Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers
June 3, 2008

WASHINGTON — The presumptive Republican nominee for president and the leading contender for the Democratic nomination are exaggerating what’s known about Iran’s nuclear program as they duel over how best to deal with Tehran.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., say that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The U.S. intelligence community, however, thinks that Iran halted an effort to build a nuclear warhead in mid-2003, and the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, which is investigating the program, has found no evidence to date of an active Iranian nuclear-weapons project.

The candidates’ comments raise questions about how carefully the two have studied the public record on what’s become a major campaign issue and is one of the most difficult foreign-policy challenges likely to confront the next president.

The issue is also significant because the Bush administration inflated assessments of the Iraqi nuclear threat and the possibility that former dictator Saddam Hussein could pass nuclear weapons to terrorists as it sought to whip up public support for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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