This afternoon at Brookings in a session moderated by former Ambassador and Brookings foreign policy division chief Carlos Pascual, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman and presidential contender Joseph Biden gave an impressive speech focused on U.S. options toward Iraq.
Here is the video link for the Biden speech, and here is the audio link.
I asked him at the meeting what he thought Iran’s aspirations were in the region and how, if President, he would have responded to something like the May 2003 Iranian proposal for comprehensive negotiations aimed at normalizing US-Iran relations.
Biden responded by saying that he would talk to Iran. He said that we have “had the mute button pushed for six years.” He said that our silence, our failure to engage Iran on any level, to try and connect with the citizens in Iran — among whom American popularity has traditionally run very high — has left the Iranian government fundamentally unchallenged. He suggested that we could be delegitimating the Iranian government simply by doing more to connect with the Iranian public and understanding and responding to the aspirations of Iran’s citizens.
He thought that Iranians wanted to be recognized as a significant and great power in the region. He did not comment on the May 2003 Iran proposal to the U.S.
But on another front, Biden made a powerful statement that the Iraq War Resolution that Congress issued to the President was essentially invalid as it no longer pertained to conditions regarding Saddam Hussein and WMDs that were specified as key features of the 2002 authorization.
Biden stated (Here is pdf of Biden speech):
The best next step is to revisit the authorization Congress granted the President in 2002 to use force in Iraq. That’s exactly what I’m doing.
We gave the President that power to destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose Saddam Hussein.
The WMD were not there. Saddam Hussein is no longer there. The 2002 authorization is no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq.
I am working on legislation to repeal that authorization and replace it with a much narrower mission statement for our troops in Iraq.
Congress should make clear what the mission of our troops is: to responsibly draw down, while continuing to combat terrorists, train Iraqis and respond to emergencies. We should make equally clear what their mission is not: to stay in Iraq indefinitely and get mired in a savage civil war.
Coupled with the Biden-Gelb plan, I believe this is the most effective way to start bringing our troops home without leaving a mess behind.
Biden’s staff reported that they hope to have this “new resolution” essentially de-authorizing earlier granted authorities out very soon, possibly in a couple of weeks.
— Steve Clemons