Sen. Biden Vows to Fight U.S. Troop Increases in Iraq

Sen. Joseph Biden, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he will fight President Bush if the administration decides to send more U.S. troops to Iraq.

Biden, who has his eye on the Democratic presidential nomination, also warned that if congressional Republicans do not join him in speaking out against Bush that they — not Democrats — will suffer in the 2008 elections.

"I just think it's the absolute wrong strategy," Biden said Tuesday of an increase in troops.

Bush is scrubbing his options in Iraq, after Republicans lost control of Congress in the Nov. 7 elections and an independent bipartisan panel determined Bush's plan was dangerously off track. The Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, concluded that the U.S. could pull combat troops out of Iraq by early next year. The few troops left behind would be tasked with advising Iraqi units.

While administration officials say all options remain on the table pending Bush's final decision to be announced next month, a surge of up to 30,000 troops is widely considered a favored option by Bush.

Biden said he is interested in the study group's findings and wants to hold a series of hearings on Iraq beginning Jan. 9. Biden said he has asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to testify and she has agreed; the timing of Rice's testimony, however, is not decided. Rice said she would come to Capitol Hill after Bush announces his new plan in Iraq.

In a conference call with reporters, Biden said the purpose of the hearings would be to generate a bipartisan consensus among lawmakers on Iraq and pressure the president to abandon any talk of surging U.S. forces into Baghdad.

"Even with the surge of troops, in a city of 6 million people you're talking about a ratio that would still be roughly above one to 100," Biden said. "It's bound to draw down support that we need in other parts of Iraq, including Anbar province."

Biden, taking advantage of the quiet holiday week to generate media attention by holding a telephone press conference and appearing on CBS' "The Early Show," said he thinks Republicans will have more to lose in 2008 than Democrats if the violence in Iraq continues and U.S. troops remain committed in such large numbers. There are currently an estimated 140,000 troops in Iraq.

"I think we'll only have to accept responsibility for the war if we remain silent," said Biden, who has spoken candidly of his desire to run for president and has made repeated visits in the past year to early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Biden said he delivered this message in a recent meeting at the White House, where he told Bush: "Mr. President this is your war."