Republicans are making the Middle East situations worse
The letter to Iran
In a now infamous letter to the "Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Tom Cotton (R-AR) and 46 other GOP senators managed to undermine the president and make the US look divided and vulnerable.
The letter has a few points, which I will summarize here:
(I will be interjecting throughout.)
They say that the Iranian regime may not be familiar with our constitutional system and the varying aspects of different federal offices.
First of all, no one in this nebulous, undefined Iranian administration addressed needs to understand our Constitution. It has nothing to do with these negotiations. This is just another example of Republicans showing their elitist ignorance: 'Murica is great, we have no need to understand any other culture, but they damn well better subscribe to our point of view.
The letter continues with these points:
Congress has to ratify any agreement made by the president.
And, in a self-aggrandizing near-non sequitur, they inform the Iranians that US presidents only get 2 four-year terms, while senators can serve potentially limitless six-year terms.
While true in the case of President Obama, it is certainly wishful freaking thinking about most of their own senatorial life spans. But most of all, IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING ON THESE TALKS. This entire paragraph is just Senate Republicans saying "nanna-nanna-booboo" to the President in front of a regime to whom we should probably be showing a unified front. No, not probably. We NEED to show a unified front. Epic fail there. Good job, GOP Brain Trust.
The rest of the letter basically hints that any agreement made now could be completely overturned by a future administration "with the stroke of a pen."
The letter ends with:
We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.
Tom Cotton and 46 other morons.
This letter is downright insulting, both to our president and the Iranian government. And the addressees aren't stupid. Iran was once Persia, a county smack dab in the Fertile Crescent, the cradle of modern civilization. The Persians, among other things, were one of the inventors (discoverers?) of higher math. They conquered a large part of their world and brought education to millions more primitive than they. Sure, they slaughtered quite a few to do it, but that was thousands of years ago. Yet, in this far more enlightened age, it seems the GOP is out to do the same. Except for the education part.
The letter is condescending and ultimately futile, as I will illustrate below.
But more than that, it may be a violation of the Logan Act, which forbids anyone but the president to undertake communication with a foreign power during any form of negotiation.
Even Megan Kelly, one of the GOP's most ardent cheerleaders, not impressed
While Kelly (who I'm starting to view as a RILF, much to my inner shame) doesn't take him to task the way she could and maybe should have, she is in no uncertain terms letting him know that the 'Murican public is now aware and informed that Cotton's letter wasn't actually the brightest move. And by "aware and informed" I mean they saw it on Fox, so take that for what it's worth.
Conveniently, on Wednesday, a Black Hawk helicopter went down in Florida under bad weather conditions, killing 7 marines and four soldiers. Ironically, many of those killed had served several tours of duty in the Middle East, only to die in a domestic routine training mission. I don't mean to be callous, because it is a tragedy and my heart goes out to the families and loved ones of these folks that served and lost their lives, but the timing provided perfect distraction for many of the signers to avoid the flack caused by the letter. Don't take that as me claiming conspiracy. That would just be nutty.
Should the signers of the letter to Iran be prosecuted for treason under the Logan Act?
Why the letter is ultimately futile, petty and downright dangerous
It didn't take long for one of the Iranian leaders to reply:
[The full content is on Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and can be found here]
Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that to the Iranian administration, the letter contains nothing in the way of legal value and is base propaganda. He notes that "some" are against any agreement, no matter what it says. He points to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an example.
He points out that, judging from the content of the letter, the authors are not only ignorant of international law but are "not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy."
Some of the other points made in Zarif's response:
The US is not the whole world; International law supersedes US law in international negotiations. If the Republicans renege on some of the things Obama puts into effect, they will be violating international law.
A change of administration does not "in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor."
He informs the authors that the letter undermines the credibility of other "executive agreements," many made by Republican presidents with other administrations and regimes.
Iran is part of these talks in good faith, and expects the same.
That's right, GOP, as much as you may wish that 'Murican law applied to everyone, it doesn't. Sorry, but international law does indeed trump US law and you are basically saying in your letter that you fully intend to violate international law at some future date, ideally as soon as possible.
Beyond that, Zarif is absolutely correct in his statement that this letter undermines relations with other nations.
Not only that, this frankly just makes the US government look like a group of spastic clowns who can't figure out from which tiny car they issued.
Do I trust that Iran is only undertaking research into peaceful energy applications? Of course not, and neither does Obama; he's not that naïve. Which is why these talks are happening to begin with. But who can blame the Iranians for wanting nuclear weapons capabilities when one of their neighbors, who is not known for asking questions before firing, is sitting on a huge cache of nukes?
Which, of course, brings me to:
Israel. How quickly we forget
It was just LAST WEEK that Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress despite protests from the White House. The subject? The nuclear negotiations with Iran. Using the rhetoric of being the representative of "God's Chosen People" who have been abused for nigh on four thousand years, Netanyahu played Republicans like a fiddle.
He's even said as much. In 2001, Netanyahu stated: "America is something you can easily maneuver and move in the right direction." It seems that Obama wasn't playing the same way Clinton and later Bush did, so Netanyahu appealed directly to congressional Republicans in order to have his say.
Look, I know all about the plight of the Israelites. I've written papers on it. But they, more and more, are becoming the largest single problem in the Middle East, provoking all their neighbors and causing strife and unrest all around them. Extremist Mujahideen may be regularly threatening the US, but who do you think they constantly have one eye on? Israel's much closer and a far larger and more immediate threat, and with the US acting like the protective big brother of the bully, is it any wonder we're in the sights of terrorists?
Republicans have gone out of their way to impede Obama at every turn. Are they simply playing into the hands of a true-to-life Dr. Evil? A Dr. Evil that certainly wants more than one million dollars.