Did Senator John McCain “misspeak” about a connection between Iran and Al-Qaeda?
On background, McCain recently said at a news conference in Amman, Jordan:
Well, it’s 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.
After prompting from Senator Joe Lieberman, McCain corrected his statement this way:
I’m sorry; the Iranians are training extremists, not Al-Qaeda. I’m sorry.
Nevermind that McCain accepted the lead of Senator Lieberman…the characterization of McCain’s linking Iran and Al-Qaeda as a “senior moment” or a “gaffe,” or a “definitively false statement,” without acknowledging the numerous accounts of just such a collaboration, is to be misleading to the public and undeservedly demeaning to McCain.
Senator Barack Obama’s reaction to McCain’s comment was:
“Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and Al Qaeda,”….”Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America’s enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades.
It’s Obama that doesn’t get it, but the media certainly does – a few well-placed words and you can make much of the public believe anything.
But setting aside the campaign boost to Obama, if the intent is to distinguish between Al-Qaeda “passing through” Iran as opposed to being “trained” by or “in” Iran, then that fine line doesn’t hold-up either. Flatly denying and mocking a probable connection is risky and irresponsible.
Here are just a few sources linking Iran with Al Qaeda:
(1) On January 18, 2008, Al-Aribiya TV aired an interview with a former Iraqi “Islamic Army Terrorist,” Abu ‘Azzam Al-Tamimi, who asserted that Iran is supporting Al-Qaeda and that Al-Qaeda being Sunni, and Iran being Shi’a, has not kept the two from collaborating. The excerpted transcript of that interview is at MEMRITV.org or watch the actual video interview (MEMRITV = The Middle East Research Institute TV Monitor Project).
Here’s just a brief portion of the text:
Interviewer: Al-Qaeda is a Sunni organization, which claims to be fighting those they call “the Radidites.” How can it possibly cooperate with the Iranians?
Abu ‘Azzam Al-Tamimi: Of course it can. How else can you explain the fact that a large number of Al-Qaeda’s leaders live in Tehran? How else can you explain the fact that the Al-Qaeda organization targets all the countries in the world – from America to Indonesia, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, and many others – and the only country absent from this list is Iran, even though it is located between Al-Qaeda’s two jaws – Iraq and Afghanistan?
Of course there is a very strong alliance between Al-Qaeda and Iran. There is a lot of evidence of this alliance. Iran invests in everybody in order to defend itself and its interests, and this may be legitimate, because the Iranian political regime is being targeted by…
(2) Then there is The Weekly Standard’s Dan Darling quoting U.S. State Department Nicholas Burns on November 30, 2005:
“IRAN CONTINUES TO HOST senior al Qaeda leaders who are wanted for murdering Americans and other victims in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings. We have called repeatedly for these terrorists to be handed over to states that will prosecute them and bring them to justice. We believe that some al Qaeda members and those from like-minded extremist groups continue to use Iran as a safe haven and as a hub to facilitate their operations….
(3) Noah Pollak, writing in Michael J. Totten’s Middle East Journal on July 16, 2007, says:
It is long past time that one important piece of fantastical rubbish be finally sent on its way: this is the idea that Islamists maintain some kind of fastidious ethnic and theological separatism when it comes to who they’re willing to work with on killing people. The co-option of Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Sunni Arab) by Iran (Shia Persian) is one piece of reality that intrudes on this comforting notion; so is the Iran-Syria alliance, along with the reality of Iranian support for both Shia and Sunni insurgents in Iraq.
(4) Pollak leads to The New York Sun and a report by Eli Lake – Iran is Found to be a Lair of Al Qaeda:
One of two known Al Qaeda leadership councils meets regularly in eastern Iran, where the American intelligence community believes dozens of senior Al Qaeda leaders have reconstituted a good part of the terror conglomerate’s senior leadership structure.
That is a consensus judgment from a final working draft of a new National Intelligence Estimate, titled “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” on the organization that attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The estimate, which represents the opinion of America’s intelligence agencies, is now finished, and unclassified conclusions will be shared today with the public.
An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms “that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups.”
One of the documents captured in the raids, according to two American officials and one Iraqi official, is an assessment of the Iraq civil war and new strategy from the Quds Force.
The document concludes, according to these sources, that Iraq’s Sunni neighbors will step up their efforts to aid insurgent groups and that it is imperative for Iran to redouble efforts to retain influence with them, as well as with Shiite militias.
(6) Time.com, on July 16, 2004, posted this from HomelandSecurityus.net”>Adam Zagorin and Joe Klein:
Next week’s much anticipated final report by a bipartisan commission on the origins of the 9/11 attacks will contain new evidence of contacts between al-Qaeda and Iran…
The senior official also told TIME that the report will note that Iranian officials approached the al-Qaeda leadership after the bombing of the USS Cole and proposed a collaborative relationship in future attacks on the U.S., but the offer was turned down by bin Laden because he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia.
McCain gave Liberals a gift. Where is the Conservative leadership?