CHICAGO May 19 U.S. Republican presidential
candidate John McCain accused Democratic front-runner Barack
Obama on Monday of underestimating the threat posed by Iran and
ridiculed his pledge to meet Iran's leader if elected.
McCain, in a theme likely to play out in the campaign for
the November election, sought to portray Obama as too
inexperienced to be trusted as commander in chief.
The Arizona senator traveled to Chicago to give a speech to
the National Restaurant Association in which he vowed to aid
small farmers by targeting agricultural tariffs and subsidies
doled out to agribusiness.
But as he began his speech, he departed from his prepared
remarks to criticize Obama, saying the Illinois senator who is
on the cusp of winning the Democratic presidential nomination
had said the threat posed to U.S. national security by Iran was
small compared to that of the Cold War-era Soviet Union.
McCain said Iran obviously is not a superpower and does not
possess the military power the former Soviet Union had, "but
that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is
He accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons -- Tehran denies
this -- and said it is providing some of the deadliest
explosive devices used in Iraq to kill U.S. troops, is sowing
discord in the Middle East and would like to destroy Israel.
"Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would
become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but
the threat the government of Iran poses is anything but tiny,"
Further, McCain said, Obama's stated desire to hold direct
talks with leaders of hostile countries like Iran "betrays the
depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment."
He said such an "ill-conceived" meeting would grant Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prestige and international
legitimacy and probably would not persuade him to give up
"It could very well convince him that those policies are
succeeding in strengthening his hold on power, and embolden him
to continue his very dangerous behavior. The next president
ought to understand such basic realities of international
relations," McCain said.
Obama says Republican President George W. Bush has
blundered by refusing direct talks with leaders of countries
like Iran and North Korea and should try a new approach.
Once McCain completed the Iran portion of his speech, three
anti-Iraq war protesters stood up in the audience in the
convention hall and sang, "McCain is in the kitchen with George
They wore pink aprons with a slogan on them, "Don't buy
They stunned the crowd into silence for a moment, but then
members of the audience began booing and the demonstrators were
"These things happen on occasion and we just move on,"
McCain said, saying he respected the right of freedom of
McCain also took Obama to task on his trade policies,
saying Obama has a habit of talking down trade deals such as
the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters
"Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at