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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Republican Senators' Letter to Iran Insulting and Dangerous


In a country where politics, partisanship, and cronyism rule government officials, it seems all respect and reason have gone to hell. No longer do elected officeholders attempt to work together to solve complex internal and international concerns; instead, the order of the day, and it seems the main concern of every day, is to close ranks and fight the political opposition.

What a shame the adversarial Congress blatantly disregards the common good in attempts to smear the other party and to derail a workable, compromising government -- and, as they do so, the President of the United States becomes Target Number One. The latest example of bold, ill-conceived contempt is proof that want-to-be bullies in Washington D.C. wear suits.

Dozens of Republican senators wrote an open letter to the leadership of Iran warning them that any nuclear deal signed between Iran and U.S. President Barack Obama might not last beyond his presidency without Congress signing off on it as well. Here is the text of the letter:

An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran:


It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics.

For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. 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.

We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.

Sincerely,

Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT
Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA
Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY
Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL
Senator John McCain, R-AZ
Senator James Inhofe, R-OK
Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS
Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL
Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY
Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC
Senator John Cornyn, R-TX
Senator Richard Burr, R-NC
Senator John Thune, R-SD
Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GA
Senator David Vitter, R-LA
Senator John A. Barrasso, R-WY
Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS
Senator Jim Risch, R-ID
Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL
Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO
Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS
Senator Rob Portman, R-OH
Senator John Boozman, R-AR
Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA
Senator John Hoeven, R-ND
Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL
Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI
Senator Rand Paul, R-KY
Senator Mike Lee, R-UT
Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH
Senator Dean Heller, R-NV
Senator Tim Scott, R-SC
Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX
Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV
Senator Bill Cassidy, R-LA
Senator Cory Gardner, R-CO
Senator James Lankford, R-OK
Senator Steve Daines, R-MT
Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD
Senator David Perdue, R-GA
Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC
Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA
Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE
Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK


(Reid J. Epstein. "Text of GOP Senators’ Letter to Iran’s Leaders on Nuclear Talks."
The Wall Street Journal. March 09, 2015)

Are these Republican senators hoping to force a new war with Iran? Through this unprecedented communication, senators could damage ongoing diplomatic talks with the country. And, of course, the letter serves to harden partisan lines in the Senate, where Republicans will need Democrats' support to pass legislation now in the works to tighten sanctions on Iran or require congressional approval of a deal.

A few hours after the letter was made public, President Obama said, “I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition.”

Obama continued, "I think what we’re going to focus on now is actually seeing whether we can get a deal or not and, if we do, then we will be able to make the case to the American people, and I’m confident we’ll be able to implement."

Vice President Biden blasted the letter as “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.”

“In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country -- much less a longtime foreign adversary -- that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them,” Biden said in a statement.

(Greg Jaffe and Sean Sullivan. "GOP letter to Iran deepens White House ire."
The Washington Post. March 10, 2015)

Minority leader Harry Reid said the letter to Iranian leadership was “a hard slap in the face” of the U.S. and the world.


Reid said that throughout the eight years of the George W. Bush’s presidency, even at the height of disagreements during the Iraqi War of 2003, Senate Democrats never considered sending a letter to Saddam Hussein. “It would have been an embarrassment to the commander-in-chief, George W. Bush,” he said.

(News Desk. "Obama slams Republican letter to Iran." World Bulletin. March 10, 2015)

Administration officials insisted that the President doesn’t need congressional approval to make a deal with Iran and that Congress wouldn’t be able to alter the terms of a deal. “There are several inaccuracies in the letter about how things work,” said State ­Department spokeswoman Jen ­Psaki.

Psaki explained that Congress doesn’t have the power to alter the terms of international arrangements negotiated by the executive. She said any agreement reached would not be a treaty requiring Senate ratification.

Also, this is "a negotiation, it’s important for us to send this message to our partners around the world that is with not just the United States and Iran, but with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union, China and Russia," Psaki said.

(Victor Beattie. "US Congressional Letter to Iran Stirs Controversy."
Voice of America News. March 10, 2015) 

"This (the letter) is a cynical effort by Republican senators to undermine sensitive international negotiations. It weakens America's hand and highlights our political divisions to the rest of the world," said Richard Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.

Iran’s foreign minister, meanwhile, dismissed the letter as “mostly a propaganda ploy.”


The Bottom Line

In my opinion, the tone of the letter is patronizing, even degrading. Consider ...

"It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system."

In addition, I think the intent of the letter is to produce forceful acceptance, and the language is counterproductive to securing peaceful negotiations with Iran.

"Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress."

The communication has a clear intent of both telling Iran that Republicans hold power over their President's foreign policy decisions and that they will be in control of such matters long after the President leaves office. In other words, they are boasting their political dominance and, in effect, bragging that they have effectively taken the chief executive "hostage."

"A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement...

"For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades."


Perhaps the most disturbing segment of the letter is the tongue-in-cheek attempt at kiss-ass diplomacy in the closing after the imbecile, insulting text preceding the endorsement of the authors. What junior-high student could not understand the dreadful irony of words such as promotes and mutual and progress? These senators could care less about "mutual" advancement of nuclear negotiations.

"We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress."


I am offended that a large group of Republican United States senators would use their position to imply that they are speaking for me, an American citizen. Not only is the letter embarrassing and misleading, but it also represents the height of dangerous, misguided, partisan politics. These so-called "statesmen" have overstepped their offices to blight any progress of the current Obama administration.

Is it any wonder the word integrity has no home in the American political system? It has been replaced by a phrase that governs decision-making -- "party line diplomacy."
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