McCain said on "Fox News Sunday" he wasn't surprised by a report in The New York Times Sunday about a secret memo in which Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned the White House the United States lacked an effective, long-term U.S. policy to deal with Iran's nuclear program.
"I didn't need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that," McCain said. "We do not have a coherent policy. I think that's pretty obvious."
McCain said he supported sanctions on refined petroleum, even if it meant going forward without Russia and China.
"We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now -- in fact, including the previous administration -- we keep threatening," he said.
"And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. … We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective."
Asked if U.S. officials should consider military action, McCain said, "I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table."
He said the United States must "stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War."
Citing government officials, the Times reported Gates's warning came in a three-page memo in January to President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones.
In response to the Times story, Gates acknowledged writing the memo but said it was intended only "to contribute to an orderly and timely decision-making process" and not as a "wake-up call."