Editorial: Republican letter to Iran could backfire

SHARE Editorial: Republican letter to Iran could backfire

Tom Cotton, a freshman Republican senator from Arkansas, was the driving force behind the open letter to Iran signed by 47 GOP senators.

Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Switzerland on Sunday to continue highly sensitive negotiations on a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program, gearing up for a March 31 deadline.


Congressional Republicans tried once again in the last week to scuttle the talks, reaching a new low with a reckless and amateurish open letter to Iranian leaders from 47 Republican senators, including Ill. Sen. Mark Kirk. They warned that Congress or the next U.S. president could modify or reverse any deal struck with President Obama’s administration. This is a gross misrepresentation.

This latest, shameful attempt to undercut the administration’s negotiating position, as well as the U.S. ability to speak with one voice on foreign policy and deliver on its promises, could easily backfire — as it should.

In a response Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a man with whom we rarely agree, offered up support for Iran’s negotiating team. He saw the letter for what it was, calling it “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.”

The Republican repudiation of the last, best hope of negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran — rather than resorting to military action — only amplifies the soundness of the Obama administration’s approach to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb. Why rush to war before the more peaceful option of diplomacy has run its full course? The emerging deal is powerful and pragmatic: it would curb Iran’s nuclear program for a decade or more in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

As for the letter itself, it is full of bravado that fails to reflect reality. The Obama Administration does not need congressional approval of  the final nuclear deal. The president can lift the sanctions he imposed by executive order, and he can suspend — though not permanently lift — sanctions imposed by Congress. On its own, Congress has no authority to amend an agreement negotiated by the president.

And, as Kerry pointed out last week, any future president would honor the deal as long as Iran honored it, and it had the continued support of the five other nations in on the negotiations with Iran.

“I’d like to see the next president, if all of those countries have said this is good and it’s working, turn around and just nullify it on behalf of the United States,” Mr. Kerry said last week. “That’s not going to happen.”

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