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. Will - OKC

    "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."

    Remind you of anyone?

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

    Give it a rest McSane. Stop trying to lure Obama into you and Bush's failed scheme to take over the planet with your Repubickan Wars! You disgust me.

    June 2, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. rice, bryan

    we have already put sanctions on iran, with no effects. during this admin. the iranians have continued to build their nuclear program. mccains just building his case to go to war.

    June 2, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. Ed From Milwaukee WI- Swing State

    The short armed McCain has begun his useless attacks on Obama. He enjoys using naïve and inexperience a lot, but I find it funny because all those traits reflect McCain, especially when it came time to vote on the immoral war in Iraq. He can barely remember basic facts about Iraq and the Middle East. Someone with so much experience should not make dumb mistakes on a consistent basis. Makes me wonder how much experience does he really have?

    June 2, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. Eric

    John, sorry to say you are sad to hear. It that all you know, hello you are not putting fear in no one's minds. there are other problems here in the states! LIKE AMERICAN LOSING THERE HOME, LIKE AMERICAN CAN NOT AFORD THE GAS PRICES, LIKE AMERICAN CAN NOT FINE WORK ! HELLO, HELLO ARE YOU RETARD OR WHAT?

    June 2, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. Norb

    You go John! McCain/Lieberman/Keating 08!

    June 2, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. Senility Creeps

    Wow, that is a scary picture. It looks like another sequel to Night of the Living Dead without all of the charisma.

    June 2, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. marylee wagerman atlanta,ga


    June 2, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  9. Jeff

    McCain will continue to exploit Obama's inexperience.

    It is a shame the fawning media wouldn't allow this to be done during the primary process and we wouldn't be stuck with a candidate like Obama.

    I'll be switching parties to vote McCain in the fall.

    We cannot afford to have 'on the job training' in the office of the presidency.

    June 2, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  10. Whatever

    Sounds like McCain wants to build a strong alliance like Bush did....
    We see how successful that was – Tony Blair isn't around anymore, so Maverick will probably just have us go it alone. Wonder how long it will be before he claims to have prrof that they have WMDs?

    June 2, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  11. Chris from NY

    McCain needs a new strategy for his debate on foreign policy. What he currently uses is getting kind of old. He is all over the map on all the issues. More so, he is not addressing issues at home. He's not not told us how he's going to ease our pain so we will have the strenght to support him on issues abroad. Charity they say begins at home. First make us fairly comfortable before you jump in to making other countries comfortable.

    June 2, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  12. Chuck

    Blah blah blah. More George W. Blah blah... I know more than you do. This country is in the crapper and we don't need to continue to run along the same path that the Republican machine has put us all on. "I will do nothing", is what McCain essentially will be able to do. Sanctions have done nothing and will continue on that path. Talk to these people, learn about thier expectations, learn about their culture and shut up on the threats! Do something different or sit there with your head up your rear end and play the blame game.

    June 2, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  13. extinct

    So what's happening with McCain. Is the Bush money running out for him so now he's looking for new sources of financing – from oil to diamonds?

    June 2, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. Reality

    McCain is a LOSER !!! He doesnt stand a chance in November

    June 2, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. MIKE from NJ

    I admire Mr. McCain for his past patriotism and service. However I find it tough to comprehend how he can still say that the Iraq war was a great idea. I also don't see why he stays away from president Bush while still supporting most of his failed policies. I think that McCain inviting Obama to Iraq is funny and I say Go ahead McCain. Iraq is a wonderfully safe place and you should visit there with Obama. But don't bring the military escort, a bulletproof vest, or the endless caravan of soldiers and HumVees with you because remember you and your mentor Bush have it all under control. Do it publicly at a hotel in Baghdad and sit there for ten minutes until Barack gets there.
    Just because you are a war hero that deosn't mean you deserve the presidency. If that were the case then John Kerry would have won it!

    June 2, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. No McSame

    Shut up McSame. Silly old man you. No check that, keep talking so that the people can see what you really are. Speak on MY FRIEND.

    June 2, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. @americans

    It's mcshame bearings intact?

    Liebierman needs to go check this angry old man's bearings!

    June 2, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  18. jr

    We must never allow Iran to project military power throughout the region, which is their ultimate goal. This is the lesson we learned and should never loose site of as a result of the Iranian Hostage situation, which another neophyte president (Jimmy Carter) severely botched. Stabilization amd maintenance of a democratic Iraq, is the lynchpin to preventing that from happening. McCain is right and Obama is wrong on this issue.

    June 2, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. Major Michael in Lorton, Virginia

    McCain sound so much like a "derivative of the Bush Administration".........and look where it has gotten Bush and America......in the pickle barrel......McCain represents the same old guard rherotic.......expecting different results.....and that is "insane."

    June 2, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. Puffin

    What a royal mess. And what is our Congress doing except debating some non-critical global warming issues? Don’t they ever set priorities? Nancy Pelosi you have not kept your word you gave the American people two years ago.

    June 2, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  21. Jamaal Kansas

    Mcbush just wants to fignt another war with Iran that is what Bush has been trying to sell the American people for the past year. Mcshame will contiune the same failed policies as Bush this is not the man we want running our Country

    June 2, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. al in memphis

    To the author of this report, well written. As a voter, I want the facts and not just rhetoric of misquoting half of what the other canidate said. Politics will always be politics, but a news station can do the voter a service with commentary like this.

    June 2, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  23. carolinas

    McCain, I hear your middle east policy....but we should keep open dialogue with iran too as they are neighbours to Iraq, Pakistan , Afghanistan and Turkey. If we alienate Iran without a good dialogue, that is not a good president's approach in foreign policy matters.

    OBAMA 2008...!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  24. Paul

    McCain still can't lift his arms over his head.

    June 2, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  25. Lois

    Oh McCain, no one is listening to your drivel ! (Note Hillary and her supporters, notice McCain is directing EVERYTHING to Obama, he is ignoring YOU) That should tell you something, eh?

    June 2, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
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