Biden: U.S. backs Iraq federal system to ‘rout terrorism’

Vice President Joe Biden said the United States was ready to 'further enhance' its support for Iraq against ISIS

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Vice President Joe Biden said Friday the United States would back a federal system in Iraq, as he pressed for unity in the sharply divided country amid a growing terror threat.

Writing in a Washington Post opinion piece, Biden said the United States was ready to "further enhance" its support of Iraq's fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and would urge its international partners to do so as well.

Biden warned that the deep sectarian divisions and political mistrust had "sapped the strength" of Iraqi security forces and strengthened militants like ISIS, which has seized a swath of the country and neighboring Syria.

He pointed to "functioning federalism" as an approach to breach the divisions in Iraq. Biden is a longtime supporter of the plan under which Iraq would be divided into three semi-autonomous regions for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, respectively.

A plan along these lines would "ensure equitable revenue-sharing for all provinces and establish locally rooted security structures, such as a national guard, to protect the population in cities and towns and deny space for ISIS while protecting Iraq's territorial integrity," Biden said, using another acronym by which ISIS is known.

"The United States would be prepared to offer training and other forms of assistance under our Strategic Framework Agreement to help such a model succeed," he added.

Biden called for "genuine compromise" from all sides in Iraq.

"We cannot want that more than Iraqis do," the U.S. vice president said.

"Unless Iraq can do this, no amount of outside intervention will matter -- nor will it continue indefinitely."

Despite a U.S. campaign of air raids backing regional Kurdish and Iraqi forces fighting ISIS in the north of the country, he insisted the threat "can be routed by local forces without U.S. boots on the ground."

"This is a fight that Iraq, with help from America and the world, can and must win," Biden said, speaking of a "long-term challenge."

"We all have a stake in empowering moderates in Iraq to prevent a terrorist state from taking root in the heart of the Middle East."

He acknowledged that "the threat, of course, is not confined to Iraq," calling for continued support from regional powers and the Syrian opposition to counter ISIS and the flow of foreign fighters to and from the battlefield.

"This is a fight that Iraq, with help from America and the world, can and must win," Biden said.

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