Biden Wants McCain Plan Beyond "Victory" In Iraq

(CBS)
From CBS News' Ryan Corsaro:

(KALISPELL, MT.) - Joe Biden demanded to know more from John McCain about his plans for Iraq beyond a declaration of victory.

"I've never heard John utter a word about what he's going to do after. After, quote, he establishes victory in Iraq," said Biden aboard his campaign plane today.

"What's he going to do about Syria? Turkey? Iran? Saudi Arabia? What's he going to do to have some reason to believe whatever is worked out, that Iraqi's neighbors are going to sign on to it? And tell me, how is it possible to have a long term stable, stable Iraq, free and open without some regional understanding of Iraq's independence?"

Then, Biden was asked if he still supported a tripartite plan for Iraq, which would divide power up amongst religious sects of Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis.

For those who know and have covered Biden - who has never been accused of being at a loss for words - they won't be shocked to hear that his response to that one question lasted 13 minutes.

Biden said that he believed the Iraqi government and the Bush administration are currently working such a plan out – adding that Iraq could be divided up into more, or even less, than three areas.

"I said there's a half a dozen ways you can implement this plan. I don't have any -- it wasn't three areas, it doesn't have to be five, it can be two, it can be seven. But there's got to be a way where we finally, if you have peace, [say] 'Hey, I'm a Shia. I'm not going to kill your Sunni family. And you don't have to worry the Kurds are going to come and get you, because the Kurds are basically with you.'"

Biden called on international involvement to provide stability in order to enforce peace in the region.

"Barack and I -- I have laid this out in painful detail for two years as Barack has. That's why we've called for a regional conference. That's why we talked about the need to bring the permanent five of the United Nations [Security Council] in to give the imprimatur to this. To make it clear to Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, hands off. Hands off. Whatever deal the Iraqis work out, you've got to stand by."

Biden, dressed in a blue polo shirt and khakis, then defended Barack Obama over criticism that Obama does not have enough experience with foreign policy.

"Come on. It's time that we had people who understand, understand what's going on in Iraq. Not just sloganeering. Not just sloganeering. And the irony is, the guy who supposedly has the least experience among us, Barack Obama, got it right fourteen, fifteen months ago. He said, 'Look, let's transfer – let's be as responsible getting out as irresponsibly we were getting in.' And then he said we need a timeline here. And you're going to go ahead and hand off authority gradually to Iraqis, and what are you going to do? You're going to pull out American combat forces."

Biden, who is currently chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, argued that Obama's suggestion coincides with plans currently being made in Washington and Baghdad, which Biden expects on his desk in the next month.

"If reports are correct, and my information is based on the State Department and others, what is Maliki demanding? And what is Bush agreeing to? A timeline to draw down American combat troops. A gradual hand off of police authority and military authority to the Iraqis. Who's the only guy, major figure in America who's standing outside that agreement? John McCain. John."

"So what I, what confuses me and it does confuse me about John McCain and Sarah Palin's position on Iraq is, tell me the end of the story, John. Victory sounds wonderful. We're all for victory. What do you mean by victory?"

In an e-mail, McCain campaign spokesman Ben Porritt told CBS News, "Senator Obama is the only one who continues to advocate an unconditional withdrawal in Iraq, contrary to the Iraqi plan, and contrary to the advice of our generals on the ground. We now know that he stubbornly sticks to this position because the Obama-Biden ticket doesn't believe victory in Iraq is possible. This explains why Senator Obama tried to legislate failure, opposed the surge, and voted against funding for our troops in harm's way--a vote that no amount of rhetoric can explain."