Republican presidential candidate John McCain warned that al-Qaeda will step up terrorist attacks in Iraq leading up to the November election in the U.S.

"Al-Qaeda is on their heels but not defeated," McCain said today at a town hall meeting with General Motors workers in Warren, Michigan. "I also predict that they will make an attempt, as we get into election season, to make more of these spectacular kinds of attacks" by suicide bombers to destabilize the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

McCain, an Arizona senator, has spent much of this week touting his foreign policy and war experience while Democratic rival Barack Obama prepared for a trip to the Middle East. McCain has criticized Obama, an Illinois senator, for vowing to withdraw troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. McCain said the deployment of extra U.S. troops to Iraq last year has worked.

"Senator Obama said the surge would fail. He still fails to admit that it has succeeded," McCain said in response to a question from the audience. "I am confident we will win."

Earlier this year, McCain adviser Charlie Black caused a controversy when he was quoted in a Fortune magazine interview that the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before the New Hampshire primary "helped us" by highlighting that McCain "is the guy who's ready to be commander in chief." Black added that a "fresh terrorist attack certainly would be a big advantage" politically.

Black later said he "deeply" regretted making the statement and McCain distanced himself from the comments.