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. KMAN

    McThuselah is calling Obama naive ... now that's funny! A man who virtually wants to continue the Bush doctrine in the Middle East ... that's simply senile ... and I'll take naive any day over senile and stupid!!

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

    WAR AFTER WAR what is wrong with this man. the only thing he talks about is war. pretty soon people will come to realise that voting for this man is nothing but war. slowly he is voting himself out of the lsland. Mccain we are tired of war. we want peace we are young we still have a long way to go. so please give us a break. the world is tired of war. You are nothing but a warmonger who knows nothing else.Not this time. you are old you dont have much to live,so please not this time.

    June 2, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. john

    War, War, War This is all McCain know. Now he is trying to con the jewish people after he went looking for hagee's support.

    June 2, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  4. Doug R.

    McCain has absolutely nothing new to offer the American people. All he can talk about is Iraq, Iran, and bombing people. He has no knowledge of ecomonics and domestic issues that are important to the overwhelming majority of Americans. He has no vision. The people should reject this miserable old man as he will only harm the country further. This man (McBush flip flop McCain) is a liar and a fraud.

    June 2, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. Tony

    McCain is an old man with old ideas. Carbon copy of Bush and will look ridiculous come November.

    June 2, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. trellskig

    McCain has already stated that he knows nothing on the other issues America faces! The only thing (he claims) he knows about is the war and Iraq, so if this guy is America's next president, we are gonna need a miracle.

    June 2, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  7. Arrthur Elmer

    If John McCain thinks that sanctions have an effect on the ruling leaders of any country he is much dumber than I thought he was and and I did not think he was too smart to begin with.
    He and others criticized Carter for putting sanctions on Russia. We have had sanctions on Cuba now for almost 50 years and it has accomplished nothing but make it harder for the poor to live and to keeop them in poverty.
    Sanctions only make it harder for those with less to get by and try to live any kind of a decent life. The rich and the rulers -both are usually the same– or the rich control the rulers just like in the USA.
    The Bible says the rich will rule over the poor and we see that played out every day in this country and all over the world.

    June 2, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  8. Tom in S.A.

    What are you going to talk to them about. Oh maybe we can change the way they have believed for thousands of years by sitting down and talking to them. NAIVE little ones.......

    June 2, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  9. Michael

    Obama is naive about geopolitical & global economic issues. For all his intellect, none of his supporters can state what "change" the man has done during his political career that shows proof of improving the economy, reducing crime, or correcting the social problems for his constituents. If Obama wants us to follow him into battle, then show me why he is battle worthy, or otherwise I am setting myself up for a slaughter by the enemies that want to destroy us.

    June 2, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  10. McCain '08

    McCain is right. He is not disappointing the American public, He has my vote and will win 40+ states.

    June 2, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  11. Anna

    Obama better not have his bags packed to moved into the White House. There are enough of us Democrats who will cross over to vote for McCain. 4 years of McCain will be better for this country with a Democratic Congress to keep him in line. The DNC has nailed its coffin shut by not having Clinton at the top of the ticket. Even if she is being considered for VP, most Dems I know will still cross over. Too bad, DNC.

    June 2, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  12. CW4Barak

    McBush....get ready.....your defeat is next!

    Obama 08!

    June 2, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  13. A CANUCK

    You think you "know it all" Gramps......butb you could learn a lot from bright and intelligent Obama.

    June 2, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  14. Candi SC

    If the supers want to shut up McCain, please put your vote to Obama and let's get the show on the road. McCain is doing alot of trash talking because he knows on better.

    June 2, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  15. Scott L

    For all your people slamming McCain, please share with us how Obama would handle the situation? As far as I have seen, he has not provided one idea or plan for dealing with Iran. If he is going to be President, he needs to be out there speaking at these kinds of conventions about how he will deal with the situation.

    Until then, he is all talk. Say what you want, but the minute you sit down with Iran to negotiate is the day you give up our #1 position in the world. We do not negotiate with terrorists or dictatorships.

    Imagine if we sat down to negotiate with Britain when we were fighting for independence? They would have slaughtered us.

    Instead we took up arms and fought. Think about that.

    June 2, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  16. Frosty

    This is going to be so easy!

    I'm starting to think McCain is a war mongerer...seriously. It's like he is obessed with Iran. He never says anything else...Iran, Iran, Iran. Bin Laden is feeling insignificant.
    The republicans had a much better shot with Romney whom by the way is the worst republican ever.

    Los Angeles, CA.

    June 2, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  17. Because the old way is working SO WELL...

    Yeah, the old way is working marvelously. Give us a break.

    Remember the more 'conservative, less government' Republican party, has taken away more or our rights and have spent more of our hard earned money than ever before.

    Definition of McSanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    June 2, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  18. Williams

    Ask Mccain how many troops are currently in Iraq!

    June 2, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. Dennis

    McCain's tone and message since he became the nominee really surprise me. I use to think he was very moderate and not chained to the GOP. I use to think that the talk of him as a third Bush term was just political speech. Now I'm beginning to see it has some truth to it.

    June 2, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. GCG - Austin, TX

    BDub, you're absolutely right, but stop saying it lest his handlers hear you. 🙂

    June 2, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  21. JA Cook

    The man who sang, "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" will show us the way to peace and prosperity through warfare.

    June 2, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |

    GIVE HIM A DAY AND HE WILL ASKED WHAT DID I SAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 2, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. Edgar - Orlando, Florida

    Clinton loyalist will jump your band wagon NOT OBAMA – ever!

    June 2, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. ANGIE

    why cant mcain talk about anything but war like the economy health care global warming education jobs etc you know why because thats all he knows aboutis WAR he is cluless on the other issuses thats why he doesnt speak about them and you people want this man for potus scary very scary think about this hillary supporters before you make a decision out of spite and anger that one day you will regret

    June 2, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  25. MBFLA

    This man will bankrupt America with endless wars.

    June 2, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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