June 2nd, 2008
10:30 AM ET
14 years ago

McCain slams Obama over Middle East at pro-Israel forum

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/02/art.aipac.ap.jpg caption="McCain addressed AIPAC Monday."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - John McCain Monday called for tougher worldwide pressure on Iran and painted his potential rival Barack Obama as naive about the Middle East.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee called for "targeted sanctions that will impose a heavy cost on the regime's leaders," such as limiting Iran's ability to import gasoline, denying travel visas to its leaders, freezing their assets and imposing financial sanctions on its Central Bank.

McCain was speaking at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobbying organization.

In a clear sign McCain has begun fighting the general election campaign, the speech was peppered with attacks on Obama, the Illinois senator who is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. McCain made his target unmistakable, mentioning Obama by name in two of the three criticisms.

The Obama campaign fired back immediately, sending reporters a lengthy e-mail rebutting McCain's points one by one as McCain began speaking.

McCain took Obama to task for the latter's stated willingness to meet with the leaders of countries like Iran, which the Arizona Republican described as the greatest threat facing Israel.

"We hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody has ever thought of before," McCain said without naming Obama.

"Yet it's hard to see what such a summit with (Iranian) President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad would actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants, and a worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another. Such a spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly acquire the appearance of respectability."

He blasted Obama for voting against a measure to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

"Over three quarters of the Senate supported this obvious step, but not Sen. Obama," he said.

"He opposed this resolution because its support for countering Iranian influence in Iraq was, he said, a 'wrong message not only to the world, but also to the region.' But here, too, he is mistaken. Holding Iran's influence in check, and holding a terrorist organization accountable, sends exactly the right message - to Iran, to the region and to the world."

McCain also jabbed Obama over Iraq, saying America's counter-insurgency strategy there was succeeding.

"It's worth recalling that America's progress in Iraq is the direct result of the new strategy that Sen. Obama opposed. It was the strategy he predicted would fail, when he voted cut off funds for our forces in Iraq," McCain said.

"He now says he intends to withdraw combat troops from Iraq - one to two brigades per month until they are all removed.... This course would surely result in a catastrophe."

The Obama campaign, in response, sought to tie McCain to President Bush, who it said had failed to contain Iranian influence over the past seven years.

"Confronted with that reality, John McCain promises four more years of the same policies that have strengthened Iran, making the United States and Israel less safe," the statement said.

The Obama campaign accused McCain of misrepresenting the Democrat's positions and offering only empty rhetoric himself.

McCain "promises to continue a war in Iraq that has emboldened Iran and strengthened its hand. He promises sanctions that the Bush Administration has been unable to persuade the Security Council to deliver. He promises a divestment campaign, even though he refused to sign on to Barack Obama's bipartisan divestment bill, refused to get his colleagues to lift an anonymous hold on the bill, and willfully ignores the fact that trade and investment between Iran and Iraq continue to expand. He stubbornly refuses to engage in aggressive diplomacy, ruling it out unconditionally as a tool of American power."

The campaign said Obama is in favor of divestment from Iran and of labeling the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. It said Republicans had blocked Obama's own divestment bill, and that the senator had voted against a bill about the Revolutionary Guard because it contained other provisions about Iraq to which he objected.

It also said Obama would base decisions about withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq on facts on the ground. Obama is due to address AIPAC on Wednesday.

McCain laid out specific actions he would take against Iran, but not say how he would achieve them.

"Over a year ago I proposed applying sanctions to restrict Iran's ability to import refined petroleum products, on which it is highly dependent, and the time has come for an international campaign to do just that. A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline would d create immediate pressure on (Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change course, and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons," he said.

"As a further measure to contain and deter Iran, the United States should impose financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which aids in Iran's terrorism and weapons proliferation. We must apply the full force of law to prevent business dealings with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps," he added.

The United States has imposed sanctions on some Iranian commercial banks, but not on the country's central bank.

McCain also called for an international campaign to withdraw investment from Iran on the model of the South Africa campaign of the 1980s.

"We should privatize the sanctions against Iran by launching a worldwide divestment campaign" so " the radical elite who run that country will become even more unpopular than they are already."

The speech - one of a series of addresses laying out policies McCain would pursue as president - included a nod to the United Nations, but the candidate made clear he would press ahead with or without the world body's support.

"Essential to this strategy is the UN Security Council, which should impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions. Should the Security Council continue to delay in this responsibility, the United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing multilateral sanctions outside the
UN framework."

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (280 Responses)
  1. Cammi317

    War Hero or not, I find this man repulsive.

    June 2, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. Jim Shimmer

    MsSame is an idiot. He is like Bush.
    All he wants is WAR.


    June 2, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  3. Hillary Clinton

    Will the real Barack Obama please stand up?

    June 2, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  4. Veterans for Obama

    McCain is a backstabber.

    Veterans have been betrayed by this man!

    A vote against the GI Bill is a signal that he does not care a bout the young people he wrongly put in harms way!

    June 2, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  5. Chinyere

    And now the real race begins...

    June 2, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. sdn

    John McCain is Bush's 3rd and 4th term.

    June 2, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. 3Stars2Bars

    Well isn't this a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    June 2, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  8. Sam for Hillary

    McSame you are going have your butt whipped come November. Even though my number one is not going to take the Dem nomination, my number two will defeat you too. For the 30% that feel Bush is an okay guy, here is your clone. No McBush, no McSame. Obama 08 and 12

    June 2, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  9. martin

    mccain's strategy offers no vision for peace.he is another gw bush.

    June 2, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  10. D.

    There is America and Americans that he need to concentrate on this land and the economy.
    All he knows is war and rumors of war.

    June 2, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  11. An American in Canada for David

    The Obama campaign fired back, where is this weak so called leader Obama can he not speak for himself, without written speeches.

    God what a loser, hiding behind a team of thugs barking out attacks against McCain like a pack of hyenas.

    Now you know why Clinton is the only strong leader, she would be fighting back herself, because she is the most capable and she is the most knowledgeable about foreign affairs and war and peace strategy.

    H.R. Clinton President 2009-2012

    June 2, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. Ralph

    Go McCain, we Hillary supporters will NOT vote for Obama...you are the man!!!!!!!

    June 2, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. Enough!

    Notice how the Republican Party isn't even bothering with Hillary anymore? It's because she is irrelevant.

    Time to call it quits, Mrs. Clinton!

    June 2, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  14. MD

    Obama is weak on defense, ignorant on economics, and naive on diplomacy.

    The only questions are if the American people are so gullible that they fall for the simpleton attacks of Obama and if the media will continue to give Obama a free ride.

    June 2, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  15. After further review,Texas.

    How much is their lobby paying you John?Let me know when they start paying taxes or become a state.

    June 2, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  16. Janey for McCain

    Watch Obama change his tune in his speech this week and deny that he would "talk" to Iran without preconditions–maybe he could "plagerize" a little of McCains speech.

    June 2, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  17. WillNYC

    John McSame has little chance of winning this election... the more he talks the more of a fool he shows himself to be.

    June 2, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. rose

    war mongger, always 'lets fight' whom do you want to fight? obviously you are fighting yourself. No more fight mcsame ok.

    June 2, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  19. USAF Ret

    All I can say at this point is "a vote for McCain is a vote for insane."

    June 2, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  20. Rick in Florida

    Let's see........McCain took 7 trips to Iraq and wants to continue as we've been doing, spending $3billion a week there!!! And Obama, who argued against such a war, went to Iraq once, was convinced that we needed to withdraw reasonably and not precipitously, and we're supposed to think McCain has the better judgment??? NOT.

    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  21. TRUTH


    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  22. ray

    John McSame needs to quit. These attacks won't work this year. The steaks are too high to have another 4 years of Republican leadership.

    Obama 08!

    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. Boo Hearne-Carroll

    I want a candidate who is concerned about America first. After 60 years, isn't it time Israel stood on her own two feet? Aren't the trillions of dollars we have given Israel over the years enough? This is the United States. Not a subdivision of Tel Aviv. Wake up, Americans!

    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. COL.{retd]A.M.Khajawall

    Dear American Voters,

    Hon. Senator McCain and Obama, besides each having many attributes and characteristics. The critical differences in my professional, political, and personal opinion are as under:

    1. Presidential "Temperament and Composer".
    2. Little Washington "insider Versus outsider" connectedness.
    3. Vision and mission for our nation future rather than past.
    4. American policies first USA centric than other countries centric.

    In my professional opinion one senator has it and the other does not. We need one for our Greatgrand Nation to address our all these challenges with a fresh, clean and new slate.

    God Bless America. its diverse people, and our Greatgrand Nation.

    Yours truly,

    COL. [retd] A.M.Khajawall
    Forensic psychiatrist, Las Vegas NV

    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  25. history repeats

    im sorry but besides being prejudice what has iran done?? if they are funding insurgents in iran, well, we did the same exact thing to them during the iran-iraq war. what exactly have they done to deserve these measures?

    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
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