He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."
Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."
The mistake threatened to undermine McCain's argument that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the natural choice to lead a country at war with terrorists. In recent days, McCain has repeatedly said his intimate knowledge of foreign policy make him the best equipped to answer a phone ringing in the White House late at night.
But then again, it's not actually about experience or knowledge, as you know, it's about the image of having any...
And so it goes...
UPDATE: Think Progress has more, including audio of McCain making the same misstatement on right-wing Hugh Hewitt's radio show earlier. So it wasn't an accidental "gaffe". It was a fundamental misunderstanding --- by the man regarded by the mainstream corporate media as having the most foreign policy expertise among all of the major American Presidential candidates --- of a key issue at the very heart of one ongoing war in Iraq, and at the very heart of a possible second one in Iran.