Transcript: Sen. Joseph Biden on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a transcribed excerpt of 'FOX News Sunday,' February 13, 2005.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: With results in from the Iraq election and two of the world's trouble spots, North Korea and Iran, heating up, we thought it was just the right time to check in with the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden, who joins us from Wilmington, Delaware.

Senator, welcome. Always good to talk to you.

U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN, D-DE: Good to be with you.

WALLACE: Let's begin with those Iraqi election results that have just come in. One of the things that's notable is that that Shiite coalition has gotten less than half the vote. As you can see there, about 47.6 percent of the vote seems to leave some room for some horse-trading.

BIDEN: It does. And I think it gives the, as they said, the suits and not the turbans — is the way it's referred to in the Shiite sector — an opportunity to make their case that they have to, in fact, bring in specifically Sunnis into the cabinet. They're going to have to see more Sunnis brought into the constitution-writing if there's going to be any legitimacy at the end of the day. And I think we'll see that.

WALLACE: Do you think that it's more likely that that Shiite coalition will be able to form the government by picking up some minority parties or that the rest of the assembly will be able to assemble a majority?

BIDEN: Well, they're brand-new at this, and it really depends upon how they reach out. You have Allawi reaching out to the Kurds. You have the Shia reaching out to the Kurds. The Kurds are going to play an important role in this.

But I think, at the end of the day, everyone responsible — and there are many responsible people in each of those factions — know that unless the Sunnis, even though only about 6 percent of them got to vote or decided to vote, unless they're brought into the constitution-writing process, at the end of the day, when we're having this discussion in the fall, there will be no legitimacy to the constitution.

So I think you'll see it, meaning that they will be reaching out to decide who among the Sunnis best suit their — they're most comfortable with.

WALLACE: Senator Biden, the election in Iraq was barely over when some Democrats in the Senate started demanding that U.S. troops start coming home. In fact, one of your colleagues, Senator Kennedy, went after the Pentagon brass at a hearing. Let's watch that exchange if we can.


U.S. SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA): When are the Iraqis going to fight for their own country? We want to know when the Iraqis are going to go out there and shed their blood.


WALLACE: Senator, when U.S. troops are working hard to train up the Iraqis, when Iraqi security forces are now dying at a greater rate than the Americans are, is that kind of talk sensible?

BIDEN: Well, let me not comment on the talk; let me comment on the reality.

The reality is that a lot of Iraqis are dying. The reality is we haven't trained up many troops, as you now know.

I had this long debate that's been going on long distance between Rumsfeld and me and others, them saying initially they had 210,000 Iraqi troops trained. That's simply not true. We probably do have somewhere between now 6,000 and 18,000 or 19,000. That comes from Tony Cordesman and other unbiased sources who are military experts.

We're now beginning, under General Petraeus, in Iraq, to really train up these Iraqi troops. And hopefully the president's trip will follow on to the recent trip in Europe with the secretary of state and secretary of defense and call on Germany and France to commit to their recent commitment of training troops.

In other words, we need a serious training program. It's only now begun two months ago. We squandered an opportunity for 19 months. It's now beginning.

When we train people and equip them — we send these troops out, for example, who are barely trained, and we send them out — they're not in armored Humvees. They're not in — they don't have tanks. They're not well-equipped.

And that's our responsibility at the front end. We're now beginning to do that. That's when we can get to come home. Pray to God we'll start to do that in earnest now.

WALLACE: Senator Biden, let's move on to North Korea, which announced this week formally — it's something that I think a lot people already suspected — that it has nuclear weapons and that it wants direct one-on-one talks with the U.S.

Is the Bush administration right to refuse those kind of direct talks and to continue to call for negotiations involving North Korea's regional neighbors?

BIDEN: Generically, yes. It should stay in the six-party talks.

And I think the North Koreans have overplayed their hands. The response from China — this was meant to get China and South Korea to put pressure on the United States to offer more carrots. But the fact of the matter is, it's angered the Chinese government so far. It looks like it may have backfired.

But, Chris, the bottom line on both here and in Iran, different partners, but the partners we're working with in Korea — China, South Korea, Japan — they have got to be ready to use sticks, and we have to be willing to use a few more carrots. It cannot be done one way or the other.

In other words, up to now, you had the other four parties of the six-party talks who were involved in this unwilling to really clamp down. You have China having access, being the source of energy supplies for the north. You have South Korea being the source of economic growth to the extent there is any for the north. And they have to be ready, in the face of this kind of action, to make it clear that there's consequences.

We, on the other hand, when these talks occur, have to be ready to lay out in fairly clear detail the benefits to North Korea if they actually join the nations in the region and verifiably forswear missiles and nuclear power.

And we haven't done that clearly, nor have the other four parties in the six-party talks made it clear that they're willing to use sticks.

WALLACE: Senator Biden, let me just wrap up on that before we move on to Iran. We should also point out that just last night, the Chinese foreign minister, in a conversation with Secretary of State Rice, said that China is committed, continues to be committed to a nuclear-free...

BIDEN: Absolutely.

WALLACE: ... Korean Peninsula.

Let's move on to Iran. The president...

BIDEN: And it's very much in their interest. They're in real trouble because Japan will go nuclear, and then China's got a real problem.

WALLACE: On Iran, the president, Vice President Cheney here last week on "Fox News Sunday," and Secretary of State Rice have all talked in recent weeks about the threat that Iran represents.

Do you agree or do you see signs that the administration may be involved in doing what some people allege it did in the run-up to the Iraq war, which is allegedly hyping the threat?

BIDEN: I think it's a long-term threat. It's not a near-term threat. There is no evidence they have the capacity right now. They have not tested.

And the fact of the matter is, this is a case where we're remaining to sit on the sidelines. The Europeans, the three European countries that are negotiating with the Iranians, are saying, "Look, we've got to get in the deal with them. We can't just sit on the sidelines."

We acknowledge nothing can happen without the Europeans participating and again being ready to use sanctions and/or, as we say, sticks. And we acknowledge, and most people know, nothing they're going to be able to do is going to be involved with us unless we're willing to get into some kind of an agreement that results in a verifiable arms control agreement.

Look, Dr. Rice, when asked if they forswore their missile capability and their nuclear weapons and we could verify that, would we make a deal, and she implied we wouldn't, even under those circumstances.

So we're at odds with our European friends, and it doesn't leave many options.

WALLACE: Do you believe honestly that diplomatic efforts can work, whether its this European effort to offer economic incentives or eventually U.N. tough sanctions? Do you believe that diplomatic efforts can actually get the mullahs to give up their nuclear ambitions? Or, in the end, are we going to have to accept Iran as a nuclear power?

BIDEN: The answer is, I don't know, Chris. The U.N. is no part of this.

If, in fact, France, England and Germany were willing, in the face of obstruction by Iran, which is the case right now, if they were willing to engage in sanctions, including not purchasing their oil, which would be a big deal for them, and cutting off economic relations, I believe it has the possibility of having an effect.

Conversely, if we were willing to sign on to a genuine nonaggression pact in the states of a verifiable regime, that's the only other possibility.

If neither of those work, and I'm not at all sure they would, then you're left with one of two options: You accept them as a nuclear power, which I'm disinclined to do, or you invade, which we are not really particularly capable of doing right now.

WALLACE: Senator Biden, let's talk a little bit of politics. As we said earlier in this program, Howard Dean was named the head of the Democratic Party yesterday.

This is the man who said during the campaign that capturing Saddam Hussein didn't make us safer, the man who said that Osama Bin Laden deserves a fair trial.

Why shouldn't Dean's selection alarm voters about whether Democrats can be trusted to protect national security?

BIDEN: Well, in my experience, being in the Senate for six terms and serving with seven presidents, no party chairman's ever made a bit of difference in terms of the public perception or policy in either political party. And that will be the same here.

WALLACE: So you don't see him having a serious policy role at all?

BIDEN: Absolutely not.

But I do see him having an organizational role. And we'll see whether or not he can put together the organizational skills he demonstrated when he ran his campaign in a way that can bring out more support.

But he's not going to have a policy role, and he's stated that.

WALLACE: Finally, in Dr. Rice's, Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearings, you had some blunt advice for her. Let's watch.


BIDEN: For God's sake, don't listen to Rumsfeld. He doesn't know what in the hell he's talking about on this.



WALLACE: Classic Biden.

And afterward, as you were saying goodbye to Dr. Rice, you told her she shouldn't listen to Vice President Cheney either.

My question, Senator Biden, is, why not?

BIDEN: Because they've been wrong on every major decision relative to Iraq since the statue came down.

They indicated that we would be able to draw down troops very rapidly. They indicated that we would be greeted with open arms. They indicated there would be enough Iraqi oil to pay for this operation. They indicated it wouldn't cost $260 billion. They indicated that we had trained up troops, and we haven't.

Every fundamental — and I told the president this just four months ago, straight up. He asked my opinion. And it seems to me that my obligation is to say it as I see it.

The truth of the matter is, they're both fine men. They have been substantively wrong on the specific decisions they've made since the statue has fallen.

And many of the military leaders in the region — I've visited there more than anybody, I believe, in the United States Congress — and people that are involved with this administration believe they've been dead wrong on the advice they've been given.

All I'm saying is, unless they change their advice, I wouldn't be listening very closely.

BIDEN: When Rumsfeld was on your program — I think it was your program, I could be mistaken — a year and a half ago, he said it's, I think the word was "amazing," we'd trained up 210,000 Iraqi forces. We put 210,000 people in uniform who couldn't shoot straight and had little training, some of them as little as three days.

I just think we should get real here. A lot of lives are at stake, and an incredible opportunity is here. This president has a chance to do something no president has done, and that is turn the policy on Iraq into a total policy involving the region that makes us a lot safer. We're on the cusp of that.

I hope he listens to Dr. Rice. I hope he listens to his military and less to Vice President Cheney and the secretary of defense unless they change their view, unless they've learned something.

WALLACE: Somehow I have a feeling that Dr. Rice and the president are not going to take your advice on listening to their advice.

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you, look...

WALLACE: Senator, we've got to go.


WALLACE: But we thank you very much for talking with us and giving us, as we say, the classic Biden. It's always a pleasure. See you again soon, sir.

BIDEN: Thank you very much. Bye-bye.