President Obama told CBS News on Sunday that the United States and its allies were offering Iran an “extraordinarily reasonable deal” when it comes to curbing its nuclear program. “If there’s no deal,” he added, clearly trying to ease the mind of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those who join him in being exceptionally apprehensive about a nuclear deal, “then we walk away.”
Secretary of State John Kerry echoed these statements earlier this weekend. “We want an agreement that’s solid,” he said in a press conference in Paris. “We want an agreement that will guarantee that we are holding any kind of program that continues in Iran accountable to the highest standards so that we know in fact that it is a peaceful program.”
Meanwhile, Republican Senators, pumped up after their standing-ovation workout during Netanyahu’s speech to Congress last week, have sent a letter to Iran to make sure those involved with negotiations know with whom they’re dealing.
Or, rather, whom Iran will have to deal with in two years if legislators don’t like any deal that happens to be ratified.
The letter — spearheaded by Senator Tom Cotton, who has long made campaigning against a nuclear deal part of his platform, and signed by 47 Senate Republicans (a few moderate Senate Democrats were invited to sign the letter, but none agreed) — doesn’t waste time with small talk or introductions. It dives right into the heart of all matters, the U.S. Constitution.
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.
The letter goes on to remind Iran’s leaders that while “President Obama will leave office in January 2017,” “most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades,” and that maybe the next president might agree with Congress more than he or she agrees with President Obama.
In case you need the letter translated out of legislatese, here is what the letter basically says.
Don’t forget us while you think about that nuclear deal.
We are going to haunt you forever.
Republican leaders in Congress have been pushing for a chance to review any potential deal before it is signed. The White House has called the letter “interfering.” In a press briefing today, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also tried to use the senators’ constitutional logic against them, saying what Cotton and his colleagues were advocating for was not a “role that our Founding Fathers envisioned for Congress to play when it comes to foreign policy.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told an Iranian news agency that the letter was “propaganda and has no legal value,” while Reuters quoted a Western diplomat saying the diplomatic equivalent of rolling your eyes while sighing, “America!”: “It’s 100 percent an American issue, but obviously it could become a real problem.”