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McCain: Obama administration's 'engagement with Iran' was a 'failure'

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called President Obama’s policy of “engagement with Iran” a “failure” on Sunday.

Speaking on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, McCain blamed the recently uncovered plot by Iranians to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C. in part on Obama's  “policy of engagement with Iran.”

McCain said that the president should punish the Iranians. 

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“I think also the president should seek severe sanctions against the Iranians. I think we shall get tough with the Chinese and the Russians who have clearly blocked meaningful measures and I, as president, I think that covert activities of some kind should be considered,” he said.

The senator added that the administration needs to better inform Americans of Iran’s destabilizing activities.

“It is time the American people were told by the president of all of the activities that the Iranians have engaged in, which really are a destabilizing factor in the Middle East, but also throughout the world,” explained McCain.

GOP presidential contender former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) also piled on the criticism of Obama’s handling of Iran.

Gingrich, also appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, told Crowley “We have done nothing of consequence to systematically undermine this regime. …The Gingrich administration would have said to the country, see? This is one more in a 32-year process of waging war against us and is further proof of why we need to replace the dictatorship.”

McCain also castigated the Obama administration for its planned troop withdrawal from Iraq.  Asked for his reaction to reports that the U.S. may remove all but 5,000 troops from the country by year’s end, McCain called the situation in Iraq “terribly mishandled.”

“But the fact is that there is a very volatile area between the Kurdish areas in Iraq in the north that needs peacekeeping forces. They need technical assistance on intelligence. They need help with their air assets, which they have literally none. And this has been terribly mishandled in my view by the administration,” the Vietnam veteran said.

He added that the U.S. needed to leave “about 13,000 troops” behind in the liberated country to fend off “renewed violence, of continued Iranian penetration into Iraq that's already happening in Southern Iraq, and the possibility of further destabilization and polarization, a possible return to sectarian violence.”