In Rick Santorum's World, Scary Muslims Are All the Same

| Fri Dec. 16, 2011 12:18 AM EST

With Ron Paul committing to a characteristically doveish position on a maybe-nuclear-armed Iran, Rick Santorum took the opportunity to bare his teeth, leveling several outrageous claims—albeit ones that will play well to the hawks in attendance—at Thursday night’s debate.

Iran "is a country ruled by the equivalent of Al Qaeda," Santorum claimed, adding that the Iranian government is a radical theocracy with a commitment to martyrdom. If Iran doesn't open up its nuclear facilities and close them down, "we will close them down for you," he promised.

First things first: Al Qaeda is a radical Sunni movement. Iran is a Shiite-majority country; as you may have heard, these two sects don’t exactly get along all the time. And Al Qaeda's financing has historically come from Sunni-majority countries, most notably Saudi Arabia. In July, the Treasury Department did accuse Iran of facilitating large cash transfers from Middle East donors to Al Qaeda leaders. But any more substantial ties have yet to surface. So what Santorum meant, exactly, when he said Iran is run by Al Qaeda’s "equivalent" is unclear.

If you needed any clearer indication of just how much Al Qaeada is not the equivalent of Iran, review the much-diminished terrorist organization's stern rebuke to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his continued insistence on feeding the 9/11-trutherism hype:

In the latest issue of the al Qaeda English-language magazine "Inspire", an author appears to take offense to the "ridiculous" theory repeatedly spread by Ahmadinejad that the 9/11 terror attacks were actually carried out by the U.S. government in order to provide a pretext to invade the Middle East.

"The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the U.S. government," an article reads. "So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?". . . ran continues to spread the conspiracy theory, al Qaeda says, because doing otherwise would expose their "lip-service jihad" against the U.S.

Al Qaeda clearly wants to keep the memory of its atrocities alive. You'd think if the group was an Iranian proxy, Ahmadinejad wouldn't be running around spreading lies about its most important terrorist strike.

Given the opportunity to speak immediately after Ron Paul—a committed non-interventionist—Santorum saw an opening to highlight his hawkishness. In doing so, he conflated two distinctly different, more or less unrelated threats. Eh, no biggie.