IMAGE: Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Cheryl Senter  /  AP file
Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. wants create a new regional balance of power in the Middle East to address the rise of Iran.
updated 10/25/2007 4:16:34 PM ET 2007-10-25T20:16:34

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Wednesday that isolating Iran and strengthening Arab allies are keys to stabilizing the Middle East.

McCain said the U.S. should promote economic and political reform in Iraq and surrounding countries to contain Iran's growing influence.

"The first goal must be to create a new regional balance of power to address the rise of Iran's revolutionary, hegemonic challenge," he told a crowd gathered at a foreign affairs forum in downtown Des Moines.

The Arizona senator said a new military commitment should include the U.S. promising to defend its Arab allies from Iran's nuclear threat and to supply defense materials and technology to those countries.

'Knitting together our allies'
McCain warned of Iran's influence in Afghanistan, saying a stepped up NATO troop presence there is crucial, as well as more training programs for Afghan army and police.

He said creating a free trade area in the Middle East will open markets and allow for economic stability. He also called for creating a regional institution that would address countries' security issues.

"Knitting together our allies in new webs of military and economic cooperation is essential to containing Iranian influence and building the prosperous future that is the surest source of enduring security in the region," he said.

Criticizes Russia, Syria
McCain offered several criticisms of rival nations and political rivals, both during his speech and in comments to the media afterward.

McCain criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's attitude toward the U.S., calling it "childish" and saying that he was behaving like a dictator.

Regarding Syria, McCain said the U.S. and its European allies should pressure the nation to break from "Tehran's embrace" and work toward peaceful relations with Israel and other Arab states. If Syria refuses, the U.S. and its allies should cut its access to international banking systems, he said.

"If Syria's leadership faces no costs for its destructive policies, it will not change course," McCain said. "Making clear that Syria has great incentives to join the region's constructive partners, but will face greater isolation should it continue its current policies, will aid our efforts to contain Iranian influence, check Hezbollah terror, enhance Israel's security and stabilize Iraq."

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McCain also discussed Turkey, which he called a "thriving and progressive Muslim democracy" that serves as a model for other nations seeking liberal reform.

He said the U.S. must work to preserve relations with Turkey.

McCain said the addition of U.S. troops to Iraq earlier this year is proving to be effective. He said Democrats harp too much on politics instead of national security.

"The surge is now succeeding," he said. "The success has been remarkable."

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