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Key Democrat Says Kerry's Plan for Iraq Would be 'Aggressive' - 2004-10-19

In the U.S. presidential race, both the Republican incumbent, President Bush, and the Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, have put forth similar visions for Iraq's future, namely to create a stable environment for elections as soon as possible. Delaware Senator Joe Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, says Senator Kerry's plan for gaining international cooperation in Iraq would be "more aggressive" than that of Mr. Bush.

Senator Biden, who is a top adviser to the Democratic presidential candidate, told New York's private Council on Foreign Relations that he believes Senator Kerry would be very involved in reconstructing Iraq.

"If John Kerry is the John Kerry I have worked with for 24 years in the Senate, known for 32 years, there would be a much more aggressive policy," said Mr. Biden. "But so I'm completely blunt here, I think it's going to be a lot harder that John thinks it is. I think it is going to be a lot harder. And if you notice in the last speech John made, he interjected seven times in his speech, at the suggestion of some of us, 'But it's getting harder every day.'"

Republicans have criticized Senator Kerry for saying Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has tried to put a positive spin on events in Iraq even as insurgent violence is on the rise, leading some Republicans to question the extent to which Senator Kerry would back the Iraqi interim government.

Senator Biden, who many observers believe is a potential candidate for secretary of state if Senator Kerry wins the presidency, says he has promised Mr. Allawi that he would receive more support under a Kerry administration, not less.

"I told him absolutely positively there would be no distinction [between the Kerry and Bush administrations], as a matter of fact, you'd get more support. In other words, we would have distributed the $18 billion by now. We would have actually begun the reconstruction," said Joe Biden. "We would not have been as incompetent as they have been in distributing the money up until now. You will see a surge of force, and I think this will occur anyway in this administration."

Senator Biden says part of that additional support would come from the international community. He says America's allies in Europe realize that they have more to lose if they don't get involved in rebuilding Iraq, in part for financial reasons, and in part because of their proximity to the Middle East.

Responding to speculation that Senator John Kerry may support a plan to create a loosely tied confederation of Kurdish, Shia and Sunni states in Iraq, Senator Biden says he doesn't believe that is part of Senator Kerry's plan.

"A Kurdish state would have an overwhelmingly destabilizing effect on our friends the Turks, and the Iranians in the north," emphasized Senator Biden. "I suspect you would see a considerable possibility of open warfare between the Turks and the Kurds, and population flows into Germany and into Europe as a consequence of an exodus that would occur, if that occurred."

A recent New York Times article quoted Richard Holbrooke, another likely candidate for secretary of state under a Kerry Administration, as saying Senator Kerry described a former U.S. ambassador's article advocating a Kurdish and Shia state within Iraq as "very important."

President Bush has advocated a stable, united Iraq. During a speech at the United Nations in September, President Bush called on the international community to do more to help build an Iraq that is, in his words "secure, democratic, federal, and free."