From NBC's Mark Murray
McCain senior adviser Mark Salter just released this statement regarding the Iraq speech Obama gave earlier in the day. If this biting statement by Salter -- often viewed as McCain's alter ego -- is any indication, an Obama-McCain general election might be as contentious as the Obama-Clinton primary has been.
"Senator Obama says that ending the war will not be easy, that 'there will be dangers involved.' Yet, in that patented way of his, he declines to name those dangers. Let me enumerate a few: al Qaeda, which is now on the run, will survive, claim victory and continue to provoke sectarian tensions that, while they have been subdued by the 'tactics' of the surge, still exist and are ripe for provocation by al Qaeda, which would almost certainly ignite again civil war in Iraq, a civil war that could easily descend into genocide. To say that invading Iraq was used as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda is one thing. To pretend that our defeat there won't provide an even bigger one is foolish supposition. Iran, which trains Shia extremists and is known to arm and equip Sunni extremists, a fact Senator Obama is apparently unaware of, will also view our premature withdrawal as a victory, as will other countries in the region, and the biggest state supporter of terrorists, a country with nuclear ambitions and a stated desire to destroy the State of Israel, will see its influence in the Middle East grow significantly. These are some of 'dangers,' that our premature withdrawal from Iraq will engender, and they all have the potential to destabilize the entire region. A realistic plan to prevent them from occurring is what people with experience in statecraft call 'strategy,' something Senator Obama has not offered yet.
"Senator Obama, as has also become a habit of his 'new politics,' mischaracterizes John McCain's position by saying McCain did not want to reduce troops because the violence in Iraq was too high, and now do not wish to do so because the violence in down. The reason violence is down is because General Petraeus' counterinsurgency is, which even Senator Obama recognizes, succeeding. Those 'tactics,' are advancing our 'strategy.' Deprive General Petraeus of the resources and manpower to employ those tactics, or worse, leave Iraq altogether, and our strategy will collapse. That is national security 101. John McCain wants American forces to come home when our clear and serious interests at stake in Iraq, which nearly 4,000 Americans have given their lives to secure, are truly safe, when al Qaeda is defeated; Iran's influence is contained, and the potential for a truly cataclysmic civil war in Iraq is remote. That, I think, is what is called 'making us safer.' Senator Obama's plan, if it can be charitably described as one, would do the reverse."
*** UPDATE *** Obama spokesman Bill Burton responds, "We wish the McCain campaign well as they try to figure out the difference between Iran and al Qaeda. Yesterday, Senator McCain said that Iran is "taking al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back," to Iraq. This was shortly after telling talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, "As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they're moving back into Iraq." Or does Senator McCain believe the clarification that he issued yesterday, "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda." Or does he believe the statement that he issued today: "Al Qaeda and Shia extremists -- with support from external powers such as Iran -- are on the run but not defeated." Huh?"
More: "This fall, John McCain will support George Bush Foreign Policy 101: endless war in Iraq; a policy of not talking to adversaries that has not worked; and a disturbing tendency to conflate very different threats. Barack Obama will offer a clean break from the failed policies of the past. He will end the war in Iraq, finish the job in Afghanistan, and focus on the threats of the 21st century."