John McCain's speech to AIPAC this morning included standard language about Barack Obama and the Middle East, although Sen. McCain does not mention Obama by name. There are several points of departure. McCain and the Jewish vote. AIPAC and the Jewish vote. Obama's problems with Jews in South Florida. The fact that Americans, when prodded, tend to be fairly comfortable with the diplomatic course Barack Obama intends to pursue.

Mine is going to be Barack Obama's response. In a statement and supporting materials e-mailed by his campaign, Obama brags about his support for labeling the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization and explained his opposition to the Lieberman-Kyl amendment (which AIPAC supported) because he didn't like how the amendment linked U.S troop presence in the Middle East with Iran's ability to threaten the region.

And he emphasizes that he would remove US troops from Iraq only after listening to what the commanders say.


His position is consistent, but his emphasis, for AIPAC's audience, is much more on the consultative aspect of his promise.

Here's an excerpt from McCain's speech:

Foremost in all our minds is the threat posed by the regime in Tehran. The Iranian president has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and suggested that Israel's Jewish population should return to Europe. He calls Israel a "stinking corpse" that is "on its way to annihilation." But the Iranian leadership does far more than issue vile insults. It acts in ways directly detrimental to the security of Israel and the United States.

A sponsor of both Hamas and Hezbollah, the leadership of Iran has repeatedly used violence to undermine Israel and the Middle East peace process. It has trained, financed, and equipped extremists in Iraq who have killed American soldiers fighting to bring freedom to that country. It remains the world's chief sponsor of terrorism and threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East, from Basra to Beirut.

Even so, 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. Yet 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. Such a spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly acquire the appearance of respectability.

Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian president or supreme leader in the hope that we can talk sense into them, we must create the real-world pressures that will peacefully but decisively change the path they are on. 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. I am proud to have been a leader on these issues for years, having coauthored the 1992 Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act. 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 woul d create immediate pressure on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change course, and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to