MIDDLE EAST: Another Iran faux pas?
Sen. Joe Lieberman was trying to portray presidential contender Barack Obama as a no-nothing on Iraq. But he may have stumbled himself, inventing a whole new militant group supposedly destabilizing Iraq.
In a Fox News interview Wednesday, the Connecticut lawmaker and backer of Republican presidential nominee John McCain said that if the U.S. heeded Obama's advice, a group called "Al Qaeda in Iran" would have taken over Iraq.
Here's what Lieberman said:
Sen. Obama doesn't come to this debate with a lot of credibility. Basically on the question of Iraq, John McCain has had the guts to stand out on his own arguing for what he thought was right. And it turned out that he was right about the surge working to improve conditions in Iraq. If we did what Sen. Obama wanted us to do last year, Al-Qaeda in Iran [NOTE: SEE UPDATE BELOW] would be in control of Iraq today. The whole Middle East would be in turmoil and American security and credibility would be jeopardized.
There's no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iran, though Al Qaeda of Iraq has given U.S. and Iraqi forces plenty of trouble.
In fact, Shiite Iran and Sunni Al Qaeda are bitter enemies, though they may have had some dealings in the past. Al Qaeda's number two vehemently denounced Iran in an online interview that was released in recent days.
Ironically Lieberman himself corrected Sen. John McCain who alleged during a visit to Jordan last month that Al Qaeda was being trained in Iran.
There's also very little chance that Iraq, which is 60% Shiite and 20% Kurdish, would allow Al Qaeda of Iran, Iraq or Mars to take over their country. Maybe they'd be a continued menace or nuisance, but there was little chance even a weak Iraqi government would have allowed Al Qaeda to dominate Iraq as the Taliban did when the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. The numbers just don't work.
As blogger Steve Benen puts it in Carpetbagger Report:
Either Lieberman was creating a new terrorist group that doesn’t exist, or he doesn’t understand the basics of what’s going [on] in Iraq after more than five years of war.
— Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Video: Joe Lieberman criticizes Barack Obama's foreign policy on Fox News.
UPDATE: A representative from Lieberman's office sends the following note:
Your posting on the LA Times site is incorrect. If you listen to the Fox recording of Senator Lieberman, you will find that he clearly said "If we did what Sen. Obama wanted us to do last year, Al-Qaeda AND Iran would be in control of Iraq today." The Fox transcript has been corrected, as I hope you will now correct your posting.