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McCain Expresses Surprise at Iraq Developments

By Michael D. Shear
MERIDIAN, Miss. -- Sen. John McCain expressed surprise that Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki instigated a battle in the southern Iraqi city of Basra in recent days without, according to McCain, notifying the U.S. first.

"Maliki decided to take on this operation without consulting the Americans," McCain told reporters on the Straight Talk Express as he began a week-long biographical tour. "I just am surprised that he would take it on himself, to go down and take charge of a military offensive."

McCain said that he believed "generally accepted strategy" was to complete operations in the city of Mosul, where the Americans and Iraqis are still battling insurgents, before moving to deal with the situation in the south.

"I didn't think that he would do that yet," McCain said. "We have a battle going on in Mosul, which most of us, all of us agreed, would take 2-3 more months to get Mosul under control."

McCain said the situation underscores the involvement of Iran, especially in southern Iraq. And he said he was disturbed by some of the demands of Moqtada al-Sadr, who called for a cease fire yesterday.

But McCain declined to say which demands he found "unreasonable," and he said he could not predict the outcome. "We'll see how it turns out," he said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 31, 2008; 11:36 AM ET
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