Senator John McCain.
(photo credit: COURTESY AIPAC)
WASHINGTON – Republican Senator John McCain called on the US Senate to pass new bipartisan sanctions against Iran, should the current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program fail.
“We have to keep the pressure on,” McCain told the AIPAC 2014 policy conference in Washington, DC on Monday morning. “Iran needs to know that the only alternative to compromising on our terms is even more crippling sanctions.”
McCain spent most of his speech criticizing US President Barack Obama for what McCain perceived as weakness and a lack of American leadership worldwide, especially when it came to Iran, Syria, and most recently the crisis in the Crimean Peninsula.
“This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in American strength anymore,” McCain said, ripping into Russian president Vladimir Putin for “not believing that the Cold War is over” and for assisting Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war, which has caused more than 140,000 civilian deaths and close to 6 million refugees, internally and outside the country.
“We have sat by and watched it happen,” McCain said. “If he [Assad] prevails, it will directly endanger the security of the State of Israel.”
Jordan is destabilizing, as is Lebanon, he noted. “What do you think will happen when all those Hezbollah fighters in Syria return to southern Lebanon?” McCain asked the very supportive audience.
“The whole situation cries out for American leadership, and I’m sorry to tell you it’s M.I.A.”
McCain said that, despite his hope that the current negotiations with Iran
succeeds, he highly doubts that the Iranian mullahs would take the US seriously after the last five years of the Obama administration.
”When a president says they’re going to take military action and does not, that sends a message all around the globe,” he said. “When we allow a dictator in Syria to gas his own people and we do nothing, what does that say about us?” Praising the people at the AIPAC conference for being “willing to spend their tax dollars on effective foreign assistance” and who “want American to lead,” McCain also criticized the proposed cuts in military spending announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, that would cut the size of the American military to pre-World War II levels.
“President Ronald Regan said peace through strength, not through weakness,” McCain said, to a standing ovation from the crowd of 1,400 people.
“I’ve been around since the Coolidge administration [from 1923-1929],” he joked. “I have never seen a world more in need of strong American leadership than it is today.” With crises in Syria, the Ukraine, and “China asserting itself around the world, I’m worried.”
“Israel needs you more today than ever before,” he concluded.