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Guess Who's Been Negotiating with a Terrorist?

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While Senator John McCain has been tirelessly displaying his invincible ignorance of power and politics in Iraq, has anyone noticed who has just negotiated with an Iranian terrorist?

Hard upon claiming (repeatedly) that the Shiite nation of Iran has been arming al-Qaeda in Iraq (which is rather like claiming that Israel has been arming Hamas in Gaza), McCain has spun a new fantasy. Talking with Chris Wallace on Fox News yesterday about the recent battle in Basra between soldiers loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Mahti militias of Moktada al-Sadr, McCain said that Maliki's men had reclaimed control of the city by forcing al-Sadr to declare a cease-fire.

Dream on, John.

First of all, as Wallace himself noted in the interview, at least a thousand soldiers of the Iraqi army either deserted or refused to fight.

Secondly, the cease-fire leaves Basra largely in the hands of the Mahdi militias, who would not have stopped shooting otherwise.

Third, as Wallace also noted, the cease-fire was brokered by Iranians -- after al-Maliki had repeatedly said there would be no negotiations with the militias.

And now let's take a closer look at the negotiations.

The Iraqi government was represented by Ali al-Adeeb, a member of al-Maliki's Dawa party, and Hadi al Ameri, head of the Badr organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and chief rival -among Iraq's Shiites -- of al-Sadr's Mahti militias. On Friday, March 28, these two men flew secretly to the Iranian holy city of Qom, headquarters of the clergy who run the country, with two aims: to ask al-Sadr to order his militias to stop fighting -- in Baghdad as well as in Basra -- and to ask the Iranians to stop arming Shiite militias in Iraq.

In Qom they negotiated and signed an agreement with Moktada al-Sadr himself, who is reportedly pursuing religious studies there. To get his signature, they had to agree to halt all raids against the Mahdi army, which al-Maliki had earlier vowed to crush if they did not give up all their arms. (So much for his vows.) But here's the kicker: they also had to win the support of Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qds brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Ring a bell, children?

Last August, just in case you've forgotten, the Bush administration decided to call Iran's Revolutionary Guards a "specially designated global terrorist." And the following month, Hillary Clinton joined seventy-five other senators (excluding Barack Obama) in branding it a "foreign terrorist organization." Now that a general in this organization -- its Terrorist-in-Chief -- has played a key role in resolving the latest battle in Iraq's civil war, could Senator McCain or Senator Clinton or President Bush or General Petraeus kindly explain how we can go on supporting -- at the rate of ten billion dollars a month -- a government that cannot run Iraq without the help of people we call terrorists?

Or is it time to rethink that designation and to recognize a simple truth: so long as Iraq is chiefly run by Shiites, we will never resolve its political or military conflicts without major involvement by its next-door neighbor, the Shiite nation of Iran.

So far as I can tell, the only one of our three remaining candidates for the presidency who firmly grasps this point is Barack Obama. But McCain says Obama doesn't understand national security and has "no background" on foreign policy.

So for a Middle East expert like you, John, debating this guy will be a piece of cake -- right?

Dream on, John.