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. hawk

    John McCain and the republicans knows only one thing that's war.

    June 2, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. Lynn ND

    I'd like to know how many TAXPAYER dollars have been spent wheeling McCain over to Iraq and the Middle East so he can make talking points for his campaign. He has spoke so highly of the people in charge in Iraq and I would think he could rely on a few more briefings via conference calls, etc. For being in Iraq so much on my dime, you'd think he would have his facts straight about the war. Visiting the troops is always a worthy cause. It just bothers me when politicians do it for a photo op and McCain seems to be doing just that.

    June 2, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  3. Conservatives win again :)

    Why are you spending so much time kissing Isreal's rear. They cost us so much money and are not even Christian souls!?!?

    June 2, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. mel

    All he talks about is the war and iran but have not yet talk
    about local issues in America.We are wanting to know about
    the economy. He is not strong their so he is staying away
    from local issues.We are sick haering about Bush war and
    policy,this is Bush all over again.We can not have change Mccain
    in office.We need a leader that going to help the peoples him
    in office,not Iraq or Iran.

    June 2, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. Hillary 08, the electable candidate

    I find it hard to swallow that all of the Obama supporters just expect Hillary to fix all of Obama's electability problems.

    Obviously, the swing voters are voting for Hillary. I think we are all trying to let you guys know we don't like your candidate.

    No matter how much Hillary campains for Obama, he will still be unelectable. So don't blame Hillary, blame your candidate for having so many shady, radical, and terrorists supporting friends.

    Hillary 08 or McCain if necessary.

    June 2, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. Adil Imtiaz - New Jersey

    This is pathetic, US presidential candidates in a competition to prove their loyalty and commitment to Israel's brutal and immoral occupation of an entire people. And one wonders why there still is no peace in that region? Hopeless...

    June 2, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. John, OH

    McCain. Please realize (at least one of these days?) that talking to Iran IS a new idea. It's been our stated policy for two decades now not to talk to Iran.

    The approval rates of the Iraq War are worse than Bush's, if that's even possible. So apparently the people don't agree with you that we're doing well there. But, then, why do something silly like care what the people think in a democracy? That's only for bleeding-heart liberals.

    June 2, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. ClintonSpinsHerDonors

    My advice to the Stupid and ignorant clinton supporters.

    Please Read Fact check and check the national polls for your self below is part of the facts from factcheck.com.

    Clinton Spins Her Donors. She claims recent national Polls "consistently" show she'd win in November. That's not true.

    The debt-strapped Clinton campaign is appealing for money with an e-mail telling potential donors that polls "consistently" show she would beat McCain in November, and that she's leading Obama in the popular vote. We find both claims are misleading.
    A number of recent polls actually show Clinton tied with McCain, or even trailing. For most of 2008, polls have shown McCain ahead.
    She can claim to have won more votes than Obama only by counting Michigan, a primary where Obama was not on the ballot and which Clinton once said "isn't going to count for anything."

    June 2, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. mollygonz

    Keep ranting McSame. Your gaffes will soon overtake you.

    June 2, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  10. Rose - Baltimore, MD

    According to Msnbc.com web site, Obama has gain 2 more supers this morning. One from DNC Rules and Bylaws commitee member. Please update your front page CNN. Thanks

    June 2, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. Tim

    "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."

    hmmm, sound familiar? why not, it worked great in iraq.

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

    There is a big reason why super old people don't drive.

    We don't need McCain driving the country in the fast lane at 10mph with left blinker on for 4 years.... agh!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  13. john

    McSame cannot even get his facts straight or his brain in gear before he opens his motor mouth what chance his bid for President
    Obama will cream him

    June 2, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  14. demwit

    No worries, Obama will sweet talk Iran out of their nuclar bombs next year..

    June 2, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  15. Independent for Obama

    So McCain is saying that the US, and not the UN, will be imposing sanctions and getting other countries to impose sanctions? *sigh*

    This behavior is reckless and sounds just like something GW Bush would do – I really thought McCain would be a little better than Bush, but he is sounding like even more of a warmonger...

    June 2, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  16. Lorenza- Dallas

    Sounds a lot like our current president with all the saber-rattling and talk of proceeding with or without the support of the United Nations.

    I believe we have a severely damaged international reputation to repair with all of our intelligence goofs in Iraq, so why doesn't John McCain just take a deep breath and think for a while before getting us into yet another situation which could ultimately lead to armed conflict?

    For goodness sake, let's not leave our allies out of this one. I certainly hope I'm not witnessing the death of international diplomacy!!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  17. Robert

    John McCain lacks a vision for Peace in the Middle East. As a "hawk" he will only get us into another war-this time with Iran. I don't believe he has the will or the vision to lead the United States out of this time of turmoil and uncertainty. His language and rhetoric is divisive and not unifying. There is NO way I would vote for John McCain. Also, he is totally wrong about Obama. Obama has the vision and the will to help forge a coalition for peace. He will not sell the US or Israel out, but will challenge all parties to come to the table and talk.

    Go Obama!

    June 2, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  18. Alicia

    Two (2) words McShame..................REVEREND HAGEE.

    Do you think that Jewish-Americans that have ancestors whom have endured such suffering would be so blind as to believe you are endorsed by REVEREND HAGEE would care about them?! Like, duh!

    As a woman, I prefer someone calling me Sweetie instead of the C___ word you called your lovely and ladylike wife.

    Shame on you McShame.......

    June 2, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  19. obama =supporter==ARKANSAS

    you are so right
    he can't even do one sentence with out bringing the war into it
    he needs to take hill and bill and retire to portarica islands

    June 2, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |

    How many examples of failed Sanction policies does the word need before realizing that A- they seldom work and B- the only people that they effect are the innocent civillians who suffer baddly while the leaders suffer not at all.

    Sanctions take generations to become effective and even then only if the rest of the world community is on side (good luck).

    June 2, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  21. Deb

    We the people have spoken!

    And if the Super Delegates are smart and want to win in November with their Lifelong base in place, they will listen to the Will of the people!

    If the will of the people is ignored….

    McCain 08

    June 2, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  22. Less, Austin Tx

    We need to pull our troops out of Iraq and replace our troops with McCain, and while we are at it, throw Bush behind him.

    McCain needs to run for president over there in Iran or Iraq, since he is obviously more concerned with their economy and their issues. And McCain can have Bush as his Vice President. That way they both can clean-up the mess that Bush created and the mess McCain wants to continue.

    Obama '08

    June 2, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  23. Ibrahim California

    Not only does he support George Bush and uses the same talking points , Mccain at this address started looking and acting like Bush , making the same facial expressions and gestures as Bush when he speaks. Watch it and see for yourself.

    June 2, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. Anthony - Morgantown

    To the poster who said this will cause the price of oil to skyrocket, that's not entirely true. The oil that Iran produces is very low grade (high in sulphur), which is why they import quite a bit of what they use. The oil we import is light sweet crude of a higher quality, so the sanctions on Iran should have a minimal effect on what we pay for a barrel of crude.

    As far as the narratives switching to the economy, that's what I'm waiting for...to see if McCain is a true fiscal conservative...or just more of George Bush.

    June 2, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. kim portland, oregon

    thanks for your PRO-WAR, violence is the answer campaign, mcsame! President obama really appreciated it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    IRAN IS THE NEW IRAQ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12