John McCain (photo), Arizona senator and Republican candidate for the White House, said the US should impose tougher measures on Iran, if it continues with its nuclear programme.
On Monday, at the annual conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), he spoke in Washington to say that Iran’s “continued pursuit of nuclear weapons” posed an “unacceptable risk”.
He added that the US should lead other nations in imposing multilateral sanctions, if the UN Security Council did not increase political and economic sanctions on Tehran.
Iran has been accused by Western powers of seeking to obtain nuclear weapons, through its nuclear programme. But Iran says it is only for peaceful purposes.
On Monday, in a speech in Tehran, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad, has also caused controversy with anti-Israel remarks.
Local media reported him as saying that the “criminal and terrorist Zionist regime” would soon “disappear off the geographical scene”.
Arizona senator also warned the conference that the Iranian government could pass nuclear weapons on to groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, some of its “allied terrorist networks”.
“Armed as well with its ballistic missile arsenal, an Iranian nuclear bomb would pose an existential threat to the people of Israel”, he said.
John McCain also called a “serious misreading of history”
, when talking about Barack Obama (photo, from washingtonpost.com
), one of the Democratic candidate to their party nomination, who offered to hold talks with Iran.
“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”, said McCain.
“It’s hard to see what such a summit with 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.”
To Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera’s Washington correspondent, at the Aipac conference, John McCain’s comments were an attempt to contrast his more hardline stance on Iran with Barack Obama’s stated willingness to meet with Iranian leadership in a bid to woo US Jewish voters who are traditionally overwhelmingly Democrat.
The Obama campaign responded swiftly to the remarks, saying McCain wished to continue the “divisive” policies of George Bush, the US president.
“The United States and Israel cannot afford four more years of an unwillingness to change course”, said Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Obama campaign.
Both democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, are due to speak at the Aipac conference on Wednesday.
Aipac is the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US. It is formed from dozens of pro-Israel political action committees, that draw a large part of their support from the Jewish-American community and provide funding to presidential candidates.
Aipac also draws support from evangelical Christian groups.
Restrict Iran’s ability to import petrol, impose financial sanctions on the Bank of Iran, and instigate worlwide visa bans and asset freezes, that’s what the US should do, said John McCain.