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. vern

    Sen. McCain would do well to give the Voters SUBSTANCE and stop using the AGE OLD REPUBLICAN DISTRACTIONS with NO SUBSTANCE to fool the public.

    Voters have had enough of this type of rhetoric and we are well informed due to the blessing of today's techonology. All that we miss our CHILDREN are providing us with the information.

    This is the age of Yound People and Techonology and the Pandering by Candidates with ABSOLUTELY NO SUBSTANCE WILL NOT WASH

    THE REPUBLICANS WILL FIND THEMSELVES FACING A NEW GENERATION AND ONE THAT'S FULLY INFORMED AND WILL NOT ACCEPT DISTRACTIONS, ONLY SUBSTANCE.

    UNLESS THERE IS SUBSTANCE WE THE PEOPLE ARE NOT LISTENING.

    THE QUICKER SEN. MC CAIN GET THIS THE BETTER

    SEN. MC CAIN IS COMPLETELY OUT OF TOUCH.

    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Beltway Insider

    Keep talking you senile, old fool. Let's see how many facts you can mess up in the next few months.

    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. Timothy

    Mc Cain is a loser. It the economy not war.

    June 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  4. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    This man is Bush all over again. His only plan is to put our military at war with Iran which will endanger Israel, Jordan and more chaos in Iraq and Afgan. McCain will leave no room for any diplomacy which is not in the best interest of the United States or the Middle East. McCain is crazy.

    June 2, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  5. Small Minded

    McCain, what a loser

    June 2, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  6. Ross in MD

    Well McCain, the last intelligence estimate showed Iran has had NO nuclear weapons program in FIVE YEARS!

    But when does McBush let facts get in the way?

    Hey, maybe you'll find those Iraqi WMD in Iran!

    June 2, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  7. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    This man is Bush all over again. His only plan is to put our military at war with Iran which will endanger Israel, Jordan and more chaos in Iraq and Afgan. McCain will leave no room for any diplomacy which is not in the best interest of the United States or the Middle East. This makes for a disaster.

    June 2, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  8. Chris, Middletown, CT

    I'm a Republican....yeah John...I think we should continue on with policies that don't work...I think if you keep trying the same failed policy over and over....it will start working ....omg....when old style politics don't work anymore....thats why I am supporting Obama....(with many Republicans....Independents....and smart Democrats) –

    June 2, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  9. John , Signal Mountain, Tennessee

    You can run but you cannot hide, O'Bummer.

    June 2, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. Herman in LA

    What a sick man... McCain loves Bush... but not this time not this year.

    Obama 08!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  11. Rick in Florida

    I learned a lot about government arrogance and the disregard for truth, lives and treasure when I fought for 2 years in Vietnam. This mess in Iraq is the same thing, and we need a CHANGE from the status quo. Same goes for negotiation with our enemies, to make the world a better place for us all. McCain is the same old, same old.

    An Independent, and VIETNAM VET for Obama

    June 2, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  12. Drew, Central FL

    "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."

    In other words, if you are not with us, you are against us. Certainly sounds like a third Bush term.

    June 2, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  13. Berat, Park Ridge, IL

    John McCain needs to drop the black-and-white, good-versus-evil rhetoric and start dealing with world problems as if they're all shades of grey. Otherwise, Obama is going to be completely successful in casting McCain in the image of Dubya.

    June 2, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  14. chicago chris

    more of the same from McCain. "but the candidate made clear he would press ahead with or without the world body's support." isn't this what got us in trouble in Iraq? making unilateral decisions because of Israel?

    June 2, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  15. proud army and navy mom

    mcaine is a catastrophe. he claims to be an expert but he gets information wrong or twisted constantly. he's senile and anybody would be an absolute idiot to vote for this crazy old man

    June 2, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  16. FloridaHalfVoter

    Same old failed foreign policies.

    June 2, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  17. TAHARI in CT 4 OBAMA

    I cant WAIT until the GE!

    McCain hasnt seen the political light of day in a while since winning his party's nomination. He is dillusional and is showing his age!

    Get out the way sir, or be run over. The Obamanation is on its way.

    June 2, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  18. TLD

    WAR, WAR AND MORE WAR; ALL HE KNOW (OR THINK HE KNOW'S) IS WAR.

    June 2, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  19. Damond, Orlando

    Every time I see a headline that mentions McInSane I see a image of a nuttybot crowd of gunho followers chanting at the GOP convention, "WAR-MONGER, WAR-MONGER, WAR-MONGER!"

    Remember America, "A vote for McInSane is a vote for WWIII."

    June 2, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. Cedric

    "'Thumbs up' traditionally translates as the foulest of gesticular insults in some Middle Eastern countries — the most straightforward interpretation is 'Up yours, pal!' according to Roger E. Axtell's book Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World."

    Nice job with the picture of McCain giving the double thumbs-up...

    June 2, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. wow

    Clinton backers want to vote for this guy? How can they do that with a clear conscience?

    June 2, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. jaison Biagini

    this guy is off his rocker.
    as far as iraq goes, the people john mccain seems not to care about, the american people, want this war over. the reason i say he seems not to care about us is that he ignores the voice of the people on this issue. also it seems he only cares about the middle east. he never takes about this country. i don't want to sound uncaring when it comes to the iraqi people but we should come first in the eyes of the people we elect!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  23. bernj

    An old, idiot warmonger. Same old stuff from the same old folks.

    June 2, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. Wise White Guy

    Once again John McCain wakes up fresh and ready to take on the day. Unfortunately he again forgot he is a stooge and knows nothing about what he is talking about. And once again he will learn the lesson that his younger, opponent has better judgement than he does and actually does understand things like our econony, the environment, energy policies and is vastly superior in foriegn policy than Mr. McSame.

    June 2, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  25. Todd

    Considering how well sanctions have worked thus far, perhaps a little dialog wouldn't hurt...

    June 2, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
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