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Angry White House And G.o.p. Senators Clash Over Letter To Iran

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Angry White House and G.O.P. Senators Clash Over Letter to Iran


MARCH 9, 2015

WASHINGTON — The fractious debate over a possible nuclear deal with Iran escalated on Monday as 47 Republican senators warned Iran against making an agreement with President Obama and the White House accused them of undercutting foreign policy.

In an exceedingly rare direct congressional intervention into diplomatic negotiations, the Republicans sent an open letter addressed to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” declaring that any agreement could be reversed by the next president “with the stroke of a pen.”

The letter appeared aimed at unraveling an agreement even as negotiators grow close to reaching it. Mr. Obama, working with leaders of five other world powers, argues that the emerging agreement would be the best way to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, while critics from both parties contend that it would be a dangerous charade that would still leave Iran with the opportunity to eventually build weapons that could destroy Israel or other foes.

While the possible agreement has drawn bipartisan criticism, the Republican-only letter underscored the increasingly party-line flavor of the clash. Just last week, the Republican House speaker, John A. Boehner, gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel the platform of a joint meeting of Congress to denounce the emerging deal with Iran, and Senate Republicans briefly tried to advance legislation aimed at forcing Mr. Obama to submit it to Congress, alienating Democratic allies.

The letter generated anger inside the White House, which worried about whether it could torpedo an agreement by making Iran nervous or give it an excuse to bail out.

Iran’s foreign minister responded by dismissing the letter as a “propaganda ploy,” while congressional Democrats and the White House rushed to express outrage over what they called a violation of the old tradition of leaving politics at the water’s edge.

“Writing a letter like this that appeals to the hardliners in Iran is frankly just the latest in a strategy, a partisan strategy, to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national interests around the world,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, citing the speech invitation issued to Mr. Netanyahu without consulting the White House.

Senator Harry M. Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader, attributed the letter to the “pettiness” and “spite” of the Republican opposition. “Let’s be clear,” he said on the floor. “Republicans are undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs.”

The letter, drafted by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and signed by most of the Republican majority in the Senate, suggested to Iran that a deal with Mr. Obama might not stick because Congress would not approve it.

“The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time,” said the letter, whose existence was reported earlier by Bloomberg News.

Mr. Cotton said on Monday that he drafted the letter because Iran’s leaders might not understand the American constitutional system. Unlike a treaty, which would require ratification by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, the agreement Mr. Obama and other world leaders are negotiating with Iran would not automatically go to Congress. But members of both parties are seeking a vote.

Mr. Cotton said the terms of the emerging deal made it too risky and noted that a Republican president succeeding Mr. Obama could decide not to honor it. Speaking on Fox News, Mr. Cotton noted that the agreement under discussion would expire after 10 years. That alone would “make this deal unacceptable, dangerous to the United States and dangerous to the world.”

Mr. Cotton said he hoped that Democratic senators might also sign the letter. “And for that matter,” he said, “I’d encourage Hillary Clinton to join us in saying that Congress must approve any nuclear deal with Iran.”

Seven Republican senators did not sign, including Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; Thad Cochran of Mississippi, chairman of the Appropriations Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine and Dan Coats, members of the Intelligence Committee.

Because it is not a treaty, an agreement with Iran would not require immediate congressional action. Mr. Obama has the power under current law to lift sanctions against Iran that were imposed under his executive authority and to suspend others imposed by Congress. But to permanently lift those imposed by Congress would eventually require a vote.

Rather than wait, Republicans, joined by several Democrats, have drafted legislation aimed at forcing Mr. Obama to submit the agreement to Congress for a vote. But when Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, abruptly moved to advance that legislation for a vote, several Democrats who support it balked at taking action before the talks with Iran wrapped up. Mr. McConnell backed off.

Iran reacted with scorn to the letter, saying it would have no impact on the talks and suggesting that the authors were the ones who did not understand the American system of government in which the president conducts foreign policy.

“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy,” Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said. “It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

Mr. Zarif added that a change in administration would not relieve the United States of its obligations under any agreement. “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with ‘the stroke of a pen,’ as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law,” he said.

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Treason seems like a stretch. Maybe more like sedition.

This is really ****** up, even beyond the legal/Constitutional issues. The specific terms of the potential deal aren't even known yet, and these senators have no idea if it's a good deal or a bad deal. And they're basically threatening that they would undermine any 10-or-15-year agreement in less than 2 years-- doesn't that just incentivize Iran to back out of negotiations and pursue a nuke right now (you know, the worst-case scenario we've been warned about repeatedly)? This stupid stunt doesn't just undermine the President's foreign policy, it undermines national security. This is infinitely more stupid than the GOP's usual obstructionism.

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He was talking the same **** about Iraq prior to 2003. He even said overthrowing Hussein would cause a domino effect of regime change (including Iran) that would enhance the stability of the region. He's a know nothing warmonger who views Americans as nothing more than cannon fodder. **** him.

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Iran has been a threat for years. The possibility of a nuclear iran is always a threat just like a nuclear N. Korea is a threat and a destabilizer

Okay, this explains a lot. You're posting from 1980. Hey, I've got some terrible news about the Summer Olympics...

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I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin', this isn't just the guy that thought we should bomb North Korea over it's alleged connection with the hacker group that delayed the release of The Interview, it's the guy that still thinks that was the right call to make.

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Iran has been a threat for years. The possibility of a nuclear iran is always a threat just like a nuclear N. Korea is a threat and a destabilizer

What stability? You are aware of what region we are talking about, right? Though if you want a truly destabilizing event then you should check out what happened in 2003 over there. If anything that harebrained invasion benefited Iran the most out of any country by removing their main threat, replacing it with a Shia aligned government, and militarized the Sunnis to such an extent that ISIS came to exist, something that has pushed Shias closer to Iran.

Also, saying Iran is a year away from nukes has become the modern boy crying wolf. It was alarming when it was first said over two decades ago. Now? Please, it's just sad. Get a new line.

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