UPI ignores McCain's "gaffe" on Al Qaeda

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

UPI reported that Sen. John McCain "said concern still exists that Iran could be training Iraqi extremists in Iran then returning them to Iraq." In fact, McCain specifically claimed that Iranian operatives are "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back" -- a misstatement he has made on at least one other occasion.

A March 18 United Press International article reported that during a press conference in Amman, Jordan, Sen. John McCain "said concern still exists that Iran could be training Iraqi extremists in Iran then returning them to Iraq." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted in highlighting other examples of media misrepresenting McCain's comments, McCain did not refer simply to "Iraqi extremists"; he claimed that Iranian operatives are "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back" and, when pressed to elaborate, asserted that it is "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" [emphases added] -- misstatements that Washington Post reporters Cameron W. Barr and Michael D. Shear wrote "threatened to undermine McCain's argument that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the natural choice to lead a country at war with terrorists."

After Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who was standing with McCain during the press conference, whispered something in his ear, McCain corrected himself, saying: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda." U.S. officials have reportedly claimed Iran is training Shiite militants; Al Qaeda is a Sunni-dominated organization.

Additionally, as noted by the blog Think Progress, McCain made the same misstatement to nationally syndicated radio host Hugh Hewitt during a March 17 interview, saying, "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."

The March 18 UPI article in its entirety:

Progress in Iraq is being hindered by the growing influence of Iran, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Tuesday while visiting Jordan[.]

Closing out a weeklong trip to the Middle East, including a visit to Iraq, the Republican presidential hopeful said he was concerned about a large supply of explosives found in Iraq, hinting they may have come from Iran, CNN reported.

During a press conference in Amman, McCain said concern still exists that Iran could be training Iraqi extremists in Iran then returning them to Iraq.

McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, said he was worried about Iran developing nuclear weapons. If elected president, McCain said he would work with allies in Europe to implement a strict set of sanctions "that would be harmful and compelling" to Iran's trade, diplomatic and financial institutions.

"There'd be a broad range of sanctions and punishments to the Iranians to help try to convince them that their activities -- particularly development of nuclear weapons -- is not a beneficial goal to seek," he said.

Progress he saw in Iraq as well as his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan were encouraging, McCain said.

From Barr and Shear's March 18 post on the Washingtonpost.com blog The Trail:

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."

The mistake threatened to undermine McCain's argument that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the natural choice to lead a country at war with terrorists. In recent days, McCain has repeatedly said his intimate knowledge of foreign policy make him the best equipped to answer a phone ringing in the White House late at night.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, International Conflicts, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
UPI
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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