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. Over the Hill(ary)

    Way to go Deb! You are the poster child of smart women of the USA! NOT!!! Why not just admit that you were a cross-over Republican in support of Hillary, instead of making yourself look so incredibly foolish by saying you'll vote McCain if your 'entitled' one doesn't steal the nomination?

    June 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. mike

    Another senator who needs brain surgery!

    June 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  3. Jane

    I could never vote for Obama, he's too weak and confused. And don;'t bore me with the childish and monotonous refrain about "the failed policies of the last 8 years". The Democrats are an incompetent and naive party. The only mature option is McCain.

    June 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  4. NO McBUSH!

    McCain, you're really disappointing the American public. Fearmongering suited Bush... but you wear it like a cheap suit. I thought you were better than that, sir...

    you will never get my vote!

    June 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  5. Republican for Obama

    Sorry McCain, but I'm not voting for any IDIOT who supported Bush's failed pet war in Iraq. Everyone knows we hurt our efforts against the real terrorists when we diverted our attention from AFG. Go Away you Neo-Con wannabe.

    June 2, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  6. ys

    It's kind of fun to watch this battle between Democratic party leaders and the people who elected them. The leaders keep on tellling Hillary to get out of the race and people keep on voting for her. Seems like we need a shakeup at the top pof the DNC which is looking pretty corrupt right about now..

    June 2, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  7. pj4521

    Got to love the thumbs up photo, it kind of reminds me of bush standing of the aircraft carrier in a onsie jump suit proclaiming mission accomplished, some 5 years back. LOL!

    June 2, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  8. Chris

    I sure hope folks are really listening to what McCain is really about.
    He is a Warmonger!!!
    The GOP is a party of Warmongers!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  9. stephanie

    Why did Obama, Edwards, Biden and Richardson voluntarily take their names off the ballot? Why did Obama, Edwards and Richardson jointly encourage their supporters to vote uncommitted? WHY?

    June 2, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  10. Stephen

    Stick to the topic Deb. Does McCain plan to solve all of our foreign policy issue with war. Can he tell us why his policies are better rather talk about how long he has been around. I have had enough of Mcsame already.

    June 2, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  11. wycliffe, NJ



    June 2, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  12. Theo

    I wonder if Mccain understands that the United States doesn't hold the same prestige or influence that it use to. Why would a country listen to a weakened US threat? I don't think Obama meeting with Iran would change things either, so I believe their argument is a draw. Iran is not interested in anything they have to say and will not stop their program where there are sanctions or not.

    June 2, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  13. Tom in S.A.

    John should talk about the war, there is one going on isn't there? It should be up to the military to decide when we are safe to leave and how quickly, screw all the politicians when it comes to war. John McCain is far far different the GW but ya'll just hate hate hate anything to do with the republican party and don't care or listen to anything they say. You are such resonable people...........

    June 2, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  14. randy

    you got to be kidding john macain ,you will never have my vote period.
    this have nothin to do with if i am republican or not it is about doing the right thing which is to vote obama come november i am an obamacan.

    June 2, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. AJ

    I despise Obama and after being a staunch democrat for 30 years, I am going to hold my nose and vote for McCain. I urge all Clinton supporters to do the same. Obama is nothing but an overblown gasbag and would be a disaster for the nation.

    June 2, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  16. Chris in VA

    Instead of beefing up sanctions, we should make it ridiculously easy for Iranians to come to America, purchase American goods, and make the Iranian regime be the ones who deny it to the Iranian people. The Iranian populace is one of the most pro-US populations in the WORLD (much more so the Middle East). I say we set up a program where any Iranian who wants to come to American can do so - watch how quickly Ahmadinejad and the clerics tumble when they deny people that opportunity. In other words, make the Iranian leaders themselves act like the bad guys.

    June 2, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  17. Otis in Va

    As a Navy veteran, Im appaled at McPain's tactics. They will not work!!! Iran is an oil producer you big dummy!! They will sell to the highest bidder!! Sanctions have not worked for Cuba. They are still communist and thriving. Please do the US a favor and just quit. You are not investing in America with your small government plans!! How could you speak against the G.I. bill when it concerns the same individuals fighting your 100 year war in Iraq. And you think America will prosper at 9 billion a month. Hmmm...I wonder what happened to that surplus we had under President Clinton... POOOOF!!! Be gone old man!!!!

    OBAMA 08/12

    June 2, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  18. Carl

    What happened to the story about how McCain "misspoke" and said we are now down to pre surge levels? He was clearly wrong in this regard as he has been wrong on Iraq many many many times! This man has no clue what is going on and, we the people, need to acknowledge that!

    Obama all the way!

    June 2, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. Rochy

    He is not McCain.. not even Mc Same.. HE is MC SHAME.. Go to Hell old bag! Time to rest in OLd age home

    June 2, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  20. bill pike

    MCCAIN, i have to finally agree with you. war is better than peace and for God's sake let's keep killing our kids. i can't wait to get mcbush out of office and at least try to have peace on earth.

    from an army vet who say after nov you and all the bush people need to be put on trial for USING FALSE INFO TO CREATE A WAR THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 911.

    June 2, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  21. Rob

    Obama's foreign policy positions are a train-wreck.

    June 2, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  22. sophia nyc


    Israelis do NOT want war they want peace. 60% agree the Knesset should have direct talks with Hamas.. the elected officials of the Palestinians.

    Israel is having meetings with Syria..


    June 2, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. MoveOn

    Bamarama and Billary should keep fighting each other up to their convention....and beyond!

    Not one of these leaders is a perfect mould of a president, but McCain has the fewest negatives of the three.

    Barry is bright, and so is Billary, but both are liberals who want to raise taxes, make the US an isolationist country in a global economy, and pander to whomever they think they can fool with empty promises of a chicken in every pot!

    John will win the White House. I only pray (something liberal baby-killers have a hard time doing) that the press and radical democrats see the damage they cause with their biased US-bashing retoric and get behind our president.

    June 2, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  24. Emmanuel

    here goes the cranky old man, its showing. Mcain wants to fight, fight and fight some more but with no positive results at the end, awful results mostly. Mcains approach at solutions or lack of is the same old Bush rhetorical cowboy agenda, tough talks, crankiness and awful results.

    Mcains ideas are old, irrelevant and lack creative solutions that resolve security problems. This is why change that urges a diplomatic surge with a strong military stance is the answer. Change is what we need. America knows what Mcain is offering, over 90 years in the senate and nothing to show for it. Time for change.

    June 2, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  25. Jim

    McCain is a tool.

    June 2, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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