MIKE PESCA, host:
On Democrat who is not pointing to a date on the calendar and saying this is when the U.S. needs to get out of Iraq is Delaware's Joe Biden. The ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advocates a federalism plan for Iraq.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
The country would be divided into three regions along ethnic and sectarian lines: one region each for the Sunni, Shia and Kurds. Thousands of U.S. troops would remain in the country, and the Sunnis, whose region lacks the oil resources of the Shia and the Kurds, would share Iraq's oil revenue.
PESCA: Biden believes those steps would help end the insurgency. Our colleague, Alex Chadwick, spoke about the elements of the plan with Senator Biden.
Senator JOSEPH BIDEN (Democrat, Delaware): The former Baathists, the former Saddamists, are dominating the insurgency. If in fact they had a piece of the oil, you would find support for the insurgency diminish significantly. Part of this plan is to leave behind 25 to 30,000 forces, either out - far out in Anbar Province in the El Hassain(ph) Airfield, which is in the middle of the desert with two 10,000-foot runways, or up in the Kurdish area.
ALEX CHADWICK: These are U.S. forces.
Senator BIDEN: These are U.S. forces. To be able to deny the occupation of territory to the jihadists. So while each of these regions build up their own regional, in effect state police forces, like the state of Maryland, the state of California, they have their state police forces. So it would have the effect of allowing them to concentrate on solidifying their region and bringing about some economic stability in those regions.
CHADWICK: Senator, you must have read at least the released portions of the National Intelligence Estimate. It suggests, among other things, that the mere presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is now a terrorist recruiting tool. Is that a problem for this idea of yours - leave 25, 30,000 Americans behind? I mean, doesn't that continue to be an irritant?
Senator BIDEN: No, it reaches the exact opposite result. You would be taking all American forces out of the population centers, out of the cities, and have them bivouacked in an area where there is no one else around. This facility out in Anbar Province, the nearest town, is about 15 kilometers. It's called Baghdadi. It's on the Tigris River, and it has several thousand people. So it would take that very irritant out of the equation, but it would still allow an over-horizon force. And you don't have to keep it in Iraq even. You could theoretically have that force in Bahrain, you could have it in other countries. But you are going to need a residual U.S. force while each of these provinces in the central government is in fact beefing up their internal capability to provide for their security, to deny jihadis the ability to occupy territory while they're preoccupied.
CHADWICK: I want to ask you, Senator, about your party, the Democrats...
Senator BIDEN: Yes.
CHADWICK: ...and Iraq. Three weeks ago, Senate Democrats released what they said was major new legislation on American security. It's called the Real Security Act of 2006.
Senator BIDEN: Yes.
CHADWICK: This is 528 pages. You get to Iraq on Page 511, and you leave it on Page 516, out of a 528-page bill. Why should Americans think that Democrats have anything worthwhile to say about Iraq?
Senator BIDEN: Well, the truth of the matter is that the Democrats, at least a portion of the Democrats, agree with the plan that I have put forward with some specificity. There are still a number of Democrats who very bluntly think that all we have to do is point out the absolute disaster of this administration's policy. And I would point out that not one thing - my mother would say God love him - has the president predicted has turned out to be right in Iraq. Remember when Zarqawi was killed? They asked whether or not this would reduce violence. They said yes. I think I was on your network - I know I was on every other one saying no, it would increase violence, it would not reduce. He deserves a special place in hell, and I'm happy he's there, and I'm happy he's gone. But the idea that that in and of itself would reduce the violence was not very rational.
CHADWICK: Senator, what I have not heard are Democrats getting up and saying, hey, this is an outrage, we have a plan, this is what we're going to do. I haven't heard it from Democrats.
Senator BIDEN: Well, you're heard this Democrat say that. You heard this Democrat say that, and you've heard me say it repeatedly in every major media outlet in the nation and lay out a detailed plan. And my response to other people who don't the like the plan is say, okay, what's your plan? Nobody offers one. Nobody in either political party.
My point is this. A lot of Democrats feel that it's the obligation of this administration, since they control the policy, to come up with a plan. I do not believe that. I think that they're clearly not going to come up with a plan, and so we have to come forward. And now you're seeing more and more people in the Democratic Party embracing this plan per se and/or the elements of this plan. But the idea that the Democratic Party as a whole will be able to come up with a single plan while out of office that offers a complete alternative, like I have, and everyone agreeing on it is not particularly probable. And it begs the question. The question is: Is there anything in the approach of this administration that makes anybody believe they have any notion how to get us out of this responsibly and leave behind anything remotely approaching a stable country?
CHADWICK: Joe Biden is the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Biden, thank you.
Sen. BIDEN: Thanks an awful lot.
MONTAGNE: And that interview by our colleague, Alex Chadwick.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.