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‘The Fact Is’ John McCain Is Confused About Iran

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"‘The Fact Is’ John McCain Is Confused About Iran"

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My previous post referred to John McCain’s confusion over who really sets Iran’s foreign policy, as demonstrated under questioning by reporter Joe Klein.

KLEIN: According to most diplomatic experts, the supreme leader Ali Khamenei is the guy who’s in charge of Iranian foreign policy, and also in charge of the nuclear program. But you never mention him. Why do you always keep on talking about Ahmadinejad since he doesn’t have power in that realm?

MCCAIN: Again, I respectfully disagree, when he’s the person that comes to the United Nations and declares his country’s policy is the extermination of the state of Israel, quote, in his words, “wipe them off of the map” then I know that he is speaking for the Iranian government, and articulating their policy, and was elected, and is running for reelection, as the leader of that country…The fact is that he’s the acknowledged leader of that country. You may disagree, that’s your right to do so, but I think if you asked any Average American who the leader of Iran is, I think they’d know.

The fact is that John McCain is confused as to who is really the leader of Iran. (Big hint: He has the words “Supreme Leader” in his title.) There is no real dispute here: Iranian foreign policy is formulated and set by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s National Security Council. Ahmadinejad may make a lot of ridiculous statements, but the fact is that he has very little influence in this regard.

As for McCain’s attempt to derive Iranian policy from Ahmadinejad’s comments, while Iran is certainly hostile to Israel, two days after Ahmadinejad made his notorious threat to “wipe Israel off the map,” the president “was reined in by the Supreme Leader, who publicly reiterated Iran’s policy of nonaggression to all UN members.” This was widely interpreted as a public rebuke of Ahmadinejad. According to Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour, “[Khamenei] made it very clear: enough of this talk.”

This isn’t to suggest that Iran’s posture toward Israel is appropriate or defensible — it certainly is not. Just that the policies of the Iranian regime, and the way in which it perceives its own interests, are quite a bit more complex than John McCain and other anti-Iran hawks seem to understand.

Here’s the video of the exchange, which shows McCain sticking to his guns and simply refusing to accept that he is, in fact, wrong on the point.

Watch it:

Read the full transcript:

KLEIN: I’ve done some research –

MCCAIN: I have, too.

KLEIN: And also checked with the Obama campaign, and he’s never mentioned Ahmadinejad directly by name. He did say that he would negotiate with the leaders, but as you know –

MCCAIN: I kind of thought that Ahmadinejad was the leader. Maybe I’m mistaken.

KLEIN: Maybe you are.

MCCAIN: Maybe. I don’t think so, though.

KLEIN: According to most diplomatic experts, the supreme leader Ali Khamenei is the guy who’s in charge of Iranian foreign policy, and also in charge of the nuclear program. But you never mention him. Why do you always keep on talking about Ahmadinejad since he doesn’t have power in that realm?

MCCAIN: Again, I respectfully disagree, when he’s the person that comes to the United Nations and declares his country’s policy is the extermination of the state of Israel, quote, in his words, “wipe them off of the map” then I know that he is speaking for the Iranian government, and articulating their policy, and was elected, and is running for reelection, as the leader of that country.

KLEIN: One more question on that

MCCAIN: The fact is that he’s the acknowledged leader of that country. You may disagree, that’s your right to do so, but I think if you asked any Average American who the leader of Iran is, I think they’d know.

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