Iran Foreign Minister: Senators’ Letter “Mostly Propaganda Ploy”

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said that the 47 Republican Senators’ open letter threatening to cancel any agreement on Iran’s nuclear program after President Obama’s term “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. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.

Senate[1]In the letter the Senators wrote, “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.

(Full text below.)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that “Republicans are undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs.” Obama said that he found it “somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran.”

Senator John McCain said to Politico, “I saw the letter, I saw that it looked reasonable to me and I signed it, that’s all. I sign lots of letters.”

However, Amanda Taub found that “McCain’s decision to sign the letter is more disturbing if he thinks it was merely a minor act.”

 It’s one thing to decide to actively and publicly undermine the president’s conduct of foreign affairs, not just in this treaty negotiation but potentially in all other future negotiations, with all other countries, who will now also be able to point to this same letter as evidence that the president cannot be trusted to negotiate agreements on behalf of the United States. But at least take that seriously. At least treat it as a weighty decision that carries significant, far-reaching consequences. Don’t act like it’s just more boring paperwork!

Several Republicans refused to sign the letter: Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dan Coats (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Senator Flake explained, “These are tough enough negotiations as it is. I just didn’t think it was useful.”

Meanwhile, Jewish Democrats today sharply criticized the Senate Republicans for attempting to sabotage diplomatic negotiations with Iran and injecting pure partisanship into the U.S.-Israel relationship. Greg Rosenbaum, chair of the NJDC board of directors, issued a statement on the subject:

It is simply galling that 47 United States Senators would take such an unprecedented action to attempt to sabotage diplomatic negotiations being undertaken by their very own country. Never before have dozens of members of Congress written the leaders of a foreign government with the intent to undermine the president of the United States. While preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is of the utmost importance to both the United States and Israel, it is vital that negotiators be given the space and time they need to properly find a peaceful solution. This patronizing and insulting letter not only unnecessarily harms our country on the world’s stage, but it endangers Israel’s security and plays partisan politics with the U.S.-Israel relationship. To attempt to interfere with the work being done by negotiators on behalf of the U.S. State Department is simply outrageous, and runs the risk of setting a dangerous precedent that could undermine the credibility of any president conducting foreign policy, whatever his or her party affiliation may be. They should be ashamed.

Open Letter From Republican Senators 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

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