Even Leslie Gelb, the intellectual godfather of the plan to separate Iraq into three autonomous and ethnically homogenous regions, was taken aback by Sen. Chuck Schumer’s recent expression of support for the idea.
“It surprised me too,” said Gelb, who is the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s a conversion, because he told me that he thought I was full of it.”
Gelb first tried to bring Schumer around to his way of thinking in mid-2005.
“We had a conversation here at some length, at my apartment, where he wasn’t impressed with it,” Gelb said, referring to his proposal to divide the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish populations into three distinct geographic regions with the goal of preventing further sectarian bloodshed.
Gelb said he had the opportunity to convince Sen. Joe Biden, now the proposal’s most vocal proponent, on a grounded shuttle flight between New York and Washington.
“I converted Biden thanks to the happenstance of a stalled shuttle,” said Gelb. “I got on a shuttle about 9 months ago and he sat down next to me and the thing was delayed two and a half hours, on top of the trip. We did nothing but talk about this.”
According to Gelb, the flight ended with Biden turning to him and saying, “Well, you convinced me now you have to convince my staff.”