Authored by Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton, the letter was signed by 46 other Republicans warning Iranian leaders that while the president could negotiate an agreement with that country, the congress has a role in ratifying the agreement. This letter by the freshman Republican to the Senate essentially places congress on the side of the hard-liners in Iran who are also dead set against any agreement halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
President Obama commented on the move by the Republican-controlled Senate saying, “I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition,” he said. “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.”
According to State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, Senate Republicans are mistaken, in that the Senate members do not have the power essential to alter the terms of an international agreement that President Obama negotiates with the Iranian government because the agreement would not be a treaty and would not need ratification by Congress. Psaki said the letter is basically designed to “score political points.”
The negotiations with Iran are not bilateral, but in fact are taking place with several other countries and so would be an international agreement with all permanent members of the U.S. Security Council and would be endorsed by a Security Council Resolution. Any revocation in the future by a succeeding president would be a violation of International Law.
Vice President Joe Biden also weighed in and released a harsh statement on Monday night. “The decision to undercut our president and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle,” Mr. Biden said. “As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.”
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, called the communication from the Senate “unprecedented and undiplomatic,” and also dismissed it as a “propaganda ploy.” Zarif continued as he briefed the Assembly of Experts held in Tehran on Tuesday after the election of the new chair, saying that the letter from the Senate only showed that the United States is untrustworthy. He also pointed out that “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.”
“Whether the negotiations come to fruition or not, we will be the side that has triumphed. Since what we have achieved during these years are dignity and self-esteem, an asset that cannot be reclaimed and the Americans and the Western world are fully aware of this fact,” said Zarif.
Senator Harry Reid said in part during a speech on the floor of the Senate today, “The outcome of the negotiations between the U.S., France, the United Kingdom, Germany, China and Russia will affect the entire world. But it is unprecedented for one political party to directly intervene in an international negotiation, with the sole goal of embarrassing the President.”
Reid continued, saying, “Today’s unprecedented letter, originated by a United States Senator who took his oath of office merely 62 days ago, is the kind of pettiness that diminishes us as a country in the eyes of the world.”