April 8, 2008 : McCain Referred to Al Qaeda as a "Sect Of Shiites." MCCAIN: Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat? PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago. MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall? [CNN, 4/8/08, view video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdNKQ8XapIA]
Mistake Undermines Central Assertion Of McCain's Campaign. The Trail wrote, "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." [The Trail, WashingtonPost.com, 3/18/08]
BASRA CEASE-FIRE: WHO SOUGHT IT?
McCain Insisted Sadr Sought Cease-Fire in Basra. On a late March 2008 ceasefire, McCain said "Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the ceasefire, declared a ceasefire. It wasn't Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire. So we'll see." [Washington Post, "The Trail," 3/31/08;
In Reality, Iraqi Lawmakers Sought Iran's Help to Persuade al-Sadr to Stand Down. According to members of the Iraqi Parliament, "Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations." "We asked Iranian officials to help us persuade him that we were not cracking down on the Sadr group," admitted an Iraqi official. Echoed another Iraqi official, "Given its influence over al-Sadr," echoed seconded another Iraqi official, " Iran convinced the Sadrists to stop fighting." [McClatchy, 3/30/08; Associated Press, 4/5/08]
Time Magazine's Joe Klein : McCain Has "a Fundamental Misreading" of the Situation. McCain's rosy view of the Basra ceasefire, "is a fundamental misreading of Sadr's aim and of the situation," wrote Time columnist Joe Klein . [Time, Swampland, 4/6/08]
BASRA OFFENSIVE: WAS IT SUCCESFUL?
McCain: We Asked Government to Act and They Were Effective. "We have asked the government time after time to act effectively, that we want this government to act. They acted." He continued to say the Iraqi army does "have control of the port of Basra now. That's one of the major economic areas of Iraq because of the oil that goes through there." [Fox News Sunday, 4/6/08]
Reality: Maliki Failed to Disarm Mahdi Army, Didn't Gain Control Over Basra. While Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that "operations in Basra were a 'success,' despite the Mahdi Army agreeing to a cease-fire without giving up its weapons." Experts noted called it a "failed attempt to disarm the Mahdi militiamen, who after the clashes remain in firm control of many Basra neighborhoods, said Vali Nasr, an expert on Shiite politics and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations." As GOP Senator Chuck Hagel pointed out, the Bush [and McCain] spin of the offensive as a success was "astounding," in a "bizarre Orwellian way," considering that the Iraqis had to call us in on a number of occasions the last three days. [Chicago Tribune, 4/2/08; MSNBC, Countdown, 3/31/08]
BASRA IS SAFE?
January 2008 : Basra "Not a Problem," Assures McCain. When asked in January 2008 about the possibility of violence breaking out in Basra, McCain assured Time columnist Joe Klein that the city was, "not a problem." [Time, Swampland, 4/1/08]
March 2008 : A March offensive in Basra by Iraqi forces "triggered clashes across southern Iraq and in Baghdad that left about 600 people dead." The offensive was launched precisely because the "security situation in the city was deteriorating quickly." [Washington Post, 4/4/08]
Maliki Offensive Takes McCain By Surprise. Speaking to reporters after kicking off his biography tour, McCain "expressed surprise that Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki instigated a battle" against cleric Muqtada al-Sadri in Basra without "notifying the U.S. first." "Maliki decided to take on this operation without consulting the Americans," McCain said, "I just am surprised that he would take it on himself, to go down and take charge of a military offensive. I had not anticipated he would do that." [Washington Post, "The Trail," 3/31/08;