Iraq to be divided into three countries?

The Statement

Sen. John McCain, speaking at the October 15 presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, said Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, "had this cockamamie idea about dividing Iraq into three countries."

Get the facts!


The Facts

Sen. Biden co-authored an opinion piece in The New York Times on May 1, 2006, that proposed a five-point plan "decentralizing" Iraq, greatly beset at the time by civil warfare between Shiites and Sunni Arabs.

The column, also authored by Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb, likened Iraq's sectarian woes to those in Bosnia - "torn apart by ethnic cleansing and facing its demise as a single country" after the breakup of Yugoslavia last decade.

The column noted that the Dayton Accords - the agreement that ended the Bosnian war - kept Bosnia intact by "dividing it into ethnic federations, even allowing Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies." The result was that Bosnians "have lived a decade in relative peace."

The column argues that Iraq should "maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group - Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab - room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests." It underscores the fact that Iraq's Constitution "provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments."

The proposal, which became known as the Biden-Gelb plan, generated attention in Washington and Baghdad, and the U.S. Senate on September 26, 2007, voted for a Biden amendment expressing support for a U.S.-backed political settlement that would include a federal system.

The Verdict:

False. Biden proposed decentralizing Iraq's government, but not breaking up the country.


Filed under: Fact Check • Iraq • Joe Biden • John McCain
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