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Wrong Again: McCain Proclaims Al Qaeda-Iran Alliance

March 18, 2008

As I documented just two day ago, John McCain has been wrong from the start about virtually every aspect of the Iraq war. From Ahmed Chalabi and Saddam's WMD to the prospects of Americans troops being greeting as liberators and the certainty of a "rapid" U.S. victory in "three weeks," John McCain had it wrong at every turn. Today in Jordan, the Republican presidential nominee made a much fundamental - and shocking - mistake. Would-be commander-in-chief John McCain literally doesn't know who we're fighting in Iraq.
McCain's feeble grasp of the complexities on the ground was apparent during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah. Amazingly, McCain portrayed Sunni Al Qaeda as the ally of Shiite Iran. As the Washington Post reported, it took a worried whisper from his ersatz Democratic sidekick Joe Lieberman to save McCain from himself:

He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."
Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."

For a man whose candidacy is solely premised on his national security credentials, confusing friend and foe in Iraq is all the more startling. Al Qaeda, after all, is a bitter enemy of the two leading Shiite movements in Iraq (SCIRI and Muqtada Al Sadr), each of which receives material support from Iran. In a region in which "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is often accepted as a guiding principle, it would be helpful if John McCain understood that Al Qaeda is the enemy of Iran, and neither is a friend of the United States.
The mobius strip that is the Bush strategy endorsed by McCain in Iraq is almost infinitely complex. It is an extreme understatement to say that is problematic for John McCain, a man who like the man he would replace deals only in simple certainties (in March 2003, McCain said Americans troops would "absolutely, absolutely" be greeted as liberators). As I wrote late last year:

More and more, President Bush's strategy in Iraq resembles an M.C. Escher illustration. Like the hands drawing each other or the elegant depiction of stairways that cannot possibly meet, the military progress of the U.S. surge is producing an image of a future Iraq that, while glorious to behold, can never be built. The very American alliances with Sunni tribal leaders that are reducing sectarian violence and the threat from Al Qaeda also threaten to undermine the Shiite majority government in Baghdad. And the "enduring" U.S. presence announced by President Bush this week may serve only to protect the Maliki government from its domestic enemies, not its friend and American foe Iran. If anything, the surge may be making the prospect of Iraqi national reconciliation even more remote.

Given the evident misunderstanding on display in Amman today, John McCain seems wholly unable to grasp the very strategy he has sworn to perpetuate.
And yet, a new poll from CNN/Opinion Research shows the American people overwhelmingly prefer John McCain over either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton when it comes to national security issue. It is bad enough that as the American economy stands on the brink of a financial meltdown, John McCain has acknowledged "the issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." Now, it's clear that the man who admits he doesn't know his ass from his elbow about the economy also doesn't know s**t from shinola about the realities on the ground in Iraq. As McCain himself put it back in 2005:

"I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated."

Given today's colossal gaffe, John McCain doesn't exactly inspire confidence that he is ready to be commander-in-chief on Day One.
UPDATE 1: As ThinkProgress, CNN and others have reported, this is not the first time McCain has gotten the players wrong in Iraq. On Monday, he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt:

"As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they're moving back into Iraq."

Sadly for McCain, the presidency does not come with a playbook.
UPDATE 2: On Wednesday, the McCain campaign yet again managed to perpetuate the mistaken Al Qaeda-Iran connection, this time in a written statement:

"Al Qaeda and Shia extremists -- with support from external powers such as Iran -- are on the run but not defeated."

UPDATE 3: ThinkProgess documents that McCain offered up the erroneous Al Qaeda - Iran nexus during a February 28th appearance at the Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston:

"But Al Qaeda is there, they are functioning, they are supported in many times, in many ways by the Iranians."

6 comments on “Wrong Again: McCain Proclaims Al Qaeda-Iran Alliance”

  1. McSenile’s problem is that he believes that the enemy of my enemy is my enemy, and so are you.

  2. March 19, 2008
    5 years later.. good thing we have a brave president who will do what it takes, whatever that means, and despite any laws.

  3. Wow, what a sad state of afairs if you republican sends another idiot to lead this Country. This man is senile, what a major embarrassment to this great country.

  4. Give the guy a break...he's 72 years old. That's all we need now... is another president with Alzheimers.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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