McCain vows tough sanctions on Iran
Republican White House candidate John McCain Monday called for tough new sanctions on Iran if it fails to halt its nuclear program, advocating a bid to starve the US foe of gasoline, the AFP reported.
The Arizona senator, in a speech to the powerful US-Israel lobby, also rebuked his potential Democratic opponent Barack Obama for offering to hold presidential-level talks with Tehran as a "serious misreading of history."
McCain's warning came hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired off his latest fiery rhetoric, saying he was convinced Israel would soon disappear.
The Arizona senator, speaking to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference, said Iran's "continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable risk, a danger we cannot allow."
"Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian president or supreme leader in the hope we can talk some sense into them, we must create the real-world pressures that will peacefully, effectively change the path they are on."
McCain called for a new regime of international sanctions against Iran, over and above current United Nations and unilateral measures.
Iran would face curbs on its capacity to import refined gasoline, sanctions on the Bank of Iran and worldwide visa bans and asset freezes which McCain said would cause a rethink by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.
"A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline would create immediate pressure on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change course and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons," McCain said.
Iran denies its nuclear program is designed to produce energy, not weapons.
McCain also hit out at Obama, as part of his evolving bid to paint him as naive in world affairs, over his offer to hold talks with top Iranian leaders.
"The idea that they now seek nuclear weapons because we refuse to engage in presidential-level talks is a serious misreading of history," McCain said.
"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.
"It's hard to see what such a summit, with President 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."
The Obama campaign accused McCain of wanting to continue President George W. Bush's policies in the Middle East, which the Democrat says have only strengthened Iran.
"John McCain stubbornly insists on continuing a dangerous and failed foreign policy that has clearly made the United States and Israel less secure," Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said.
"Instead of recognizing reality, John McCain continues to run on a platform of doubling down on George Bush's failed policies, while carrying on his divisive brand of politics," .
"The United States and Israel cannot afford four more years of an unwillingness to change course."
Earlier, Ahmadinejad launched a new attack against Israel and its US ally.
"I must announce that the Zionist regime ( Israel), with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene," Ahmadinejad said.
A new Gallup poll Monday bolstered Obama's position, finding that two-thirds of Americans think it's a good idea for the US president to meet leaders of enemy countries, and fifty-nine percent would back talks with the Iranian president.
McCain also hammered Obama on Iraq, seizing on US and Iraqi reports of the lowest monthly death toll in the country since the US-led invasion in 2003, to decry those still fighting over "yesterday's" options.
"It's worth recalling that America's progress in Iraq is the direct result of the new strategy that Senator Obama opposed," said McCain, an strong backer of the troop surge plan introduced last year.
McCain said Obama's plan for a gradual withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq would cause a "catastrophe."
"We risk all-out civil war, genocide and a failed state in the heart of the Middle East," McCain said.
"Al-Qaeda terrorists would rejoice in the defeat of the United States."