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McCain blunders on Iraq, again: Confuses Iraqi cleric with Prime Minister on ceasefire deal
David Edwards and Chris Tackett
Published: Sunday April 6, 2008

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During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, John McCain again repeated the false claim that Muqtada al-Sadr declared the ceasefire in Basra last week and said he thought the Iraqi army was performing well.

"It was al-Sadr that declared the ceasefire, not Maliki," said McCain. "With respect, I donít think Sadr would have declared the ceasefire if he thought he was winning. Most times in history, military engagements, the winning side doesnít declare the ceasefire. The second point is, overall, the Iraqi military performed pretty well. Ö The military is functioning very effectively."

As the blog, Think Progress notes, "it was members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikiís government who brokered the ceasefire, to which Sadr agreed. Experts agree that Sadrís influence was strengthened ó rather than diminished ó by the Basra battle."

It's not the first time McCain has erred when talking about Iraq. Last month, McCain wrongly said Iran trains Al-Qaeda members.

McCain made the gaffe right in the middle of an official visit in the Middle East that was supposed to highlight his knowledge in foreign affairs.

"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. That's well known," the 71-year-old Vietnam war veteran said.

Pressed by reporters about his allegations, McCain said: "We continue to be concerned about the Iranians taking Al-Qaeda into Iran and training them and sending them back."

It was only after fellow Senator Joe Lieberman, who was traveling with him, whispered into his ear that McCain corrected himself, US media reported.

"I am sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not Al-Qaeda, not Al-Qaeda, I am sorry," McCain said.

Asked by Chris Wallace Sunday about the recent news from The New York Times that up to a thousand Iraqi soldiers had refused to serve, McCain implied the news was good because it showed improvement from past performance.

"Compare that to two years ago when the army was unable to function in any way effectively," McCain said. "Look, I didn't particularly like the outcome of this thing, but i am convinced that we now have a government that is governing with some effect and a military that is functioning very effectively. Up in mosul where some of the best units are, they're functioning well. I've always said, Chris, it's long and hard and tough. We're paying a huge penalty for a failed strategy I voted hard against and I believe the strategy can and will succeed."

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