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. morris

    Continuously supporting Israel no matter what is like supporting a prodigal son who never learn how to live as a good person with a decent, healthy life style. When such a prodigal son who could never grow up independently and still look forward to pan-handling to his parents so often, the father should divorce him better sooner than later.

    June 2, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  2. A view from Baltimore

    Being a political prisoner for five years and being in the senate for a long time doesn't necessary make you an expertise on foreign policy.

    It's your lack of judgement, commitment and principles that will eventually be expisosed should Obama's team run a good campaign.

    Here are a few examples of your frequent shift in positions and lack of it:

    Supporting the invasion of Iraq war – Lack of judgment, whether you visit the country 50 or 100 times and whether the number of current troop level equals pre-surge or not. Is still lack of judgment.

    Shifting to become independent and back to Rebublican party just to win the nomination shows lack of ideals and principals.

    No firm sound foreign policy doctrine other than echoing warn out ideas of the past and making empty claims of expertise in the field.

    Tell us a new foreign policy ideas you have put forward in the last 10 years.

    June 2, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  3. Robert

    McCain is right, and by far would be a better leader and President then Obama.

    June 2, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  4. rlp-politcal

    This fossil true colors will soon be shown – as soon as Miss Hillary go back to New York.

    I cannot wait to see this fossil stand next to Obama – then you tell me who looks more presidential. McCain is a phony and crook. remember the keaton 6.

    June 2, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  5. Rom, NY

    McShame is an idiot who wants to continue the same failed policies of his mentor G. Bush
    Your fate is already mapped out

    June 2, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. Big Dee

    Another dumb politician who thinks that the world can be bullied. Middle Eastern countries do not fall for this type of rhetoric or sanctions. John McCain, you actually have to convince them that it's in their best interest to work with our country and the rest of the world. Idiots!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  7. broadstreet buddy

    Who is naive??

    McCain thinks that we have returned to pre-surge levels in Iraq when we have in fact 2 more brigades in Iraq than prior to the surge.

    McCain believes Al queda is going into Iran to get weopons and supplies and then returning to Iraq. In fact Iran does not like Al queda and does not help them out in any way.

    McCain confuses shia and sunni parties in the region all the time. This is like saying the Martin luther was catholic after he nailed hes 99 or 95 thesis on the church wall.

    McCain says he will not be lectured about troops from somebody who has not served in war, talking about Obama. However, he is ready to believe everything George Bush and John McCain says as gospel, even though George Bush was a draft dodger and was too scared to go to war when his name was called!

    Get your facts straight McCain, you are the one who is either very naive or out right delusional.

    June 2, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  8. vict

    People like you and BUSH are dangerous for this world because you think that only force can resolve everything .Let me tell you this everybody knows how a WAR starts but nobody knows how IT ends .

    June 2, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  9. 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 old crony!!!!
    keep spilling out your war rhetoric you old fool.....
    NO ONE with a conscience is listening....that would be 82% of Americans
    Your wasting your time MCBush

    June 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. Pandering

    So McBush wants to pick another war, this time with Iran. Then next Korea. Go McSame you are such a warmonger. Next time you visit Iraq don't go into the safe zone. Just go out in the streets and let everyone knows we are winning.

    June 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. Bill Stapp

    Hey, let's not wait. Let's go to war with Iran now. If we wait, it will only get more expensive. We are only $9,000,000,000,000 in debt, and that alone is one reason to look for a deal.

    We'll show 'em who's boss and save money doing it.

    Use those sanctions.... after all, look how well they have worked against Cuba for 40 years... or is it 50 now?

    Senator Obama wants to talk to them... but you know what they say,...

    .... "Talk is cheap.."

    June 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. Failed Bush/ McCain policy

    "limiting Iran's ability to import gasoline"...
    Did he say this?...Does he knows Iran export oil?
    This man is really out of touch

    June 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  13. Experience?

    The current policy, which McCain backs, in the Middle East, is not working. Iran continues to be an increasing threat (at least according to the Bush adminstration...who actually knows the truth?). Hamas and Hezbolla are fighting each other and Israel. Syria, Afghanistan and a host of other countries all have problems with instability and insurgents. How is the "experience" that McCain claims to have helping? I have a suggestion! Let's try something different and new!
    Bush, McCain and the rest of the knee-jerk policy Republicans have made a catastrophy of the area. Let's see if someone with some brains can start to fix things......

    June 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. Nick G

    That man John McCain will say anything to win the white house. Obama's strategy for the middle east is the best and meant for the 21st century. McCain still lives the coldwar era all over again. Obama's strategy of diplomacy is a winner and will limit Iran in its bid. Bush's tactics in the middle east which is what McCain wants to follow is what has made Iran stronger, Al-qaeda enboldened. That cold war era man must be rejected by all republicans, democrats, jews, africans, hispanics and independents. God save AMERICA

    June 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  15. Mark

    McCain really seems to have lost his way. He used to be an honorable politician before he wanted to become president at any cost.

    June 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Dave

    "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."

    And if that doesn't work, McSames answer would be to Bomb them back to the Dark Ages! What a LOSER!

    June 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. Jamaal Kansas

    I am tired of the Republicans they Know that Barack is better in every field than them so they want to make cheap shots that is fine so all bloggers it is time to point out Mcsames flaws like His illegal actions in the senate hist Voting record his Flip Flopping on differentr Positions and the list goes on lets Expose this Fraud of a Man

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

    Does Mccain see the consequence of this sancition? Oil pirce will be skyrocketing? Who will benefit? please don't say " I know to handle ....this". It is hiding something to be explained ? If you know tell us you handle.

    June 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. dee

    all this guy talks about is war war war...why hasn't he slammed Obama on something else

    June 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  20. Pandering

    There is nithing new here... Same OLD BUSH POLICY... just a different messenger! McSame

    June 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  21. Law O.

    Grandpa,forget about Iran and Iraq for a second.Please,talk how you intend to booster the nose diving economy,fall in the value of our dollar,the rising price of gasoline etc.These are more important issues that will determine my vote in the fall.Join issues more with
    Obama on these serious matters than your constant flip flop on wars,
    Iraq and Iran.I really need a break 'cause i'm tired.

    June 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  22. Ralph Benno

    it is not over until the fat lady sings

    Let us wake and read between the lines.

    Hilary will not get the DNC nomination for whatever reason..

    she will run as an independent and win...

    that is the only way for a woman to get the white house.

    Blacks has been coached for years since JFK..Obama is and always be will be a pawn for the DNC.

    June 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  23. BDub

    McCain hasn't learned anything from the mistake that Hillary made. Positioning yourself as the candidate of experience is the WRONG way to beat Obama. Experience within an arguably failed, antiquated system is irrelevant. People want CHANGE and McCain is an old man peddling certain continuation of Bush policy. Carry on, John. March to your defeat. You're wrong on foreign policy and you were wrong on the Iraq war. Wait until the narrative switches to the economy and health care. You're finished.

    June 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. Clinton Supporter

    You got my vote late Saturday afternoon.

    June 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  25. fred the good one

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

    obviously, he cannot stay away from lobbyists and the NOT NECESSARY WAR in Iraq.

    Warmonger Panderer and no substance

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