Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Obama and McCain at AIPAC

Two candidates, two AIPAC speeches:
Barack Obama (4 June 2008); and
John McCain (2 June 2008).

Obama mentioned in his AIPAC speech:
Iran 29 times
Palestinians 11 times
Iraq 10 times
Syria 5 times
Hamas 4 times
Lebanon 3 times
Hizbollah 1 time
McCain mentioned in his AIPAC speech:
Iran 31 times
Iraq 13 times
Hezbollah 8 times
Lebanon 5 times
Palestinians 4 times
Hamas 4 times
Syria 1 time
Both candidates' speeches are about Iran, as it is AIPAC's number one issue.

Both Obama and McCain are united on maintaining Israel's "qualitative" (i.e. nuclear) military advantage:
Obama: "That [an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security] starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage."
McCain: "I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative military edge."
Both are certain that Iran presents a threat to the entire "region," not just to Israel:
Obama: "The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region."
McCain: "It [Iran] remains the world's chief sponsor of terrorism and threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East, from Basra to Beirut."
Both are pushing for tougher economic sanctions, practically echoing AIPAC's talking points:
Obama would "pursue other unilateral sanctions that target Iranian banks and assets" and ask Europe, Japan, and the Gulf states to take measures ranging "from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions, to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran, to boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard." McCain favors imposing "financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran," preventing "business dealings with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps," and "applying sanctions to restrict Iran's ability to import refined petroleum products."
Where Obama and McCain differ:
McCain insists that "It [Iran] has trained, financed, and equipped extremists in Iraq who have killed American soldiers fighting to bring freedom to that country," a theme missing from Obama's speech.

McCain backed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment "calling for the designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization responsible for killing American troops in Iraq," for which Obama didn't vote.

McCain says that he can't "unconditionally" meet with the Iranian leadership because that "would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly acquire the appearance of respectability." Obama doesn't mention the moderates and dissidents of Iran or how their position may be affected by US diplomacy.

Obama sponsored a bill that "would encourage states and the private sector to divest from companies that do business in Iran," the bill that McCain has refused to sign onto,1 as Obama points out. McCain says, "We should privatize the sanctions against Iran by launching a worldwide divestment campaign," on the model of the divestment campaign against Apartheid South Africa.
I guess there isn't much Iran's power elite (who are said to be "carefully rooting for Obama" like just about all foreigners from Cuba and Venezuela to Europe on the lesser evil principle) can do in response, beyond what they have already been doing, except maybe speeding up building refineries2 and cutting gasoline subsidies further.

1 Some in McCain's camp are rumored to have certain business connections with Iran: Christopher Beam, "McCain's Divestment Dance," Trailhead (a Slate blog), 2 June 2008.

2 Reuters, "Iran Building 7 Refineries to Hike Capacity -- Agency," 31 May 2008.

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