In an act of possible treason, 47 GOP Senators have joined Iranian extremists in an effort to stop negotiations with Iran. In their attempt to undermine the U.S. foreign policy, the Republicans signed a letter to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” declaring the next president could reverse any agreement without legislative approval “with the stroke of a pen.” This action may support Iranian hardliners who want their to develop arsenal of nuclear weapons and lead the Middle East to greater instability.
The White House was not informed about the letter until after it had been sent to Iran, and Democratic senators were also not given advance warning. The secret action of these 47 GOP senators followed House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) secret invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who beat the drums of war in a speech before the U.S. Congress.
President Obama has been working with five other leaders of world powers to keep Iran from having a nuclear bomb. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to go to Switzerland within the next week to complete a framework agreement before the March 24 deadline, two weeks from now. If the pact lasted ten years, the world powers would lift its sanctions against Iran.
Fortunately, Iran leaders sneered at the GOP senators’ letter. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, issued a statement:
“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. 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.”
Although the letter would most likely not stop any agreement, it could be used by Iranians if talks falter. The missive was called an “open letter,” meaning a statement and not an intervention in negotiations, but it is unprecedented. The purpose is another attempt to embarrass the president and keep him from carrying out the foreign policy of the United States. As Minority Leader Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-NV) said, “Republicans are undermining our commander-in-chief while empowering the ayatollahs.”
Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) drafted the letter. He said he did it because Iran’s leaders might not understand America’s constitutional system, in case those in Iran don’t know that presidents serve for only two terms. Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith describes the technical mistakes in the letter as “embarrassing”:
“The letter states that ‘the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.’ But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: ‘The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification.’ Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): ‘It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.’ Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: ‘When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,’ he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”
Negotiations require no congressional action because the president has the power to lift sanctions that he has imposed through his executive orders and suspend others imposed by Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to wait for any action in the Senate until talks with Iran were concluded.
The Republicans who did not sign the letter deserve a great credit. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Foreign Relations Committee chair who has been working with Democrats on Iran legislation, said, “We’ve got a bipartisan effort that’s underway that has a chance of being successful, and while I understand all kinds of people want to weigh in.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also did not sign. She said it was “more appropriate for members of the Senate to be giving our advice to the president, to Secretary [of State John F.] Kerry and to the negotiators.” The other GOP senators who did not sign the letter are Jeff Flake (AZ), Lamar Alexander (TN), Dan Coats (IN), Thad Cochran (MS), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Those who signed the letter fail to see that their action destroys any shreds of U.S. integrity for all future negotiations with foreign powers. The signers are part of a free-for-all climate in which they presume they have the autonomy to address foreign government with their own personal opinions—for example, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized President Obama’s actions in Guatemala. Even worse, they have taken this action during delicate negotiations in the sole purpose of creating chaos. The end result is loss of U.S. influence in foreign affairs.
As Vice-President Joe Biden wrote in a statement:
“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.”
The letter’s author, Tom Cotton, has no interest in peace in the Middle East. During his campaign, he described ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas as an “urgent problem.” Before he was sworn in, he said he wanted Congress to supply Israel with Boeing-made B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs. After less than a month in Congress, he called for offensive action and compared the negotiations with Iran to the appeasement of Nazi Germany. He also said that the president was wrong to not send U.S. forces into Syria. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he said, “The more we bomb … the safer we are.” He wants to create a regime change in Iran, just as George W. Bush wanted a regime change in Iraq. Cotton openly declared that he wants more sanctions on Iran to end current negotiations.
Under the current agreement with Iran, the country’s nuclear program has been frozen and is even rolling back while the IAEA has “unprecedented access” to Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to Dylan Williams, a vice president of the pro-Israel advocacy group J Street. All this would end without an agreement with Iran. Two years ago, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that economic sanctions, diplomacy, international cooperation, and defensive preparedness are having a positive effect on Iran’s nuclear program. The Pentagon stated that Dempsey’s assessment is still “accurate.”
About the new senators who wants to be the leading hawk in the chamber, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said:
“Sen. Cotton is already on his way to marking himself as the premiere warmonger of the 114th Congress. I think this is just the beginning of his efforts to see that we’re involved not just in one war or two wars, but perhaps 15 or 20 wars; that’s the way he’d like to see it.”
Some people have brought up the Logan Act of 1799 that could declare Cotton’s actions as treason. Also the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936):
“The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, ‘The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations.’ Annals, 6th Cong., col. 613.”
That decision has never been overruled; it covers Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to lobby for war in front of Congress.
Tomorrow, Cotton will attend an event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors. His advocacy for higher military spending and attacks on the Middle East should gain him an increase in his next campaign’s “war chest.”
Patronizing, smug, arrogant, naïve, willful, controlling, ignorant, condescending—it’s hard to find enough words to describe the new senator from Arkansas. All I ask is that he also reinstate the draft to provide the “drone fodder” that World War III will cause. By doing so, people may stop the war hawks across the nation from leaving he United States in perpetual war.