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. Michael

    All I can say is I can't wait until Obama and McCain have
    a live, side by side debate and we can get to the real

    Hope and Peace for America and the World.

    June 2, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  2. mish

    who in their right mind with any conscience, knowing that this is an illegal and immoral war started by Bush for oil and revenge for his daddy nearly getting killed, would vote for this warmonger!!!!
    keep spewing out your war rhetoric MCSame
    NO ONE with a conscience is listening….that would be 82% of Americans
    Your wasting your time MCBush

    June 2, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. RC

    I used to like McCain. Now I see him as a two bit hack. Just another puppet. Most dems are just puppets too.


    June 2, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. Mk

    Dear John:
    I can't afford the gas to fill my tank. I can barely afford to buy food.
    My house is in foreclosure. I have no health insurance.
    What are you going to do to help my family and others in the same situation?
    Protect me from terrorists by touting a war waged based on LIES???
    You lose more and more credibility every time you talk about more war and ignore the problems we have in our OWN COUNTRY

    June 2, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  5. rachel

    keep at him Mccain his already limping the finsih line. I hope the republicans have an October surpise for the Obama fans, there is sure a lot of stuff and mumblings going about about tapes and other Obama behavior. The only way this clinton backer is getting behind obama in november is if its to push him off a cliff. I am so tired of him and all the teenies screaming cause he wore jeans.

    June 2, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  6. David, Silver Spring, MD

    It's absolute lunacy that we should favor a course that prevents diplomacy even when the alternative is war. McCain, for all his bluster about not giving Iran propaganda points, must admit that he is willing to let U.S. citizens die and to kill citizens of other countries because of his posturing.

    Teddy Roosevelt used to say, "Speak softly but carry a big stick." Bush/McCain have changed that to "Carry a really big stick and don't speak at all."

    June 2, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  7. RB from NH

    More WAR!!

    McBush's economic plan is to to keep the economy going by fueling the industries that cater to the military.

    How about we keep our money here for schools and roads and the elderly and those in need?

    Vote Obama

    June 2, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  8. NickNas

    Hey McSame......It is almost over with Hillary THEN WE WILL BE RIGHT WITH YOU : )

    Obama 08-12

    June 2, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  9. Will from Gaithersburg

    Old man yells at cloud!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  10. Phillis B

    Take your best shot McCain, when Obama finishes this primary and clinches the nom. YOUR TOAST

    June 2, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  11. Ilene MI

    No one is listening to you..except maybe die hard republicans that are still fooled by your party.
    You are wasting your time and your wifes money. There will not be another republican in office. People are waking up.

    June 2, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  12. Foreign observer

    He is still a soldier, nothing learned from his experiences. The weapon isn´t allways the only answer !

    June 2, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  13. Yawdie

    Wow. It is funny how the supporters or Hillary are not here supporting their new candidate.

    June 2, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  14. goodcitizen

    Old hero is much better than phony puppet.

    The wisest person to lead our nation is the real deal-Hillary Clinton!

    Open your eyes, people.


    Go Hillary! You are the ONLY ONE for our country.

    June 2, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  15. Michael Templer

    I am confused with both statements

    aren't really saying the same thing

    other than Barack is going to talk to them directly

    I wish they would stop the back and forth it's like watching a tennis match with long rallies's.

    I'm sure most intelligent Americans can see both points and most unintelligent will be confused

    I don't see a gain for either candidate here

    I wish they would both make their case separately and then we will decide.

    June 2, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  16. rc

    There is just no way Barack will win, he is too young and has no idea how to run the military, our military leaders will eat him alive.. Let's face it it's justs not the right time to pick a rookie for comander and chief. If we were not at war I would vote for him.

    June 2, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |

    Who cares what you are talking about. No one wants to here the same old thing over and over again. Yes you are more experienced with the middle east but as Chaney woud say, SO. We need a new way of doing things in the middle east and Obama will take care of that for us. Its your turn to get beat, brace yourself.

    June 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  18. JB

    That policy has certainly worked so far!!??!

    What a joke. Obviously, being shot down, captured and tortured does not make you a great foreign policy maker!

    June 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  19. Party Crasher


    Get a life. The democratic party will not let McWar scare us into voting for him, nor will we let you hold our support hostage with your threat to vote for him.

    You were going to vote for him from the begining, or you would be voting on the issues and not ignorant spite.

    Hope that the people in your family that are eligible to serve in the military enjoy Iran in the summer.

    June 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  20. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA






    June 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  21. KK

    McCaine you are too much!

    June 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  22. TIM

    Everyone on this forum sounds quite defensive about having an active leader who has some foresight into difficult situations, and how to handle them. I can say right now that we must not meet with dictators who will ever make any effort of supporting a free world and free trade. If you must post your negative views on many issues you don't really have a clue on, please at least spell check. Many of these posts appear to have come from an illiterate 8 year old.

    June 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  23. Foreign observer

    We´ve already seen the Carter grain embargo for Iran. What did that help ? His understanding of Near East local politics is rudimentary.

    June 2, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. Steph

    Does he know anything about the economy?

    June 2, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. R. Cooper

    Pressure on Iran? How about talking about cleaning the mess up in New Orleans???!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
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